Windows XP users are not very happy campers this week. Microsoft is busy investigating a multitude of reports that claim MS10-015, which was rolled out on Tuesday, is causing XP installations to blue-screen. Microsoft has acknowledged that this particular patch appears to be at fault, but are still unwilling to state that the issues are related solely to that. Instead, they are looking in to the situation further, trying to determine if this could possibly be the result of interoperability issues with another component, or even third-party software.
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Archive for Security
Google CEO Eric Schmidt has set the Internet on fire with his latest speech. During his talk, he touched on privacy concerns of everyday users. Apparently, Google has grown so big that they have forgotten exactly what it was they set out to DO in the first place. Mr. Schmidt claims that only those who have done something wrong – or have something to hide – should ever be concerned about their privacy.
It seems as though the entire world is abuzz with talk of Windows 7 being released today. Everywhere you look online, someone is discussing it. They talk about how fast it is, how cool some of the features are. However, you only really read about the security side of the new operating system if you look on the various tech sites. It’s as though the general population has forgotten about that important component… or have they simply written Microsoft off when it comes to security?
The most popular forum in our message boards is Virus, Spyware and Trojan Removal. After we’ve helped someone remove one or more infection from their system, the most popular question is, “How can I keep it from happening again”?
One of our experts has authored a post, Preventing Malware and Safe Computing. It’s a wealth of knowledge, and people are often referred to it.
1. Stay behind a router. NAS is a great filter for many attacks.
2. Use a firewall. Windows firewall works well enough.
3. Keep your OS up to date, not just in updates, but in versions. I’m already running Win 7 RC as my primary system at home, and I’ll be on Win 7 for good as soon as it goes RTM. Remember (or learn) that security must be pro-active, and that Vista and Win7 took huge steps in this direction. Address space randomization. Array and string range-checking to limit buffer overruns. And more.
4. UAC. Live with it. It’s your friend.
5. 64-bit. Required driver signing is your friend.
6. IE protected mode.
7. Data Execution Protection, turned on for everything. No exceptions.
8. Windows Defender.
9. Oh, one more thing. Anti-virus software.
I think the first suggestion contains a typo. It refers to a NAS, or Network Attached Storage. While they have become inexpensive, and easy to configure. They offer limited security protection. However, they can help protect your data. Most likely she meant NAT, or Network Address Translation. NAT hides your system’s IP address behind another IP (the router’s). Another advantage to a wireless router is that almost all of them now contain a hardware firewall.
With wireless internet taking over our lives, internet cables have become a rare sight. Today, what has been a breakthrough, cutting edge discovery just several years ago, is being utilized by most of us every day. It’s called Wireless LAN (otherwise referred to as WiFi, or WLAN) and while it did bring about a revolution in the way we access the internet, it doesn’t come without drawbacks.
Unlike a traditional, wired internet connection, Wireless LAN is transmitted through the air – and thus, anyone with the proper equipment can intercept it. In the best case scenario, someone steals your internet connection. But in the worst case, sensitive data may be intercepted and stolen.
So, just how do you make your wireless internet activity safer? How do you secure your connection? Here’s how.
Secure your wireless connection
If you connect to the internet wirelessly, you have a router. This device allows several wireless connections at a time. There are several methods to secure your home or business connection. They can be used separately or best - together, for ultimate protection. Note: Refer to your router’s user manual to determine the exact procedures needed to change the various settings mentioned in this article. They may vary from router to router.
MAC, not to confuse with Apple’s operating system, is an acronym which stands for Media Access Control. A unique MAC address is assigned to network adapters, in our case, in order to identify the computer. Most routers allow filtering MAC addresses, so only specific addresses can connect to the network. This is a rather simple method, which has several drawbacks. First, even a not particularly seasoned hacker can spoof a MAC address and gain access to the router. Second, this system proves to be inefficient over time, as any device or computer you might want to add to the trusted list, needs to be manually entered into the system.
To find out your network adapter’s MAC address in Windows, you first need to open a command prompt – in Windows 98/2000/XP, click Start > Run > type “cmd” (without the quotes) then hit OK. In Windows Vista, click Start > All Programs > Accessories > Command Prompt. In the window that appears, type “ipconfig/all” (without the quotes) and hit Enter. You will see a plethora of information on the screen – we’re looking for Physical Address under Ethernet Adapter.
After you’ve found out the relevant MAC address, open up your router’s interface through a browser (see the manual). You will then need to look for an option called MAC Filtering or similar. There, enable MAC filtering and add the address we’ve just found to the list. Note that you will need to do the same procedure for every additional computer, as well as when changing network adapters.
Secret Access Point name
Every wireless connection – or Access Point -– has a Service Set Identifier (SSID), which translates to the name of the wireless network you’re connecting to. By default, the SSID will automatically show when one searches for a wireless network. However, most routers allow you to hide the SSID, so it’s only possible to connect to the network by entering the exact SSID. This is where you come in – you can give the connection a particularly nasty or long name, essentially serving as a password. The major disadvantage here, like with MAC filtering, is that any average hacker will be able to sniff out a hidden SSID’s name, and effortlessly connect to your network if it’s not encrypted.
To make a hidden SSID, search for this option in the router’s menu – it can usually be found under Wireless Setup or similar. After this, you will need to enter the exact SSID when connecting to this network.
This is by far the most popular and secure method of protecting your wireless connection. Wireless Network encryption means that you have to enter a password to gain access to a WLAN or the information streamed through the connection.
There are two main encryption protocols in use today. The first is called WEP – which stands for Wired Equivalent Protection. WEP is an aged technology, having been developed in the early days of WLAN. Therefore, although it still remains a very popular encryption method, it is the most insecure – it’s very easy to crack this encryption protocol with no technical knowledge and simply with a few minutes to spare. WEP is offered in several degrees of complexity: 64, 128 and 256 bits, which directly influence the encryption key’s length. The more complex the cipher is, the better.
To answer the disadvantages of WEP, a new protocol – called WPA (WiFi Protected Access) – was developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance. It utilizes a more complex algorithm which is far more secure than WEP. Unfortunately, WPA and WPA2 – the newest iteration of the protocol – are not readily available on all routers on sale today, so if you’re shopping for a router in the lower price range, make sure it supports WPA for ultimate security. The encryption key, in WPA’s case, can be entered as 8-63 characters – but generally speaking, a random, 13 character WPA key is nearly impossible to crack.
Which protocol to use is your decision – however, using WPA is highly recommended, as it provides a much better layer of security than WEP. Whichever you choose, remember to use a random combination of letters and numbers as your password – if your router has a ‘Generate Password’ feature, use it.
To set up encryption, enter your router’s menu and look for Wireless Security. Choose the appropriate protocol and follow the instructions.
Additional tips on wireless security
- When using public wireless networks, like in a café or restaurant, pay extra attention to online security. Avoid entering your banking information, or credit card number, while connected in public networks, as it’s very easy for hackers to intercept this information and steal it.
If you’ve ever tried to lookup the location of an IP address, check the status of DNS propagation, or wanted to check the health of your DNS or mail server, you’re probably familiar with DNSstuff.com. It used to be an incredibly useful site – when it was free. While DNSstuff.com does still offer a selection of free tools, full access has now reached $79/year! While no free site offers every tool available on dnsstuff.com, here are 10 free sites that offer a good selection of alternatives.
Is there a Windows Update icon in the system tray by your clock that you’ve been ignoring? You know, the one that says, “New updates ready to install”. This would be a good time to stop ignoring it, and make sure your system is fully updated. At a very minimum, install the update appropriate to your version of Windows identified in this Microsoft Security Bulletin. All versions of Windows are affected, from Windows 2000 right through Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (even the Windows 7 beta).
Why the alarm and concern? There are widespread reports of malware infections (Conficker.B or Downadup) that exploit a recently discovered vulnerability in the Windows Server service (SVCHOST.EXE). You can become infected by simply the act of being connected to a network, the internet, or sharing a removable drive. No action required. Scary stuff.
Change can be a great thing. We’ve all heard fascinating tales of people who shed half their weight. But change can also be treacherous and destructive. A peek into history books would reveal us tales of great empires falling apart, leaving nothing but dust behind. Doubtless however, change is powerful.
Symantec’s history over the last few years seems to match the second definition. The huge security company, which just a few years ago has been the biggest and doubtless the most influencing security software developer around, witnessed a steep downfall in sales. The security giant, whose products were once installed in almost every new computer, was taunted by the Revolution of the Internet. Faster download speeds made it easier to find alternatives – some of which were free; so did online reviews and comparisons, which were available to everyone: not only in geeky computer magazines.
The forums are still available at a new domain: http://www.spywareinfoforum.com
Looking for spywareinfo.com and getting a GoDaddy parking page? Or, looking for the forums at forums.spywareinfo.com and getting a 404 error? You’re not alone. Try the new domain name, and you’ll find the old forum we’ve come to respect and admire. Why the change? Mike Healan the founder of the site has not been heard from in many months, and the spywareinfo.com name appears to have expired. However, the good people running the spyware removal forums didn’t want to let such a valuable resource die, so they planned ahead and registered a new name, spywareinfoforum.com. The change was actually made a couple of months ago, so most search engine results should point to the new domain. However, there are thousands of links from other sites to spywareinfo.com, and who knows how many bookmarks.
CastleCops.com has long hosted a number of databases essential for malware removal. These databases consist of information on components of wanted / potentially unwanted programs. They are especially useful when looking up suspicious entries in HijackThis logs. However, CastleCops has suffered from DDoS attacks and slow performance. Recently, its founder accepted a job with Microsoft, and the site has been unavailable for many days at a time. It’s future is uncertain.
Enter Systemlookup.com, a new home for these community contributed databases, hosted by Javacool. Javacool is the author of SpywareBlaster and other helpful tools. Systemlookup.com has an attractive, clean design, is very fast, and advertising free. While it’s still a work in progress, and new features are planned, it’s very useful.