Monthly Archives: September 2008

Advanced WindowsCare Personal – Great Free System Optimizer

Advanced WindowsCare Personal, a free all-in-one utility, is a terrific collection of system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain and protect your PC. Having tested this application, over the last year or so, I’m convinced that a typical user can really benefit by having this application on their system.

With this free program you can tweak, repair, optimize and improve your system’s performance; and its ease of operation makes it ideal for less experienced users.

You can quickly find the tool you’re looking for: spyware scanner, adware blocker, tracks eraser, registry cleaner, startup manager, junk file cleaner and more. New, or inexperienced users, will love the one click system optimizer which analyzes system configuration and suggests changes to optimize performance. Before making any system changes, Advanced WindowsCare Personal, creates a backup copy first, a very important feature.

Key facts:

Spyware removal – scans and removes spyware and adware.

Security defense – prevents spyware from being installed.

Registry cleaner – scans and cleans your registry to improve your system’s performance. System optimization – optimizes and repairs system configuration

Startup manager – manages programs which run automatically on startup

Privacy sweep – erases all traces, evidence, cookies, internet history and more.

Junk file cleanup – removes junk data from your disks and recovers disk space.

Memory cleaner – monitors and optimizes free memory in the background.

Disk manger – provides detailed information on files and folders

If you need a one click collection of system tools and utilities to help you keep your computer in tip top shape, Advanced WindowsCare Personal should meet your needs and more.

System Requirements: Windows 2000/ XP/ Vista

Download at: Download.com

Glary Utilities is another free all-in-one utility, to fix, speed up, maintain and protect your PC that offers additional feature. Check it out on this site at “Glary Utilities – Perfect Collection of Free System Tools”.

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Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Freeware, Memory Optimizers, Privacy, Registry Cleaners, Slow Computer, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Memory Management, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Anonymous Phone Numbers for Online Safety

Privacy is a major issue for most people who use the Internet; particularly those who use web based listing service such as eBay, craigslist, and online dating services. Not surprisingly, to interact with these services, participants need to provide a contact phone number.

Not all participants feel comfortable in providing their home, business, or cell phone numbers to unknown parties that can conceivably place them at risk.

So how can you address this challenge? Well, luckily there are a number of free services that offer solutions to this problem.

The new kid on the block is LetsCall.me. Currently, LetsCall.me connects numbers in the US and Canada only.

From the LetsCall.me web site:

This is a free service that makes it easy and safe for people to call you. Use with online services such as Craigslist, or any other situation you want to talk, but don’t want to reveal your phone number.

Create a web address to give to people that want to call you:

http://letscall.me/

Benefits of LetsCall.me

Accept calls anonymously without revealing your phone number

No caller id blocking – always know who’s calling

Block unwanted callers

Easier to remember than a phone number

Great for Craigslist and other internet sites

Be safe – don’t give out your phone number, use LetsCall.me

How it works

Pick your own URL such as letscall.me/johndoe

Instead of giving out your phone number, share your LetsCall.me page

People who want to call you input their phone number on your LetsCall.me page, and then we will call them and connect them with you.

Your phone will ring with the other person’s Caller ID – since the other person needs to receive the call first, they cannot fake their number

Talk with the other person as often and as long as you want

If you want to block the person from calling you, just tell us their number

Check out this free service at LetsCall.me

Another recent addition to this category of fee service providers is Hookup digits.

Take a look at this from Hookup digits website.

How does it work?

Simply type in your REAL phone number (cell or landline number)…then our system will automatically give you a hookup digit phone number. Share this number with who ever you like. The caller never sees your REAL number. (unless you call them) All incoming calls through this number are anonymous.

In addition, the person calling you also shows up anonymous. (the caller ID will show your hookup digits as an incoming call so you know it isn’t your mom calling) The callers are protected too. No sharing of REAL numbers will happen unless you want them to.

What else do I need to know?

Your hookup digits will be active for 7 days, during which anyone can call you anonymously.

After 7 days, if you don’t want to use the number any more, you don’t have to do anything, it just expires. If you still need the number, just return to the site and renew it.

Calls can last for up to 10 minutes, if you need more time, just have the caller call you back. You can do this as many times as you like!

And best of all, its completely free!

Check out this free service at the Hookup digits website.

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Filed under Free Anonymous Phone Numbers, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Personal Perspective, Privacy, Safe Surfing, Windows Tips and Tools

Backup and Image Hard Drives/Partitions Free – DriveImage XML Updated

We talk a lot on this Blog about how important it is to have a current backup of all of your critical data, system/hardware drivers (something many of us forget), and user operating system settings, in case of system or hardware failure. Given the state of the Internet today with its epidemic of malware, the chances that at some point you’ll need this backup, are enhanced.

With DriveImage XML, a free, easy to use, and reliable program, from Runtime Software, you can go one step further and image both hard drive partitions and logical drives. According to the developer the latest release, version V2.01, is now faster than ever.

The real benefit of course in imaging your full drives and partitions is you now have the ability to restore your complete operating system, as well as your installed applications, user settings, and the registry.

Recently, one of my colleagues copied a dying hard drive to a new drive in less than an hour, directly from Windows XP using this versatile free application. Pretty impressive for a free application, I thought.

DriveImage XML uses Microsoft’s Volume Shadow Services (VSS) to create images, allowing you to create safe “hot images” even from drives currently in use. Images are then stored in XML files, which allows you to process those files with third party tools.

If, or when it becomes necessary, you can now restore the image to the same or a replacement drive. You also have the option of copying the drive image directly to a new drive, just as my colleague did. An added feature of DriveImage XML is the included image explorer that permits access to previously created backup images and the extraction of individual files.

Since this program is currently distributed as freeware, there is no technical support offered. Instead, refer to the program’s help file and documentation. If you need additional help you can refer to the program’s frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Quick facts:

Backup logical drives and partitions to image files

Browse these images, view and extract files

Restore these images to the same, or a different drive

Copy directly from drive to drive

Schedule automatic backups with Task Scheduler

Restore images to drives without rebooting

Free for home use only

Runs from a WinPE boot CD-ROM

Backup, image and restore on FAT 12, 16, 32 and NTFS drives

System Requirements: Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista

Watch the DriveImage XML video tutorial at YouTube

Latest version: DriveImage XML V2.01

Download at: Download.com

If you would rather give Windows native backup utility a try, checkout TechPaul’s “How to Install Backup on XP Home” for a quick and easy tutorial.

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Filed under Backup Applications, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Software, System File Protection, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Your Lack of Security Awareness Hurts You and Me on the Internet

What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right? There are many people who actually believe this statement, and that’s fair enough. For those who do believe this old truism, I have news for you.

What you don’t know when it comes to your computer system’s security, and more to the point, Internet security, can hurt you big time. But what really frustrates me is, what you don’t know can hurt me.

We’re talking about a sad reality here – the majority of computer users are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers and threats that the Internet poses to their computers, and to their personal privacy. If your computer is inadequately protected while you surf the Internet you increase the probability that at some point I will be victimized!

The inescapable conclusion is, the more infected computer systems there are that are attached to the Internet, the larger the attack surface is for cyber-criminals to use these infected machines in an attempt to infect my system

We all know that the Internet can provide a rich educational and cultural experience and it can satisfy our nosiness, our inquisitiveness as well as our curiosity. Using the Internet we can snoop, probe, and pry; and question, or confirm, virtually any statement, fact or opinion. But here’s the caveat: don’t let your curiosity override your common sense.

The downside is, each time you connect to the Internet you are wandering through a neighborhood which has a reputation for being jam-packed with predators. These predators are intent on stealing your money, personal information, installing damaging programs on your computer, or misleading you with an online scam.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, since bad news bearers run substantial risks, (just ask Sophocles), but essentially, if you are an unaware computer user you simple don’t know, what you don’t know, when it comes to adequately protecting yourself – and by extension, me – on the Internet.

Earlier this year, a survey prepared by McAfee Inc. declared; while 98 percent of computer users agree that having up-to-date security software is important for system security, a significant number of the survey respondents have computers with security software that is incomplete, or dangerously out of date.

The results of this survey are consistent with my own anecdotal evidence, and I am convinced that this survey does not overstate the case.

Highlights of the McAfee survey:

Ninety-two percent of those surveyed believed their anti-virus software was up to date, but in fact, only 51 percent had updated their anti-virus software within the past week.

Seventy-three percent of those surveyed believed they had a firewall installed and enabled, yet only 64 percent actually did.

Approximately 70 % of PC users believed they had anti-spyware software, but only 55 percent actually had it installed.

25% of survey participants believed they had anti-phishing software, but only 12 percent actually had the software.

Now we have the results of another survey conducted by Steganos, a computer security software developer, which essentially affirms the results and conclusions of the McAfee analysis.

Highlights of the Steganos survey:

No antivirus software: 13 percent of the survey participants were aware they had no antivirus software installed on their computer.

Unsure if antivirus was installed: 9 percent were unsure if antivirus was installed on their computers.

Firewall installation: a surprising 19 percent were unaware if a firewall was installed and operating on their computer.

Privacy protection: a startling 60 percent of participants lacked software to protect their privacy.

Internet Browser security/privacy settings: the majority of those surveyed (52 percent), were unaware of their browser’s security/privacy settings.

Where do you fit in all this?

Computer security, on or off the Internet, but especially while surfing the Internet, has to be a priority; it cannot take a back seat to anything. It needs to be first and foremost in computer users’ minds as they interact with the Internet.

Eugene Kaspersky a highly regarded computer security expert was recently quotes as stating “Internet criminals are now smarter than ever, ultra-organized, and engaged in increasingly complex scams.” Kaspersky went on to say “In such an aggressive and dangerous environment, it’s crucial that users should bolster their online defenses.

So, it may well be that you need to take the time to survey your computer to insure that all relevant security applications have been installed, are up to date, and are operating correctly.

If you need to update or add additional security applications to your computer, then checkout “Free Windows Software You Can’t Afford Not to Have” on this Blog for reviews and free security application downloads.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Personal Perspective, Software, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools

FireFox 3.0.2 Released – 11 Bugs Fixed – Update Today!

The latest update of FireFox version 3.0.2 now available for download includes patches for 11 security deficiencies, many of them rated as critical by Mozilla Corporation.

If you are still using FireFox version 2, then you need to update this version as well, since the latest release of this version includes 14 patches. A number of patches in version 2 are exclusive to this specific version.

Frankly, if you are still using version 2 you need to take the plunge and update to version 3 now. There is no guarantee that Mozilla will continue to offer support for version 2.

A number of the vulnerabilities in version 3 were serious, and included stability issues related to graphics rendering, layout and JavaScript engines. Each has the potential to cause browser crashes could potentially leave the user open to exploitation by malicious code.

The latest FireFox security advisory lists the following vulnerabilities as having been patched.

MFSA 2008-42: Critical

Titled “Crashes with evidence of memory corruption (rv:1.9.0.2/1.8.1.17)”–Mozilla says under certain circumstances memory corruption could be exploited to run arbitrary code.

MFSA 2008-41: Critical

Titled “Privilege escalation via XPCnativeWrapper pollution”–Mozilla says this fix includes “a series of vulnerabilities which can pollute XPCNativeWrappers and allow arbitrary code run with chrome privileges.”

MFSA 2008-39: Critical

Titled “Privilege escalation using feed preview page and XSS flaw”–Mozilla says this fixes “a series of vulnerabilities in feedWriter which allow scripts from page content to run with chrome privileges.”

MFSA 2008-37: Critical

Titled “UTF-8 URL stack buffer overflow”–Mozilla says “a specially crafted UTF-8 URL in a hyperlink…could overflow a stack buffer and allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code.

MFSA 2008-38: High

Titled “nsXMLDocument::OnChannelRedirect() same-origin violation”–Mozilla says the same-origin check in nsXMLDocument::OnChannelRedirect() could be bypassed and could be used to execute JavaScript in the context of a different Web site.

MFSA 2008-43: Moderate

Titled “BOM characters stripped from JavaScript before execution”–Mozilla says certain BOM characters are stripped from JavaScript code before it is executed and could lead to code being executed.

MFSA 2008-44: Moderate

Titled “resource: traversal vulnerabilities”–Mozilla says the restrictions imposed on local HTML files could be bypassed using the resource: protocol, allowing an attacker to read information about the system and prompt the victim to save the information in a file.

MFSA 2008-40: Low

Titled “Forced mouse drag”–Mozilla says the vulnerability allows an attacker to move the content window while the mouse is being clicked, causing an item to be dragged rather than clicked-on possibly forcing a user to download a file or perform other drag-and-drop actions.

MFSA 2008-45: Low

Titled “XBM image uninitialized memory reading”–Mozilla says a bug in the XBM decoder allowed random small chunks of uninitialized memory to be read.

It is highly recommended that you update immediately on the Mozilla site, or by clicking on Help – Check for Updates in FireFox.

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Filed under Browsers, Firefox, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Download Free Crossloop – Be a Tech Hero for Family/Friends/Customers

Are you, like me, the tech support guru/IT department for your friends, family, and perhaps even the neighborhood?

I’m often asked by friends, to help them, their friends, their neighbors ………. the list goes on endlessly, to reconstruct a computer that is not responding properly, has become loaded with malware, or in some instances, has been taken over by a hacker.

Earlier this year, I was called upon in just such a situation, which is when I discovered CrossLoop; a free remote desktop application with a simple and distinctly user friendly interface, which CNET’s Download.com has recognized as one of The 10 Best Downloads of 2007.

After spending some time viewing an excellent introductory video on CrossLoop, available on YouTube, it was easy for me to see that this neat little application had all sorts of possibilities.

It struck me right away that the typical computer user using CrossLoop, doesn’t need to know anything about ports or protocols, or any other complicated jargon, and with CrossLoop up and running, connection to the remote computer can be accomplished within minutes. Even some of my friends, who are moderately techno competent, are now using this neat little tool to rescue their family’s and friend’s computers.

The individual needing assistance installs CrossLoop and runs the main application, then goes to share, and provides the access code to you. You then enter the 12-digit access code, click the connect button, and on connection the CrossLoop server does all of the behind- the- scenes work.

CrossLoop enables you to see the screen, and control the mouse and keyboard on the remote computer. Many users have commented that it feels just as if you are working side by side with the remote user, on the same PC. I second that perception. Awesome!

If you need to transfer files during your session, you’ll find that it’s a snap. What could be easier than using drag and drop to copy a file or folder onto a dialog box?

Security is built into all aspects of a CrossLoop session. Data is encrypted at the end-points before being transmitted using a 128-bit encryption algorithm made up of a randomly generated 12-digit access code.

The CrossLoop help page is one of the most complete I have seen. It provides a step by step text and pictorial guide to the process, so that even newbie support techs should have no problem looking like a pro.

Bottom line: If you have the skills, and you have the opportunity to provide tech support to your family or friends, then CrossLoop is the must-have tool for the job. It’s a powerful productivity tool that enables you to quickly collaborate with anyone, anywhere in the world.

CrossLoop Quick Facts:

Connect Any Two PCs

Available in 21 Languages

File Transfer Capability

Switch control to make collaboration easier

View Only and Share Control modes

Download the latest version at: Download.com

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Filed under Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Peer to Peer, Remote Tech Support, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

New Barack Obama Survey Gas Card Scam

Regular readers of this site are aware, that some time ago I wrote “Now that Barack Obama has been officially nominated to carry the Democrats’ banner into the upcoming U.S. presidential election, be prepared for a deluge of spam scams perpetrated by cyber-criminals based on his popularity”.

Most of the scam emails I’ve seen, so far, are crafted around spicy, scandalous, and salacious stories.

So, for those of us who aren’t particularly enamored with salacious stories, or the web sites that seem to specialize in them, cyber-criminals have developed a different approach (still social engineering of course), to convince you to click on spam email containing enclosed links.

According to Trend Micro, a new email currently circulating, asks the recipient to participate in a survey with the sweetener being a chance to win a $500 gas card. We all love contests, and with the chance to win $500 in gas, who wouldn’t click on the link. Good old social engineering – it really works doesn’t it?

But here’s the downside; click on the link and you arrive on the Smileycentral.com, web site. Despite the view held by many, that this is a safe site, the fact is, this site is a distributor of malware under the best of circumstances.

The prominent “Always Free” button on this site, if clicked, will lead to a request that you download an ActiveX control which, when downloaded, will begin the process of installing the ADW_MYWEBSEARCH Trojan on your system.

In addition to this new email scam, there are a number of other Barack Obama related email scams currently making the rounds on the Internet, most of which purport to offer access to sex tapes “starring” Obama.

I know, you’re asking yourself – who could possibly believe this kind of nonsense?

The simple answer is this – cyber-criminals know that by sending out countless billions of this type of email, enough people will respond, by clicking on the embedded link, that it will produce millions of dollars in easy pickings.

Incredible as it may seem, billions (that’s right billions), of spam email messages are generated every hour through so called botnets; zombie computers controlled by cyber-criminals.

Until the U.S. election is over – 6 weeks from now –emails referring to Barack Obama should be automatically treated as a threat to your computer.

If you missed previous articles on Obama email scams checkout “Scam Email Trojan Alert – Another Obama Sex Tape” and “Barack Obama – His Transsexual Affairs”, on this site.

Follow the tips below to protect yourself against these and other threats.

Install an Internet Browser add-on such as WOT (my personal favorite), which provides detailed test results on a site’s safety; protecting you from security threats including spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, and online scams.

As an addition to your existing malware applications, download and install ThreatFire 3 (free from PC Tools), which blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. 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.

Don’t open emails that come from untrusted sources.

Don’t run files that you receive via email without making sure of their origin.

Don’t click links in emails. If they come from a known source, type them on the browser’s address bar. If they come from an untrusted source, simply ignore them, as they could take you to a web designed to download malware onto your computer.

Keep your computer protected. Install a security solution and keep it up-to-date.

Ensure your anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments

Be proactive when it comes to your computer’s security; make sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances that your machine will become infected.

If you are unsure if your software based protection is up to the task then checkout, “Free Windows Software You Can’t Afford Not to Have”, on this site.

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Filed under Don't Get Hacked, Email, Firefox Add-ons, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Safety, Internet Safety Tools, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Safe Surfing, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools