Monthly Archives: December 2007

P2P File-Sharing – Evaluate the Risks – Consider the Trade-Offs

limewire-p2p.jpgEvery day, millions of computer users share files on-line. Whether it is music, games, or software, file-sharing can give computer users access to a wealth of information.You simply download special software such as LimeWire, or Ares, that connects your computer to an informal network of other computers running the same software. Millions of users could be connected to each other through this software at any one time. The software is often free and easily accessible.

Sounds promising, right? Maybe, but make sure that you consider the trade-offs. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the U.S. consumer protection agency, cautions that file-sharing can have a number of risks.

Risk factors:

Privacy: When you are connected to file-sharing programs, you may unknowingly allow others to copy private files you did not intend to share. So be sure to setup the file-sharing software very carefully. If you don’t check the proper settings when you install the software, you could open access not just to the files you intend to share, but also to other information on your hard drive, such as your tax returns, email messages, medical records, photos, or other personal documents.

Pay particular attention to the files that you place in, or download to, your shared folder. Don’t put information in your shared folder that you don’t want to share with strangers.

Copyright Issues: You may download material that is protected by copyright laws and find yourself mired in legal issues. Copyright infringement can result in significant monetary damages, fines and even criminal penalties.

Adult Content: Talk with your family about file-sharing. Parents may not be aware that their children have downloaded file-sharing software on the family computer (a fairly common occurrence), and that they may have exchanged games, videos, music, pornography, or other material that may be inappropriate for them.

Because other peoples’ files sometimes are mislabeled, kids unintentionally may download these files. Users whose shared folders contain illegal pornographic material, particularly child pornography, could be subject to criminal prosecution.

Elsewhere in this Blog you can read an article on child safety on the Internet, and download a free parental control program that comes highly recommended.

Go to: Keep Your Kids Safe with Free Parental Control Bar.

Spy-ware: Be aware of spy-ware. Some file-sharing programs install other software known as spy-ware. Spy-ware monitors a user’s browsing habits and then sends that data to third parties. Frequently the user gets ads based on the information that the spy-ware has collected and disseminated. Spy-ware can be difficult to detect and remove. Before you use any file-sharing program, you should buy, or download free software, that can prevent the downloading of spy-ware or help detect it on your hard drive.

Elsewhere in this Blog you can read an article on free anti-malware programs, including anti-virus software, and you can download those that may suit your needs.

Go to: The Top 10 Best Free Security Applications.

Viruses

Use and update your anti-virus software regularly. Files you download could be mislabeled, hiding a virus or other unwanted content. Use anti-virus software to protect your computer from viruses you might pick up from other users through the file-sharing program. Generally, your virus filter should prevent your computer from receiving possibly destructive files. You should avoid files with extensions like .exe, .scr, .lnk, .bat, .vbs, .dll, .bin, and .cmd.

Default Closing Behavior

It is critical that you close your connection after you have finished using the software. In some instances, closing the file-sharing program window does not actually close your connection to the network. That allows file-sharing to continue and will increase your security risk. Be sure to turn off this feature in the programs “preferences” setting. What’s more, many file-sharing programs automatically start when you turn on your computer. As a preventive measure, you should adjust the file-sharing program’s controls to prevent the file-sharing program from automatically starting.

Be cautious, and practice safe downloading and file sharing.

 

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Peer to Peer, Privacy, Safe Surfing, Windows Tips and Tools

Re-Installing Windows? DriverMax is Here to Help!

drivermax.jpg

So, the last time you had to do a full re-install of Windows, (if you haven’t yet you will), you discovered that the most frustrating part of the process was the installation of all those device drivers.

Most of us tend not to think about device drivers until the time comes when we end up searching high and low for the original install CD’s, following an operating system re-install, or worse, spending hours on the Internet tracking down those elusive drivers.

Well, help is at hand. DriverMax is a register ware program that makes it easy to reinstall all your Windows drivers. Using DriverMax you simply export all of your current drivers to a folder or a compressed file.

After reinstalling Windows the Import Drivers wizard helps you install the drivers that you exported earlier. The entire operation can usually be done in 5-10 minutes, as opposed to the hours that the alternative requires.

Just one single computer restart is all that’s needed for all those drivers to be reinstalled.

Features:

  • Wizard based user interface
  • Export drivers based on filtering
  • Export drivers to a folder or to a compressed folder
  • Fast exporting and importing of drivers
  • Free registration code required within 30 days

 

Since the re-installation of your operating system is a foregone conclusion, I highly recommend having this program as part of your recovery toolbox.

Compatible with Windows XP, Vista

Download at: Download.com

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Filed under Freeware, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Browse the Web Faster with Free Cooliris Previews

Get Picture-in-a-Picture browsing with a cool free browser add-on that lets you preview links and rich media content without clicking the link, or leaving your current page. With Cooliris, just place your mouse cursor over your link, or over the Cooliris icon, and a preview window instantly appears with the content.

cooliris.jpg

I use this add-on frequently as I build a web page, to insure my links are working. What a time saver!

Fully interactive on just about any website, including Google, Yahoo!, MSN, YouTube, Flickr.  Try Cooliris on blogs, discussion forums, and news sites.

Features

  • Preview web links, images, and videos
  • Stack previewed items into temporary bookmarks
  • Instantly send links to friends and family with just a click.
  • Automatically sub search Google, Wikipedia, or just about any searchable website by right-clicking on any phrase
  • Customize Cooliris to control preview window activation

    Firefox and Flock versions are the most robust and support Windows XP, Vista, OS X 10.4, and Linux. Firefox.

    Download at:  http://www.cooliris.com/site/

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Filed under Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Multimedia Tools, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Photo Editing – XnView – Simple to Use Photo Tool

xnview.jpgXnView is a free utility for viewing graphic files and the simple and easy conversion of those files. With XnView you can resize, crop, correct red eye, flip, rotate, and perform a wide variety of image adjustments, including brightness, contrast, and gamma. You can import more than 400 graphic file formats then convert them to other formats such as GIF, BMP, JPG, PNG, multi page TIFF.  As well, you can export more than 50 graphic file formats.

 

The Image viewer (Browser) is similar to Windows Explorer. You simply navigate the directory structure as desired and any image files found in a directory are displayed in miniature (Thumbnails). This lets you have an overview of the images available and at the same time letting you quickly view and select specific images.

As well as offering easy image viewing, XnView also offers more advanced features such as Web page creation, contact prints, multiple conversion (format and transformation), slide shows, screen capturing and twain support for scanners and digital cameras.

Here Are XnView’s Key Features:

 • Import over 400 graphic file formats

• Export over 50 graphic file formats

• Multipage TIFF, Animated GIF, Animated ICO support

• IPTC, EXIF

• Resize

• Copy/Cut/Crop

• Adjust brightness, contrast…

• Modify number of colors

• Apply filters (blur, average, emboss …)

• Apply effects (lens, wave …)

• Full screen mode

• Slide show

• Picture browser

• Batch convert

• Thumbnail create

• Screen capture

• Contact Sheet create

• Multi-page file create (TIFF, DCX, LDF)

• TWAIN support (Windows only)

• Print support (Windows only)

• Drag & Drop support (Windows only)

• 44 languages support (Windows only)

Download at:  Author’s Site

For additional free graphic tools, please see my article elsewhere in this Blog at:

The 6 Best Free Video & Graphics Apps.

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Filed under Freeware, Graphic Software, Multimedia Tools, Open Source, Software, Utilities, Web Development

Instant Messaging – Practical Safety Tips

instant-messanger-1.jpgPrograms such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, etc, are widely used by users that want real-time contact with each other. The danger, from a security perspective, occurs when these programs are used to share files, folders, or even entire drives.

Given the frequency with which instant messaging is used to distribute malware (in July, 2007 almost 50% of worms used this method to spread), the following is a series of practical tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.

The first of these is to be mindful of the dangers of clicking on links or downloading files from unknown sources. Even if the files or links seemingly come from a known contact, you have to be sure that it really was this person who has sent the message; that it has not been generated automatically by malicious code. To do this, simply ask your contact about the files they have sent you; if they have been sent by malicious code, your contact will be unaware. Remember, if you click on those links or run those attachments, you could well be letting malware into your computer.

You should always remember to make sure the passwords you use are secure. The longer and more varied they are –using a range of different characters for example- the more secure they will be. Combining letters and numbers and using upper-case characters will help make a password more secure.

Never reveal confidential or personal information in these types of conversations, or you will be easy prey for intruders. This is particularly important in corporate environments, as confidential corporate information is a favorite target of cyber-crooks. Similarly, when using a public computer, make sure that you disable any features that remember login details to prevent other users from having free access to your instant messaging.

Try to avoid publishing your email address on the Internet, as this will just give spammers another account to target, possibly even with malicious code.

Finally, take special care with the access that children have to these programs. The risk here goes beyond malware, as, sadly, they could come into contact with undesirable or even dangerous individuals. Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on protecting your children on the Internet and download free software to help you do this.

Click here: Parental Control Bar

Overall, the best protection against these types of threats involves having good antivirus and firewall protection to watch over your security at all times. Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on free security software and download those you might find useful.

Click here: Best Free Security Applications

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Filed under Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Safe Surfing, Software

Got a New PC for Xmas? – Fundamental Security Precautions

malware.jpgSo you just got a new PC for Christmas, and you can hardly wait to put it through its paces.

Since you are reading this I’ll assume that you are aware that there are some fundamental precautions you need to take before you connect to the internet with your new machine. I’m hopeful that you are reading this on your old machine.

This is a good opportunity to review those precautions.

 

Patch your operating system. Download and install all available patches and service packs by connecting to Windows Update. According to Swedish security company Sophos, 50% of unpatched and unprotected systems will be infected with malicious code within 12 minutes of being connected to the Internet.

Install a firewall. Windows XP comes with a basic firewall, and if you are running Windows Vista, it does come with a more robust firewall (Windows Firewall) than XP, as well as anti-spyware utilities (Windows Defender). However, the consensus is; third party applications are usually more effective. Keep in mind that the XP firewall offers only minimal protection.

There are a number of free firewalls that are worth considering. The following are two that do the job particularly well.

Comodo Firewall
www.comodogroup.com

The definitive free firewall, Comodo Firewall protects your system by defeating hackers and restricting unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet. I have been using this application for 8 months and I continue to feel very secure. It resists being forcibly terminated and it works as well, or better, than any firewall I’ve paid for. This is one I highly recommend. Amazing that it’s free!

ZoneAlarm
www.zonelabs.com

The free version of ZoneAlarm lacks the features of ZoneAlarm Pro’s firewall. Its program control asks you regularly whether to allow programs; for some this can be intrusive and annoying. But it’s been around forever it seems, and it can’t be shut down, or out, by mal-ware.

Install anti-virus software. There is no doubt that an unprotected computer will become infected by viruses and malware within minutes of first being connected to the internet. There are many free versions of anti-virus software available and the programs that have a well justified reputation are listed below.

avast! 4 Home Edition
http://www.avast.com/

This anti virus app is a real fighter, scanning files on demand and on access, including email attachments. Let’s you know when it detects mal-ware through its shield function. An important feature is a boot-time scan option which removes mal-ware that can’t be remove any other way.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition
www.free.grisoft.com

Similarly, this program scans files on access, on demand, and on schedule. Scans email; incoming and outgoing. For those on Vista, your in luck, it’s Vista-ready. I have been using this application since its release and it now forms part of my front line defenses. I recommend this one highly.

Install Spyware and Adware Software. It’s not only a virus that can put your computer down for the count, but a multitude of nasties freely floating on the Internet. Listed below are a number of free programs that offer very good protection against malware.

SpyCatcher Express
www.tenebril.com

SpyCatcher does a good job of cleaning out spy-ware and at stopping further infestation.

Ad-Aware 2007
www.lavasoftusa.com

Many software reviewers consider Ad-Aware 2007 Free as the best free spyware and adware remover available. It does a relatively good job of protecting against known data-mining, Trojans, dialers, malware, browser hijackers and tracking components. The only downside with the free version is real-time protection is not included.

WinPatrol
www.winpatrol.com

Do you want to get a better understanding of what programs are being added to your computer? Then WinPatrol is the program for you. With WinPatrol, in your system tray, you can monitor system areas that are often changed by malicious programs. You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.

ThreatFire 3
www.threatfire.com

ThreatFire 3 blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. Again, this is one of the security applications that forms part of my front line defenses. I have found it to have high success rate at blocking mal-ware based on analysis of behavior. I highly recommend this one!

If you are now on the Internet, and you have not yet taking the precautions as outlined above, you are extremely vulnerable and it is critical that you take the following precautions:

Stop surfing the Web and patch your operating system. Only then download the protective software as noted above, or software that you are familiar with that will do an appropriate job of protecting your computer.

Do not visit any other websites until you have done this!

Additional security precautions:

Establish a password for the administrator account. Only you should have access to the administrator settings on your PC. Unfortunately, XP installs with open access to the administrator’s account. Be sure to change this.

Create a new password protected user account. Using this account for your general day-to-day activities adds another layer of protection to your computer. A user account does not have the same all-access permissions as your administrator account, and in many cases this extra layer of protection will restrict malware from gaining a foothold on your PC.

Good luck and safe surfing.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Safe Surfing, Software, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Is Your New PC Loaded with Crap? – Decrapify it for Free!

pcdecrap.jpgPC Decrapifier is a free uninstall utility that is specifically designed to remove common trial and promotional software that is often installed on a new PC. The program does not need to be installed, and can be run from a USB drive. You choose the items to be removed from a list, and you can also create a restore point to undo any changes.

The following is the current list of software and items that PC Decrapifier can detect and remove. The list is generated from the items the program detects, and you then choose the items to be removed automatically. 

QuickBooks Trial

NetZero Installers

Earthlink Setup Files

Corel Photo Album 6

Tiscali Internet

Wanadoo Europe Installer

Get High Speed Internet!

Internet Service Offers Launcher

Dell Search Assistant

Norton Ghost 10.0

Norton Symantec Live Update

MS Plus Photo Story 2LE

MS Plus Digital Media Installer

McAffee

Norton Internet Security

Google Desktop

Google Toolbar

AOL US

AOL UK

MusicMatch Jukebox

MusicMatch Music Services

Wild Tangent Games (Dell/HP Game Console)

Norton AntiVirus 2005

Norton Security Center

Norton AntiSpam

PC-cillin Internet Security 12

Corel Snapfire Plus SE

Yahoo! Music Jukebox

Vongo

Office 2003 Trial Assistant

Norton Protection Center

HP Rhapsody

ESPN Motion

Dell URL Assistant

Orange Internet

Digital Content Portal

Yahoo! Toolbar for Internet Explorer

Norton Internet Security

muvee autoProducer 5.0

AOL Install

Run Registry Entries

Desktop Icons

Startup Menu Items

Reset IE Home and Search Pages

Corel WordPerfect

Roxio RecordNow

Sonic DLA

Sonic Update Manager

Sonic RecordNow Audio

Sonic RecordNow Copy

Roxio MyDVD LE

Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003

Quicken 2006

Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007

Microsoft Office Activation Assistant 2007

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo XI

Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 14

Roxio Express Labeler

Download at:  http://pcdecrapifier.com/download

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Filed under Freeware, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools