Thursday, April 9, 2015

2015-04-09 WBKV Talking Points (April 9th 2015)



Free Panda Ant Virus bricks computers! My advice: stay with MS Security Essentials or Defender.

Danger from USB drives: A newly demonstrated device has the potential to fry the USB port and possibly other components on motherboards, even the CPU!

A test for the Superfish bug is here, removal instructions are here.
Firefox vers. 36.0.1 has protection against SF, vers. 37 (current as of last week!) further improves certificate checking!

All Win 7 & 8 users can upgrade to Win10 for free – for one year (only?).
Then licensing will kick in? Home user be careful! I assume MS goes to a subscription model, that is yearly licensing. Win7 is paid for and good until Jan, 2020, Win8 until Jan 2023.
2016 is free but you would have to
pay again for 2017, 18,19 (20, 21, 22).

Seagate reluctant to fix serious bug in some of their NAS drives.

More bugs in Adobe Flash Player! Per April 4 6:00AM officially released version is 17.0.0.134!

Many fake Flash Player updates! Users are tricked to download and install a fake plugin that then installs a key logger to collect log in info & passwords. User beware!

If anyone calls you and claims to be in any way affiliated with Microsoft IT IS A SCAM!


Download portals (cnet.com, download.com. softonic.com et al) are huge malware slingers.

Have your DNS settings been tampered with? Test here (but know what is correct…)

Adobe's cash-less bug bounty program: Can it ever work?

Symantec splitting security (Norton) from storage business. The beginning of the end (like HP)?

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.





Monday, April 6, 2015

2015-04-06 WTKM Talking Points (April 6th 2015)


Free Panda Ant Virus bricks computers! My advice: stay with MS Security Essentials or Defender.

Danger from USB drives: A newly demonstrated device has the potential to fry the USB port and possibly other components on motherboards, even the CPU!

A test for the Superfish bug is here, removal instructions are here.
Firefox vers. 36.0.1 has protection against SF, vers. 37 (current as of last week!) further improves certificate checking!

All Win 7 & 8 users can upgrade to Win10 for free – for one year (only?).
Then licensing will kick in? Home user be careful! I assume MS goes to a subscription model, that is yearly licensing. Win7 is paid for and good until Jan, 2020, Win8 until Jan 2023.
2016 is free but you would have to
pay again for 2017, 18,19 (20, 21, 22).

Seagate reluctant to fix serious bug in some of their NAS drives.

More bugs in Adobe Flash Player! Per April 6 officially released version is 17.0.0.134!
Many fake Flash Player updates! Users are tricked to download and install a fake plugin that then installs a key logger to collect log in info & passwords. User beware! 

If anyone calls you and claims to be in any way affiliated with Microsoft IT IS A SCAM!

Download portals (cnet.com, download.com. softonic.com et al) are huge malware slingers.

Have your DNS settings been tampered with? Test here (but know what is correct…)

Adobe's cash-less bug bounty program: Can it ever work?

Symantec splitting security (Norton) from storage business. The beginning of the end (like HP)?

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Now THAT is interesting!


Okay, maybe more for me than for you but anyway, I will offer to you what I just found.

It turns out that Microsoft has a really good article on their sprawling web site. It is titled

Ten Immutable Laws Of Security

Make some time, the article is long! Grab a coffee or tea or what ever lubrication you fancy for a good, lengthy read.

Oh yes, before I forget it, the bold text above is the link to said article.

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

2015-03-26 WBKV Talking Points (March 26 2015)

Free Panda Ant Virus bricks computers! My advice: stay with MS Security Essentials or Defender.
Danger from USB drives: A newly demonstrated device has the potential to fry the USB port and possibly other components on motherboards, even the CPU!

A test for the Superfish bug is here, removal instructions are here.
Firefox vers. 36.0.1 has protection against SF, vers. 37 will further improve certificate checking!

All Win 7 & 8 users can upgrade to Win10 for free – for one year (only?).
Then licensing will kick in? Home user be careful! Microsoft does not give anything away for free; that is the first concrete step to get us all to accept a licensing model, that means yearly payments.

Seagate reluctant to fix serious bug in some of their NAS drives.

More bugs in Adobe Flash Player! Currently (as of March 16) officially released version is 17.0.0.134!
Many fake updates! Users are tricked to download and install a fake plugin that then installs a key logger to collect log in info & passwords. User beware! 

If anyone calls you and claims to be in any way affiliated with Microsoft IT IS A SCAM!

Download portals (cnet.com, download.com. softonic.com et al) are huge malware slingers.

Have your DNS settings been tampered with? Test here (but know what is correct…)

Adobe's cash-less bug bounty program: Can it ever work?

Symantec splitting security (Norton) from storage business. The beginning of the end (like HP)?



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Microsoft is at it AGAIN!


Finally some big Microsoft customers have gotten Microsoft to stop trying to squeeze their Bing search and Bing software on Windows computers. And what happens a few month later?
Microsoft is at it again!
 
Recently I see more and more (especially Windows 7) computers with Skype installed - and the user of the computer swears they did not install it, they don't use it and most say they have no idea what it is or does.

The last point is answered by Wikipedia like this:
Skype /ˈskp/ is a telecommunications application software that specializes in providing video chat and voice calls from computers, tablets and mobile devices via the Internet to other devices or telephones/smartphones.
By now Skype can send text messages and do some data sharing as well.

It is useful if you often want to video chat (camera required) or voice chat (microphone required) for free over the Internet. It sure is a nice thing for families with relatives abroad, just think of families with relatives in the armed forces. 

Microsoft installs Skype by default so that it always runs. I have seen quite a few computers that got severely slowed down when Skype was running.

If you do not want Skype on your computer:

Microsoft has begun to offer it as an Optional Update. If you see "Skype for Windows" when checking for Windows Updates please right click on the Skype entry and then left click on Hide Entry. It should look like this (the hourglass symbol is my cursor):


IMHO it is a shame that Microsoft thinks they need these kind of tricks to get their software on unsuspecting home user's computers.

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.




Thursday, March 12, 2015

2015-03-12 WBKV Talking Points (March 12 2015)

Superfish bug on some Lenovo laptops is a real risk:
A test for Superfish is here, removal instructions are here.
Firefox vers. 36.0.1 has protection against SF, vers. 37 will further improve certificate checking!

Confirmed sensation: Microsoft will allow all Win 7 & 8 users to upgrade to Win10 for free – for one year (only?). But then the licensing will kick in? A rented operating system? Home user be careful! Microsoft does not give anything away for free; that is the first concrete step to get us all to accept a licensing model, that means yearly payments. This way Microsoft will in the medium and long term make oodles of money more than by selling the software.

More dangerous bugs in Adobe Flash Player! Currently (as of March 12 2015) officially released version is 16.0.0.305! The catch: Many fake updates around! Mostly the user is tricked to download and install a fake plugin that then installs a key logger to collect log in info & passwords. User beware! 

Scam phone calls: Microsoft does not even know that we exist. MS's own advice:
  • If anyone calls you and claims to be in any way affiliated with Microsoft IT IS A SCAM!
  • Do not purchase any software or services.
  • Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the “service.” If there is, hang up.
  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate person you personally know and trust and/or are already a customer of.
  • Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support.
  • Take the caller’s information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.
Download portals (cnet.com, download.com. softonic.com et al) are huge malware slingers.

Have your DNS settings been tampered with? Test here (but know what is correct…)

Adobe's cash-less bug bounty program: Can it ever work?

Symantec splitting security (Norton) from storage business. The beginning of the end (like HP)?

FREAK bug (low quality encryption): Check your web browser here.
News March 12 2015: Fixed with this month's batch of updates for Windows

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.


 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

2015-03-02 WTKM Talking Points (March 2nd 2015)


Superfish (on some Lenovo laptops) is a real risk!
A test for Superfish is here, removal instructions are here.

Confirmed sensation: Microsoft will allow all Win 7 & 8 users to upgrade to Win10 for free – for one year (only?). But then the licensing will kick in? A rented operating system? Home user be careful! Microsoft does not give anything away for free; that is the first concrete step to get us all to accept a licensing model, that means yearly payments. This way Microsoft will in the medium and long term make oodles of money more than by selling the software.

More dangerous bugs in Adobe Flash Player! Current officially released version is 16.0.0.305! The catch: Many fake updates around! Mostly the user is tricked to download and install a fake plugin that then installs a keylogger to collect log in info & passwords. User beware! 

Renewed warning: CryptoWall (new CrypotoLocker variant) spreads through advertising networks.
When you see advertisements your computer is not sufficiently protected or it is already infected with malware!

Finally: Microsoft takes on scam tech support phone call organizations (PDF).
If MS succeeds I expect the crooks to move off-shore and do the same from India.
Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit attorney Courtney Gregoire has an article and a video about these scams on her blog. Here is Ms. Gregoire's advice:
  • If anyone calls you and claims to be in any way affiliated with Microsoft IT IS A SCAM!
  • Do not purchase any software or services.
  • Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the “service.” If there is, hang up.
  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate person you personally know and trust and/or are already a customer of.
  • Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support.
  • Take the caller’s information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.
The supposed hack attack on French news media (after Charlie Hebdo shooting) was no attack at all. It was a simple server cockup.

In Canada it is now illegal to install computer programs without consent. Why not in the US?

375 of the 500 largest companies do not protect their web sites from typosquatters. That causes real danger when you mistype a web address in your browser. Be careful!
As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table of Contents.



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Computer(s) And "Friends"

And again it was a customer's email that brings forth another post on this blog; thank you G. G. With his kind permission here is his email:
I recently have run into a situation about which I don’t know what to do.

For the last few years I have occasionally let a friend, who does not have a computer, use mine.  This would be a few times per year.  Basically he wanted to go on Craig’s List, so he used my second address, with his own password for a Craig’s List account. I didn’t really question what he was doing, because I know one can sell and buy on Craig’s List.

What I found out is that he was posting sexually explicit ads on Craig’s List.

While the screen shows all the ads have been deleted, I cannot figure out a way to get them off of my computer.  An email to Craig’s List was of no help, it just told how to delete the ads, but not how to permanently remove them from my computer.

I’m finding this to be a difficult situation, not only because of the mechanics of getting rid of something I don’t want on my computer, but because of the personal factors involved with someone who was a friend, and trying to weigh in if that relationship can be continued.  Any help that you can give will be appreciated.  

And here is my reply:
Dear Mr. G,

I have heard of similar situations like yours and you have my sympathy.

To your question about cleaning up your computer: I can most likely help. I can try to do that via remote support or in a house call, that is your choice. Although since sexually explicit material is involved I would strongly prefer a house call. Working locally on the computer will allow me to disconnect the computer from the Internet which will allow deeper analysis and cleaning and protect the computer and your Internet connection from eavesdropping.

Additionally and because you asked me I will voice some general ideas:
  • NEVER let a "friend" or relative (children, teenager, nephew/niece, grandchildren!) use your computer in/with your regular user account.

    If you are a "normal" home user you most likely always work in an administrator account; that can incur added risks.  If you follow this link to the explanation of administrator account please ignore the outdated line "Applies to Windows Vista". These basic concepts apply to all modern operating systems.
     
  • For other people on your computer always create "standard" user accounts.
     
  • NEVER trust that anybody will behave responsibly and that they will follow basic rules of safe computing.
     
  • NEVER let anybody (and not for ANY reason) use an identifier that is tied to your person (email account). It may happen that you will have to answer to the FBI if the person for example uploaded child pornography.
     
  • Only allow any third parties (whether visitor or family!) to use your internet connection (wireless network, cell phones, tablets a.s.o) when you can be certain that your internet connection is secured beyond browser and operating system based measures.
    One option of several is described here.
Above advice may seem harsh but consider your situation. Naturally I can not "advise" you on how to handle the situation with your "friend".

My very personal and for you irrelevant opinion is that this person has proven beyond doubt that he is not a friend, maybe not even an acquaintance worth my time. But I am certain you will find your way of dealing with this aspect of the situation.

Additionally and independent of all the preceding I want to ask your kind permission to re-work your question and my answer into an article on my blog. What has happened to you is so "typical" that it lends itself to wider attention. Naturally your text would be quoted completely anonymously.
So much for the customer's letter and my response.

All the above was meant to be the whole post on this issue and then the heavens made me meet with a friend who had given his computer to someone when last fall they were on a hunting excursion.

In this case there are no sexually explicit materials involved but the computer was majorly infected with PuPs, this nasty new kind of malicious programs that I talked about here and here. And here are a few more examples of how we get tricked to allow this stuff to be installed.

I want to add here that you should never activate the Guest account that you find in many versions of Windows. Crooks and hackers know about this account and will be happy to exploit it if they find a computer with activated Guest account.

Update 2/19/2015
I forgot to mention that all good will and the best intentions by us and by others are null and void if my
10 Commandment of Safe Computing are ignored!

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

2015-02-02 WTKM Talking Points (February 2nd 2015)

Confirmed sensation: Microsoft will allow all Win 7 & 8 users to upgrade to Win10 for free – for one year (only?). But then the licensing will kick in? A rented operating system? Home user be careful! Microsoft does not give anything away for free; that is the first concrete step to get us all to accept a licensing model, that means yearly payments. This way Microsoft will in the medium and long run make oodles of money more than by selling the software.

New dangerous bug in Adobe Flash Player is exploited via Facebook! Current version is 16.0.0.296!The catch: Many fake updates around! Mostly the user is tricked to download/install a fake plugin that then installs a keylogger to collect log in info & passwords. User beware!

Renewed warning: CryptoWall (new CrypotoLocker variant) spread through advertising networks.

When you see advertisements your computer is already infected!It is more important than ever to have a backup routine in place AND TO DO IT!

Finally: Microsoft takes on scam tech support phone call organizations (PDF).
If MS succeeds I expect the crooks to move off-shore and do the same from India.
Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit attorney Courtney Gregoire has an article and a video about these scams on this blog.

If anyone calls you and claims to be in any way affiliated with Microsoft IT IS A SCAM!
Here is Microsoft's own advice for such a case:
  • Do not purchase any software or services.
     
  • Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the “service.” If there is, hang up.
     
  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate person you personally know and trust and/or are already a customer or when you personally  initiated a support call with Microsoft.
     
  • Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support.
     
  • Take the caller’s information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.
EBKAC errors are the most common ones and no program protects against that!

The supposed hack attack on French news media after the Charlie Hebdo shooting was no attack at all. It was a simple server cockup.

In Canada it is now illegal to install computer programs without consent. Why not in the US?

375 of the 500 largest companies do not protect their web sites from typosquatters. That causes real danger when you mistype a web address in your browser. Be careful!

As usual I welcome suggestions right here in the blog.
Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"Tests" of Security Software


Again it is a customer question that triggers new information on this blog; Thank you Frank C.

The customer asked what I think about the results of a test of Security Software in Consumer Reports' June 2014 issue.

I am not subscribed to Consumer Reports and the contents of their publication is not available online. Luckily the customer had attached a pdf file of the article. Without permission from CR I can not publish it here.

Needless to say that Microsoft Security Essentials/Windows Defender ended up on one of the last places in the rankings. That is very relevant to me because all my home customers use either one of these anti virus programs.

Here is my reply, almost verbatim from the email.
Thank you for the question. A few points in no special order as a reply.

Who actually ran these tests?
And who financed them?
Consumer Reports certainly does not have a proper test lab; that takes years to develop and a big lot of money to finance and run.

I have seen dozens and dozens of "tests" that were paid for by manufacturers of "security software".
And guess what, the result was always that their specific product ended up on top of the list.

Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender on Windows 8 are not "security" programs, they are classic anti virus programs. Anti virus programs protect against getting virus infected files on your computer. And in my limited experience of 12 years and ca. 6000 distinct home customers these two programs do an excellent job at that.

To compare the two MS programs 1:1 against security suites is ridiculously wrong and done to dupe the un-informed into wrong conclusions.
Security suites try to supervise every click and input in web pages.
An endeavor that brings additional computing burdens but is doomed to fail because most errors are or are a result of an EBKAC (Error Between Keyboard And Chair).
Please see an irreverent remark below.

Most security suites are a very noticeable additional work load even for well equipped computers.

Just today I had been called to "slow" computer. After removing the PuPs the machine was still sluggish. After removing an older version of Norton Internet Security (about 4 years old)  the computer suddenly worked just fine. It was a BIG perceivable difference; I have seen that many, many times. This effect is not specific to Norton, it applies to many brands of security suites; in my experience especially (but not limited) to AVG, Avast, Norton, McAfee and Trend Micro.

Many of these "tests" do not talk about the curse of free security suites, that is false positives. Erroneously marking a benign program as malicious leaves the non-geek home user clueless and helpless.

Avast especially has last year broken quite a few computers with insufficiently tested updates.

AFAIK
only one of the programs in the CR test can even detect Poweliks, the worst and best hidden virus currently around.

AFAIK the only AV program that currently detects Poweliks is MS's Security Essentials/Defender! Although I use third party tools to remove it completely and terminally.

Re. EBKAC errors:IMHO no software in the world can protect irresponsible people from themselves.

We need to pay attention to the details and we need to heed #6 of my 10 commandments for safe computing.

Frank, please do not take the last paragraph personally; it only reflects general observations that I make all too often.
Please let me know in the comments what you think; thank you in advance

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.


Monday, January 5, 2015

2015-01-05 WTKM Talking Points (January 5th 2015)

Warning: New CryptoWall ransomware variant; spread through advertising networks.
When you see advertisements on the internet your computer
already needs to be cleaned!

Is you Adobe software up-to-date? Per 2014-12-31 current versions are:
Reader 11.0.10
Flashplayer 16.0.0.235 (for both IE and plugin versions)
Shockwave 12.1.5.155
Air 15.0.0.356
Windows 8 will have to upgraded to 8.1 by Jan. 12, 2016 (See MS blog here>).

Still more malicious PowerPoint files. Be careful; no patch yet.

Adobe's Digital Editions 4 desktop ebook reader secretly sends encrypted data back to headquarters – data that details a user's reading habits.

To stay safe use: My “typical” customer uses:
Anti virus program     (MSE/Defender)
Secure DNS server     (router vs. computer & only if set up correctly)
Firewall                     (not with HIPS (Host Intrusion Prevention System)
Sandbox                      ???
EBKAC errors are the most common ones and no program protects against that!

Yearly maintenance suggestions:
  1. Backup the whole system as it is via image backup on an external disk drive
    - Vista: Backup data (evtl. free 3rd party program)
    - Wind 7/8 Excellent built-in backup tools (non-MS instructions Win7, Win8)
  2. Check physical HDD health (SMART, HD-Tune, PassMark DiskCheckup)
  3. Check logical HDD health (admin command prompt, chkdsk c: /f)
  4. Check for updates (MS sites for Vista /Win7, Win8)
    - Operating system and all Microsoft software
    - ALL regularly used programs (web browser, mail program, PDF reader, Adobe Flash, - Shockwave, - Air, Java, office software, games, media player a.s.o.)
  5. Check ALL your passwords (read this article!)
    - Use password software (Roboform, KeePass, LastPass)
  6. Verify your system is clean (ESET online scanner, Malwarebytes & my instructions)
  7. If you have a wireless router make sure that WPS is turned off! (background)
  8. Really clean out debris files most thoroughly (see these instructions)
  9. Defragment the HDD (Win8: "Optimize";  Vista/Win7Win8)
A big Thank You 
to WTKM listeners,
to all my customers,
to WTKM
for having me on the air!
HAPPY NEW YEAR to everybody!


As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.


Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.



Thursday, December 4, 2014

Urgent Alert - Caution!


I just saw that Micro$oft offered as an optional update the Windows 10 Technical Preview!

Are they completely nuts?

I am afraid that many of my customers will not be sufficiently attentive and just think oh, an update, and hit install.

That will become an awful mess because they likely will ruin their perfectly well working Windows 7 or Windows 8 computers.

PLEASE, please check every optional Update and hide the "Upgrade to Windows Technical Preview".

You hide the update by a right click on it and then left click on "Hide Update".

I hope and pray that you see this post early enough to avoid this huge (2.7GB!) and totally superfluous update.

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.
  

Monday, December 1, 2014

2014-12-01 WTKM Talking Points (December 1st. 2014)


USPS hacked. Personal data of 500,000 full time and 178,000 part time employees stolen including SSN numbers! Plus names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and other information of people dialing in to one of the USPS’ call centers between Jan 1st. and Aug. 16th of this year. Credit card information was not compromised.

Microsoft's own language says it:
"Remote code execution if an attacker sends specially crafted packets"
"remote code execution if a user views a specially crafted web page using Internet Explorer"
Original quotes from MS bulletins for November's Patch Tuesday.
I preach for many years: Don't use IE.

New flaw in VERY IMPORTANT and ubiquitous security software got quietly patched. In this context a prominent MS security researcher said:
"It is of critical importance that all versions of Windows are updated ...”
Sad that we still need to be reminded – and sadder yet that some still don't do it.

Warning: New CryptoWall ransomware variant; spread through advertising networks.
When you see advertisements your computer
already needs to be cleaned!

Microsoft's newest “... Security Intelligence Report” makes it clear: Not up-to-date or expired security software does NOT protect in any way!And I thought that was a no brainer; Silly me.

Adobe pushed out its own Patch Tuesday updates. .. [they] released Flash Player fixes that squash four pretty bad flaws.

Poodle: An understandable explanation and instructions on what to do are here.

Windows 8 will have to upgraded to 8.1 by Jan. 12, 2016 (See MS blog here).

Win 10 Technical Preview updated to build 9879.

Still more malicious PowerPoint files. Be careful; no patch yet.

Adobe's Digital Editions 4 desktop ebook reader secretly sends encrypted data back to headquarters – data that details a user's reading habits.

Hot off the press this morning: TheWeather Channel web site open to simple, primitive attacks if you click on any link in that web site!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

2014-11-03 WTKM Talking Points (November 3rd. 2014)


The
Poodle bug:

The gist of it is: SSL is buggy, outdated security (encryption) protocol and only still supplied for backward compatibility. You can protect your computer relatively easy.
An understandable explanation and instructions on what to do are here
Google and Microsoft will kill SSL in upcoming browser updates.
MS warns explicitly to upgrade older versions of IE. 

Windows 8 will have to be upgraded to 8.1 by Jan. 12, 2016 (See MS blog here).

Windows 10 Technical Preview got updated to build 9860.
Very big (= LONG download and install times, think hours; In a VM or an a computer with only 2GB think many hours)!


Windows 10 will probably bring significant security improvements and/or new security features.

Brace yourself, the good old password will be “reborn”. Look up Two Factor Authorization. You likely will either have to carry some gadget or a smartphone to be able to log on to your computer.

Surely sounds tedious but it's MUCH safer.
Computer prices in stores have crept up; about + $100 compared to three months ago.. Do dealers prepare for Black Friday "rebates"?

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.


Monday, October 13, 2014

How To Spot Socially Engineered Emails


For quite some time I wanted to give information about how to spot spam emails. That is quite a sizable field and I wavered too long. This time to my  and I believe to your advantage the wait pays off.

I discovered that KnowBe4.com already had done an excellent job and published the result as a one page fact sheet much better and more concise than I could ever have done it. The paper is called Social Engineering Red Flags. This link should show the information in your browser or in your reader application for PDF files.

I recommend to print it as a handy reference guide.

And here is a real life example; just this morning (10-20-2014) I received an email that looks on first glance like it came from Facebook, optically quite convincing. It is such a "classical" example that I took a screen shot to show it to you:


For me it goes without saying that I do NOT just click on a link in ANY email, no matter who the sender is supposed to be, no matter how "familiar" it looks.

The first clue is the sender address. Bad, simple forgery, not even an attempt to disguise the forgery; maybe that is even the miscreant's real email address. This is one of the times where I regret not to be a security researcher because I would love to mess a bit with this guy.

Then I did what for me by now has become second nature: I rested my mouse on the link (see the cursor). The translation of where the link would have taken my computer to in the status line (bottom left corner of the picture) confirmed my suspicion: The link goes to a web site in Russia. Did you see "http://pemoht-tb.ru/rand..."? ".ru" is the country code for Russia!

If you handle your email with programs or techniques that do not show you all the information from this example then you live dangerously. Imagine a teenager; they would blindly click on the link and voilà, the computer is infected and maybe you even loose all your files!

Oh well, more work for me... (tongue in cheek!_).


As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.




Monday, October 6, 2014

Java - Yes or No?


On January 14 2013 I wrote about Java. This artcle should explain what Java is.

There mainly are two opposing views about Java on home computers around.

The first one says that Java is needed so rarely that it should not be on a home computer at all.

The second one just delivers it pre-installed on all computers sold over-the-counter in case you need it.

My personal view about Java is the following:
Have it installed for the (maybe rare) case that you need it.
My reasons are:
  • If we are about to do something and get interrupted we tend to react somewhat frustrated. At this time we are very likely to get directed to the "wrong" web site for the download and we will probably get some sort of "blind passenger" or gunk software that we really neither need nor want.
    You doubt that? See the real life examples in this article.
     
  • Over the years I had several very frustrated customers calling me and asking why Java was not installed. In every single case some well meaning but ill advised relative, friend or computer technician had removed Java.
     
  • The few MB of disk storage space that Java needs are not an argument anymore; we are in  the age of 500GB and 1TB disk drives that a home user never will fill up. It is many years since I have seen a really full disk drive.
The price we have to pay is simple:
Keep Java up-to-date - and use common sense!

In What To Update from September 18 2011 I wrote:
Here is the list of the most important things that have to be kept up to date.
Added for this article:If you don't have any of these programs installed just ignore the entry in this list:
  1. Windows (better: all Microsoft software)
  2. Security programs
  3. ‏Firefox web browser 
  4. Firefox add-ons
  5. Java
  6. Adobe Reader
  7. Adobe Flash
  8. Adobe Shockwave
  9. Thunderbird email client
  10. Thunderbird add-ons
My conclusion:
  • It is very easy to keep Java up-to-date when you do that regularly anyway and are not stressed.
     
  • At a time where you will be frustrated and impatient (you want to get back to what you were doing when you got interrupted!)  you are more likely to get tricked to inadvertently allow some unrelated gunk to get on your computer.
For the non-technical home user I install Java and admonish the user to keep it up-to-date.

Naturally it always is my customer's computer so in the end the customer has to decide if they want to live with or without Java. Uninstalling Java is easy:
Control Panel > Programs and features > Highlight Java > Right Click > Click Uninstall.

Please uninstall all versions of Java that you eventually see. Old out-of-date versions are a HUGE security risk!

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

2014-10-06 WTKM Talking Points (October 6 2014)


Windows 10 announced. I am really impressed by the preview that I have running.

PLEASE check your Firefox web browser and Thunderbird email program for updates.
FF
needs to be at least at version 32.1.2 and TB at version 31.1.2
A really serious bug in some common, standard encryption code was updated.


S
hellshock bug in Linux/Unix:
At first I assumed the worst, we’d have to buy new routers. But home routers are not at risk!
We do not have to worry about Android or Apple phones from this - so far at least and if we use common sense.

If you have a cloud-enabled NAS device you are potentially at risk. Switch off remote access until the manufacturer releases updated software.
Mostly enterprise systems running Linux or Unix are at risk.
It is a good idea to check your home router for firmware updates anyway.

For-Pay Windows maintenance tools worthless

Home Depot got stripped of 56 million customers credit card data

  • It ignored security warnings from staff
  • It failed to update Symantec Anti Virus since 2007
  • It did not consistently monitor its network for signs of attack
  • It failed to properly audit its eventually-hacked payment terminals
  • It's executives reportedly told pleading staff that "we sell hammers"
  • Former unnamed HD security staff were so concerned of the poor state of IT systems that they warned friends to 'use cash' instead of credit cards.
JP Morgan (Chase bank plus nine! othe banks) attacked. Chase alone got stripped of 84 million customers personal data but no logins stolen. Personal data? Including SSNs? No word...

Have these banks been as sloppy as Home Depot? See above.

As I repeatedly have said: Management, management, management.


Can your account be pwned? Check on Have I been pwned? Well, HD and Chase cases probably not yet included.


Why do people create virus programs? MONEY!
CryptoWall alone cashed over six months more than $1.1 million

 
Apple Mac security programs: Only three of 18 very good, a few good. Fuhgetabout the rest. 17,000 Macs in just one botnet.

Marriott fined $600k for JAMMING guests' Wi-Fi hotspots
Posh hostel borked guests' networks to sell their pricey WiFi

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.
 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Windows 10


Wow, Microsoft, I am impressed!

I have done my first baby steps on the Windows 10 Technical Preview that was released today.

All I can say is:

         Windows 10 is Windows 8 done right!

I can hardly wait for next year's final release; we do not have an  official release date yet; it will be some time next year.

This is the system I will upgrade my everyday "work" computer to.

EVERYTHING of "old" software I tried so far works flawlessly, even system utilities, Libre Office and Google Earth. And the system is only a "preview" that still has some rough edges..

Running the risk to repeat myself, I am impressed.

Do you still have Windows Vista running on a a well equipped machine or one that could easily be upgraded to at least 4GB of RAM? Windows 10 is the system to upgrade to!

Be warned, do NOT attempt an in-place upgrade, always do a full install! This advice has nothing to do with Windows 10, it comes from experiences with six generations of upgrading Windows to newer versions.

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog. Please no hidden adverts for commercial software and please only language that your little kids could hear.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why Me?


Recently I got asked by a prospect one too many times why he or his friends should prefer my computer services over some other person or big company. Thank you Larry P. for the question. Here is my answer:

I sell only my experience, my know-how and my time.

I sell NO material goods nor any software.

I do not get any kickbacks from any manufacturer, wholesaler or dealer.

I have worked professionally as a programer and administrator
     with computers since July 1st 1964
     with Microsoft software on CP/M computers since 1977
     with PCs since February 1982
     with Microsoft Windows since version 3.1 in 1992

Since 2001 I have specialized in loss-less virus removal on small networks and home computers and protecting these machines from the dangers of the internet.

I do not charge sales tax.
I have NO contractual ties to any product, manufacturer or wholesaler.
I recommend and install only freely available and functionally proven programs.
No added “hidden” cost for the home user.
Even a proven alternative to Microsoft Office® is officially available free of charge.
I have absolutely no hidden financial interest or other commercial bias.I receive absolutely no kickbacks of any kind, no matter where and what the customer buys.

Generally:
I prefer real-life usability and experience over personal opinions and commercial “tests”.

I abhor industry shenanigans and trickery and warn my customers.

I can explain technically complex concepts in layman's terms.

I do not mince words but rather say it as I see it.
 As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.