Monthly Archives: November 2008

Common Sense Tips to Avoid Malware Infections

The Internet is a huge resource for those of us who are curious. It provides us with the vehicle we need to satisfy our nosiness, our inquisitiveness, as well as our curiosity.

Using the Internet we can snoop, probe, pry; and question, or confirm, virtually any statement, fact or opinion. We now have access to a quantity, and quality (some might dispute the quality), of information as never before.

Many of us have learned to satisfy this curiosity, or search for knowledge, by a mouse click here, and a mouse click there. In a sense, a lot of of us have developed a conditioned response to “just click”.

Knowing we are all pretty curious creatures, cyber-crooks are now exploiting our natural curiosity relying, more and more, on this aspect of social engineering to create an opportunity designed to drop malicious code, including rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots on our computers. (See “Rogue Security Software on the Rise – What You Need to Know Now!” on this site.)

So in a real sense, it may well be our instinctive responses that pose the biggest risk to our online safety and security. Our curiosity coupled with our conditioned responses can often override our common sense, so it’s not unusual that many people will open an email attachment without knowing if the attachment contains a virus, or another form of malware.

Security experts agree that a significant number of malware infections could be avoided if users stopped opening the types of files that are clearly dangerous. Up to now however, this type of dangerous behavior continues, despite the warnings.

As part of the Tech community I am aware that many Techies do not look to anti-malware solution software for total protection, but instead, they rely on their own experiences and common sense to avoid malware infections. Techies are well aware of the hidden dangers on the Internet, and they have overcome that natural tendency to “just click”.

Modify your instinctive behavior:

Before you click, stop and consider the potential consequences. In the final analysis, you are the best line of defense against malware infecting your computer.

If you are in the habit of downloading files from the Internet you should avoid possibly destructive files with extensions such as .exe, .scr, .lnk, .bat, .vbs, .dll, .bin, and .cmd, unless you are familiar with the download site, and trust it to be free of potential dangers.

Be kind to your friends, relatives, and associates and let them know that “just clicking haphazardly” without considering the consequences, can lead to the installation of malicious code that can cause identity theft and the theft of passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal information.

Think like a Techie and be aware of the following security risks on the Internet:

Trojan horse programs

Back door and remote administration programs

Denial of service

Being an intermediary for another attack

Unprotected Window shares

Mobile code (Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX)

Cross-site scripting

Email spoofing

Email-borne viruses

Hidden file extensions

Chat clients

Packet sniffing

Act like a Techie and review the following actions you can take to protect your Internet connected computer system:

Don’t open unknown email attachments

Don’t run programs of unknown origin

Disable hidden filename extensions

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched

Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible

Disable scripting features in email programs

Make regular backups of critical data

Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer.

Install a personal firewall on the computer.

Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet.

Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments.

If you are unsure if your current anti-malware applications offer adequate protection, then checkout “The 35 Best Free Applications – Tried, Tested and Reliable”, on this site.

For additional information on Online fraud, checkout Online Fraud – How to avoid being a participant… at What’s On My PC.

5 Comments

Filed under Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

Personal Defender 2009 – Removal Instructions

Personal Defender 2009 is one more, in a long line of rogue security applications currently circulating on the Internet, seeking out unaware users in order to steal their money.

Like all rogue security applications, Personal Defender 2009 is a master at using Trojans, and fake advertising, to convince unaware Internet users to install this parasitic application.

I’ve learned that in this particular case, the Trojan mupd1_2_1711951.exe once it has infiltrated a system will produce a false Windows Firewall Security Alert on the infected computer. This alert is crafted in such a way as to entice the potential victim to download and install Personal Defender 2009 on their system.

If you’re an experienced computer user, then you’re aware that the Internet is saturated with rogue security programs like Personal Defender 2009, which, if installed, can often cost the unfortunate victim loads of money in an attempt to get rid of it. What you might not be aware of is, rogue security software, has now evolved into a billion dollar criminal enterprise.

In the last year, or so, I have heard some horrendous stories from readers where the common thread has been the debiting of their credit cards, multiple times, by the cyber-criminals responsible for the distribution of Rogue Security Software.

The objective of Personal Defender 2009, which is the objective of all Rogue Security Software, is to convince the victim to pay for the “full” version of the application in order to remove what are, in fact, false positives that this program is designed to display on the infected computer in various ways, including fake scan results, pop-ups and system tray notifications.

Like many parasitic applications, this particular rogue security software’s installer is often found on adult websites, or it can be installed manually, from rogue security software websites including http://www.defender2009.com.

The graphic below, illustrates how WOT (Web of Trust), described later in this article, protects web users from interacting with unsafe sites, such as http://www.defender2009.com.

Rogue Security Software unfortunately, is generally very sophisticated and can write itself into multiple parts of the operating system, and in many cases, it can hide its files, registry entries, running process and services, making the infection difficult to find, and extremely difficult to remove.

In the last year, or so, I have heard some horrendous stories from readers where the common thread has been the debiting of their credit cards, multiple times, by the cyber-criminals responsible for the distribution of Rogue Security Software.

If you are a victim of this, or other Rogue Security Software, the following removal solutions will be invaluable.

Removal Solutions:

Bleeping Computer is a web site where help is available for many computer related problems, including the removal of this particular rogue software.

SmitFraudFix, available for download at Geekstogo is a free tool that is continuously updated to assist victims of rogue security applications including the removal of Personal Defender 2009.

Malwarebytes, a very reliable anti-malware company, has created a free application to help keep you safe and secure. RogueRemover will safely remove a number of rogue security applications. You will also have the option of downloading the free version of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, a highly rated anti-malware application which is capable of removing many newer rogue applications.

What you can do to reduce the chances of infecting your system with rogue security software.

Consider the ramifications carefully before responding to a Windows Security Alert pop-up message. This is a favorite vehicle used by rogue security application to begin the process of infecting unwary users’ computers.

Be cautious in downloading freeware, or shareware programs. Spyware is occasionally concealed in these programs. Download this type of program only through reputable web sites such as Download.com, or sites that you know to be safe.

Consider carefully the inherent risks attached to peer-to-peer (P2P), or file sharing applications where exposure to rogue security applications is widespread.

Install an Internet Browser add-on that provides protection against questionable or unsafe websites. My personal favorite is WOT (Web of Trust), an Internet Explorer/FireFox add-on that offers substantial protection against dangerous websites. The graphic earlier in this article illustrates how WOT’s drop-down warning curtain is activated on visiting a dangerous website such as http://www.defender2009.com.

4 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Safety, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools

Slow Windows Startup? – Speedup with Free Startup Tuner 2

One of the things that I find really annoying when I install a new application is that program’s decision that it is so essential to system operation, that it automatically triggers an auto-start command on system start up.

So that means, every time my computer is booted, this type of presumptive program is started with Windows, which is rarely my intent, and in most cases is not needed.

As a result, the start sequence can become considerably longer, system resources can be ravaged, and manually shutting down these unnecessary startups can be frustrating, and time consuming.

For example, recently a friend asked me for advice on his sister’s computer that was slow at startup, and even worse, was slow in normal operation. It was easy to see why. The computer was loading 26 applications on startup which then continued to run in the background, eating up system resources.

There are a number of manual methods available to deactivate these very irritating applications from auto starting, but a great free application from Ashampoo does the job quickly, cleanly and with no fuss.

StartUp Tuner 2 lists all auto-start entries and allows you to individually delete or deactivate those entries. If you turn off all of the unnecessary entries (be sure they are not necessary), Windows will boot faster; in some cases considerably faster.

(Click pic for larger)

Bonus features:

StartUp Tuner 2 can do more than just this though. The tool can list all Windows services by name and it allows you to activate, or deactivate them, with the click of the mouse.

The application shows all installed Windows programs, but it builds its lists more quickly than the control panel software module. You can then uninstall programs that are no longer required, including program entries that the native Windows uninstaller generally leaves untouched.

Many Browser Helper Objects (BHOs) are useful, but others simply take up space on the Hard Drive and serve no useful purpose. StartUp Tuner 2 lists all of them, and allows you to delete, or deactivate them, if you determine you longer need them.

The application automatically generates a backup of the changes that you have made, giving you the opportunity to reverse any changes.

Rated 4/5 stars by CNET.

Free registration:

The StartUp Tuner 2 can be used free for 10 days. After that, free online registration is required. You will receive an activation code which will convert the test version of the program into the full version.

Ashampoo loves to remind you of the value of their full software lineup, so if you find it bothersome to receive this type of email, you’d be better off passing on StartUp Tuner 2. Personally, I find it easier to stay in the loop on new software developments, when I do receive emails soliciting my business for new applications.

System requirements: Windows 2000/XP/Vista

Download at: Download.com

7 Comments

Filed under Freeware, Slow Computer, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Uninstall Managers, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Caution – Trend Micro’s HouseCall Spoofed

The Internet is increasingly like the Wild West – at least the Wild West we’re use to seeing portrayed in the movies.

The strong, fast with a six shooter, secure tough hombres (read – informed), survive; while the weak, the insecure and the unarmed, (read – uninformed), get their butts kicked. Once again we have a situation where this scenario is likely to play out.

In the last six months or so, I have focused primarily on Internet security issues on this Blog, with a particular emphasis on the massive number of rogue security applications flooding the web.

Since not all security scanners are equal, or 100% effective, I have recommended, in a number of articles, that online scanners are a viable alternative to installed malware scanners as a double check to ensure computer systems are free of malware infections. One of the scanners I have always recommended is, Trend Micro’s HouseCall.

Cyber-criminals, not satisfied with exploiting installable malware scanners, are now trying to exploit Trend Micro’s free online scanner HouseCall. The uninformed Internet user is, once again, the primary target of these cyber-criminals.

According to  Trend Micro, a surfer using a search engine such as Google, with a search string such as, “free online virus scan by Trend Micro”, can end up on a spoofed version of  HouseCall by clicking the link returned by Google. Not surprisingly, the spoofed site informs users their computers are infected with malware, and then teases them to purchase a fake anti-virus application in order to remove the fake threat.

Regular visitors to this site are aware of the substantial threat posed by rogue security application. For more information on this issue, checkout “ Rogue Security Software on the Rise – What You Need to Know Now!” on this site.

Trend Micro advises all users to go to their website home page directly for product information and services, instead of clicking on links to individual pages brought up by search engines. This advice should, in fact, be followed for all searches.

5 Comments

Filed under Don't Get Hacked, Interconnectivity, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Online Spyware/Virus Scanners, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security

Check Software Vulnerabilities – Free Secunia Software Inspector v1.0 Released

If you are a security conscious computer user you are, most likely, generally well armed when it comes to ensuring your system is not open to compromise, or exploitation, by malware in the wild.

It is probable you have protected your machine with an appropriate defense system including a firewall (either software or hardware), a sound and effective malware suite (including anti-virus and spyware), and an additional protection layer against zero-day threats with the installation of an application such as ThreatFire developed by PC Tools.

You can relax and you can consider yourself relatively safe, or perhaps even invulnerable, right? Well, maybe not. Sure, most of use Microsoft’s Windows Update so that we are current with operating system critical updates, and security fixes. You can determine whether or not you are running the latest WUA by visiting Windows Update.

But, and this is a critical “but”, where many of us may still be vulnerable is in the lack of consideration we have given to the vulnerabilities that exist in our currently installed applications.

(Click pic for larger)

Some recent application vulnerabilities include, Mozilla FireFox, Apple iTunes, QuickTime, Skype internet phone, Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.02, 6.03, Sun Java Run-Time, Macromedia Flash 7, WinZip 8.1, AOL Instant Messenger 5.5, Windows/MSN Messenger, Yahoo Instant Messenger 6.0, Bit Defender, and RealPlayer.

So, wouldn’t it be great if there was an application that could do the job of ensuring that all installed applications were either patched or up-to-date? Well, there is; and it’s free. After 17 months of in-depth beta testing, Secunia has just released Version 1.0 of its free Personal Software Inspector (PSI).

(Click pic for larger)

The Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) constantly monitors your system for insecure software installations, notifies you when an insecure application is installed, and even provides you with detailed instructions for updating the application when available.

ZD Net, one of my favorite web sites has stated “Secunia Personal Software Inspector, quite possibly the most useful and important free application you can have running on your Windows machine”.

Installing this small free application will definitely assist you in identifying possible security leaks; give it a try.

Quick facts:

The Secunia PSI is free for private use.

Downloaded over 800,000 times

Allows you to secure your PC – Patch your applications – Be proactive

Scans for Insecure and End-of-Life applications

Verifies that all Microsoft patches are applied

Tracks your patch-performance week by week

Direct and easy access to security patches.

Detects more than 300,000 unique application versions

Provides a detailed report of missing security related updates

Provides a tabbed report which indicates programs that are no longer supported – programs with all known patches – insecure programs, etc.

Provides a Toolbox offering a set of links which helps you assess a problem and how you can resolve it.

System Requirements: Windows 2000, XP 32/64bit, and Vista 32/64bit

Download at: Download.com

As an added bonus for users, Secunia provides a forum “where PSI users can discuss patching, product updates, exploits, the PSI, and anything else security-related”.

1 Comment

Filed under Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, Malware Advisories, Security Rating Applications, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Hard Drive Problem? – Free Tools to Diagnose/Maintain/Clean

Arguably, the Hard Drive is the most important element in a personal computer because it holds, in many cases, an accumulation of information that is of real and perhaps irreplaceable value: documents, digital photos, email messages, personal and business related work and important private data.

The upside of today’s high density disks is; modern disks allows for greater storage capacities and higher access speeds. The downside is however; with densities and capacities pushed to the extreme there is much more information to lose should the drive fail.

So what do you think the chances of a Hard Drive failing are? Surprisingly computer industry statistics seem to indicate that the real-world annualized failure rate (average percentage of disks failing per year), was much higher than the manufacturers’ estimate – an average of 3% vs. the estimated 0.5 – 0.9%.

If you should suffer catastrophic Hard Drive failure and you are one of the few, out of the ordinary, computer users who regularly and faithfully backup, you will have a lot of work ahead of you but you will recover. If you do not have a backup plan, it’s time you though seriously about developing one.

Fortunately though, today’s Hard Drives rarely fail without a warning of failure given well in advance. All modern Hard Drives are equipped with a feature known as S.M.A.R.T. that provides real-time analysis and the reporting of any developing problems and potential issues. The big question is: can you read the warnings?

The following free applications take the guesswork out of the equation, and they make it easier than ever to diagnose what’s really occurring inside the complex environment of the Hard Drive.

Disk Heal

Disk Heal is a free Windows NT, 2000, XP and Vista utility that may be able to restore the condition of your Hard Drive, or a USB Flash Drive.

This application is a very useful tool that has a host of additional capabilities, including recovering hidden files and performing system tweaks; all can be accessed with just one click.

Quick facts:

Fixes disk problems

Fixes task manager inaccessibility

Fixes folder options inaccessibility

Fixes registry editor inaccessibility

Recovers hidden files and folders

Changes the default icon of any drive, external, internal, or a partition

Security and system tweaks

Download at: Download.com

Emsa Disk Check

Emsa Disk Check is a dual-purpose utility, for disk checking (prescan and full disk reading) and also benchmarking. It scans/reads the entire contents of a disk (CD, DVD or Hard Drive; or even a floppy), and it shows any read errors that may occur. In addition, it shows drive speed information, progress statistics and so on. It was designed with simplicity in mind, but ease of use for you.

Quick facts:

Useful to quickly and fully scan removable disks like CD, DVD for surface defects like disk scratch problems, bad CD-R/RW DVD-R/RW writes, etc.

Can check CD-ROM, DVD, hard disks, even floppy disks.

Useful for benchmarking a drive: CD, DVD or HDD.

Shows ‘locked’ files on disks.

Reports progress, statistics (files, folders, time elapsed, estimated time remaining).

Reports any errors encountered (error count and log entry for each).

Download at: Download.com

HDDLife

HDDLife is a real-time Hard Drive monitoring utility with alerts, malfunction protection and data loss prevention features. This hard drive inspector is an advanced proactive hard drive failure detection system that manages all of your hard drive risks. HDDLife is S.M.A.R.T. technology based. This is not a free application but it’s 14 day trial period should provide the time needed to diagnose Hard Drive issues.

Quick facts:

Uses S. M. A. R. T. technology

Displays Hard Drive temperature

Displays hard Drive free space information and control

Current version supports IDE, Serial ATA and SCSI disks with standard controllers, while external IDE RAID and SCSI RAID controllers are not supported.

Download at: Download.com

Don’t forget, that Hard Drive diagnostic software is offered free from all the major Hard Drive manufacturers. Check out their sites.

Western Digital Support

Samsung

Seagate

Please note that since Seagate purchased Maxtor, the download sites are identical.

Maxtor

Hard Drive Maintenance: Defrag and Disk Cleanup Tools

Fragmentation is caused by creating and deleting files and folders, installing new software, and downloading files from the Internet. When you delete files or folders, the first available empty spaces on the Hard Drive are filled in randomly when you create new files and folders, as you do when you save pics from your camera, install software, save emails, or create documents.

Hard Disk fragmentation makes the disk drive heads move more than necessary when reading files which can degrade performance over time, and can lead to system slowdowns, computer crashes, slow startups and shutdowns.

Auslogics Disk Defrag

The program is extremely easy to use, does not require any analysis phase and is faster than most disk defragmentation software I’ve tested in the past, and it’s free.

In my view, it’s one more maintenance process in helping me get the maximum performance out of my hardware.

Quick facts:

Improve computer performance and stability

Increase your productivity – no more waiting for files to open

Defragment disks in minutes

Disk fragmentation map and detailed fragmentation report

Download at: Download.com

CCleaner

Running a Hard Disk cleaner such as CCleaner can optimize systems by emptying the Recycle Bin, Temporary Setup Files, Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Old Chkdsk Files, Temporary Files, Temporary Offline Files, Offline Files, and more.

Quick facts:

Frees up valuable hard disk space

Advanced features to remove unused and old entries

Comprehensive backup feature

System tray icon

Privacy tool

Download at: Download.com

Comments Off

Filed under Diagnostic Software, Disk Cleaners, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Hard Drive Maintenance, Hard Drive Problems, Registry Cleaners, Slow Computer, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Remove Ultra Antivirus 2009 – Free Removal Applications

There seems to be no end to the release of new Rogue Security threats. Cyber crooks are continuing to develop and distribute “rogue security software”, at a furious pace.

There are literally thousands of variants of this type of malware circulating on the Internet, and it has now reached virtual epidemic proportions.

Statistics indicate that up to 50 million Internet users have been infected by this wave of fake antivirus programs.

One more time we are forced to deal with a new variant of an older rogue application; Ultra Antivirus 2009, a clone of Micro Antivirus 2009, is now circulating on the Internet seeking out unaware users in order to steal their money.

(Typical rogue security popup – click for larger)

The objective of Ultra Antivirus 2009, which is the objective of all Rogue Security Software, is to convince the victim to pay for the “full” version of the application in order to remove what are, in fact, false positives that this program is designed to display on the infected computer in various ways, including fake scan results, pop-ups and system tray notifications. Rogue software impacts people dramatically, read “How Fake/Rogue Software Affects Real People”, on this site.

Like many parasitic applications, this particular rogue security software’s installer is often found on adult websites, or it can be installed manually from rogue security software websites.

Rogue security software can write itself into multiple parts of the operating system, and in many cases it can hide its files, registry entries, running process and services, making the infection virtually impossible to find and remove.

As well, the installation of such malware can lead to a critically disabled PC, or in the worst case scenario, allows hackers access to important personal and financial information.

If you are a victim of Ultra Antivirus 2009, the following removal solutions will be invaluable.

Rogue application removal solutions are freely available at:

Bleeping Computer is a web site where help is available for many computer related problems, including the removal of this rogue software.

SmitFraudFix, available for download at Geekstogo is a free tool that is continuously updated to assist victims of rogue security applications.

Malwarebytes, a reliable anti-malware company has created a free application to help keep you safe and secure. RogueRemover will safely remove a number of rogue security applications. As well, you can download Malwarebytes Anti-Malware application, a superior anti-malware program.

Rogue Fix at Internet Inspiration.

5 Comments

Filed under Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools

Virus Trigger (VirusTrigger) – Removal Instructions

Lets play clone the clone. That’s what the cyber-criminals behind Virus Trigger have just done.

Virus Trigger (VirusTrigger), is a new rogue security application which is essentially a clone of VirusResponse Lab 2009, which, in fact, was cloned from Antivirus Lab 2009.

Just like its predecessors, Virus Trigger is now prowling the Internet, seeking out unaware users in order to steal their money. Once again, Trojan.Zlob or the Vundo Trojan is the dropper used in spreading this scourge.

Experienced computer users’ are aware that the Internet is saturated with rogue security programs which, if installed, can often cost the unfortunate victim loads of money in an attempt to get rid of it. Rogue Security Software is now a billion dollar “business”.

Virus Trigger has the same objective as all Rogue Security Software; to convince the victim to pay for the “full” version of the application in order to remove what are, in fact, false positives that this program is designed to display on the infected computer in various ways, including fake scan results, pop-ups and system tray notifications.

(Click pic for larger)

Rogue security software often writes itself into multiple parts of the operating system, and in many cases, it can hide its files, registry entries, running process and services, making the infection difficult to find, and remove.

In the last year, or so, I have heard some horrendous stories from readers where the common thread has been the debiting of their credit cards, multiple times, by the cyber-criminals responsible for the distribution of Rogue Security Software.

If you are a victim of this or other Rogue Security Software, the following removal solutions will be invaluable. The individuals/companies, who wrote and developed these free tools, are to be congratulated for giving back so freely to the Internet community.

Without their generous efforts, those infected by this, and other rogue applications, would be faced with the unenviable task of performing a complete system reinstall, with a strong probability of losing irreplaceable Hard Drive data.

Removal Solutions:

SmitFraudFix, available for download at Geekstogo is a free tool that is continuously updated to assist victims of rogue security applications.

Bleeping Computer is a web site where help is available for many computer related problems, including the removal of rogue software.

Rogue Fix at Internet Inspiration

Malwarebytes, a reliable anti-malware company has created a free application to help keep you safe and secure. RogueRemover will safely remove a number of rogue security applications.

What you can do to reduce the chances of infecting your system with rogue security software.

Be careful in downloading freeware or shareware programs. Spyware is occasionally concealed in these programs. Download this type of program only through reputable web sites such as Download.com, or sites that you know to be safe.

Consider carefully the inherent risks attached to peer-to-peer (P2P), or file sharing applications where exposure to rogue security applications is widespread.

Install an Internet Browser add-on that provides protection against questionable or unsafe websites. My personal favorite is Web of Trust, an Internet Explorer/FireFox add-on that offers substantial protection against questionable or unsafe websites.

2 Comments

Filed under Antivirus Applications, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Manual Malware Removal, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, Software, trojans, Virus Repair Tools, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

Porn Surfing – Put a Software Condom on Your Computer!

OK, for the purists out there, maybe I should have used the word “prophylactic”, rather than condom. After all, the classical definition of a prophylactic is – a device that acts to defend against, or prevent something from occurring.

Online pornography is enormously popular. So popular that the pornography industry has revenues larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined. That’s right, the combined revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink.

Three essential factors have impacted the popularity of Internet pornography:

Easy Internet access

The anonymity the Internet provides

Cost effectiveness

Experienced computer users however, are generally aware that pornographic web sites are notorious for spyware, viruses, browser exploits, and phishing attacks, on insufficiently protected computers.

The credibility of this view is emphasized by Esa Suurio, CEO of Against Intuition Inc., the company that supports Web of Trust, {see Like Porno Sites? – They LOVE You!), on this site, who concluded following a recent survey “Visiting the red light district of the Internet makes the user vulnerable to spyware, viruses and leakage of confidential information which can cause significant damage.

Pornography is what it is, I am not a member of the Morality Police, and I hold no religious or political views on the availability of pornography on the Internet; except of course, pornography which is clearly illegal, or morally reprehensible.

My main concern with pornographic Websites is focused instead, on the primary/secondary use that many of these sites are designed for – as a vehicle for the distribution of potentially harmful malware applications that can be surreptitiously dropped onto unwitting visitors computers.

The potential for damage to both computers and users is enormous, considering the confidential/financial data that can be stolen by keyloggers, tracking cookies, and other common forms of malware used by porn sites.

Unethical porno sites have a reputation for some, or all, of the following behavior:

Pop-up windows that are difficult, or impossible to close – Tip: Pressing the Control key and the W key simultaneously, will generally close pop-ups.

Browser hijacking.

Dropping spyware, viruses, Trojans, and rogue applications.

Requiring the installation of a plug-in or codec – a favorite method of malware insertion.

Be particularly cautious of so called “free three-day trial memberships”. These schemes are notorious for fraud and credit card scams. Just try to take advantage of a “free three-day trial memberships”, without providing credit card details.

Before surfing porn web sites:

Install the latest operating system updates, and patches, on your computer. This step is just common sense in all circumstances. Unpatched systems will be attacked! Unethical porn sites can drop malicious code which will exploit vulnerabilities in your browser or operating system. Just visiting these sites can infect, or damage your system.

Ensure you are using the latest version of your Internet Browser – known security holes in older Browser versions will be exploited.

Consider switching your Browser – Experienced computer users tend to use FireFox as they’re principal Internet Browser, since the security add-ons which are available, offer substantial protection from exploits. No Browser however, is totally secure against exploits.

Turn off JavaScript in your Browser.

Install effective ant-malware solutions on your computer. The following free anti-malware and system protection applications offer effective protection.

This list is not exhaustive. For more information and additional free anti-malware and system protection applications, read “The 35 Best Free Applications – Tried, Tested and Reliable!” on this site.

Firewall: Comodo Firewall Pro

The definitive free firewall in my view; Comodo Firewall protects your system by defeating hackers and restricting unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet.

Internet Browser protection: Web of Trust (WOT)

WOT is a free Internet Browser add-on (my personal favorite), that has established an impressive 4.5/5.0 star user rating on CNET. WOT tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

(Click pic for larger) – In this Google seach for “hot porno sites”, notice that WOT indicates that out of the 6 sites illustrated, 2 are dangerous, 2 should be viewed with caution, 1 is an unknown quantity, and only 1 is safe.

Anti-virus: Avira AntiVir PersonalEdition Classic

This anti-virus program offers comprehensive protection with an easy to use interface. In the ten months I have been testing Avira I have been impressed with its performance, and I have come to rely on it as my primary anti-virus program. I highly recommend this one.

Anti-spyware: Spyware Terminator

Having tested virtually all of the major anti-spyware applications over the past year or more, I’ve settled, for now, on Spyware Terminator primarily due to its strong real-time protection against spyware, adware, Trojans, key-loggers, home page hijackers and other malware threats. Spyware Terminator excels in strong active protection against know and unknown threats.

Adware remover: Ad-Aware 2008

Many software reviewers consider Ad-Aware 2008 Free as the best free 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.

Zero-day malware protection: ThreatFire

ThreatFire 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.

How much information can a web site collect about you?

If you are interested in seeing just how much information your Internet Browser gives away about you and your computer system when you visit a web site, then checkout BrowserSpy.dk.

In my experience, most people are shocked at the amount of information that a web site is capable of collecting from a simple visit.

7 Comments

Filed under Adware, Antivirus Applications, Browser add-ons, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Home Page Hijacking, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Safe Surfing, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

NEW – Protect Your Email with WOT (Web of Trust)

Regular readers of this Blog know that I’m a big fan of the Internet Browser security add-on, WOT. Well now there’s another reason to make sure that you add this potent security add-on to your Internet Browser, both IE and FireFox.

WOT has added the top three web-based email services – Google Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, to its free security protection. You can now feel more confident and secure since WOT checks links embedded in your email, and warns you of dangerous web sites so that you can avoid spyware, spam, phishing, identity theft and other Internet scams; before you click on dangerous embedded links.

Here’s an email from my Gmail inbox – notice the red warning indicator advising me the embedded link is dangerous. (Click pic for larger)

If you’re not yet familiar with the WOT Internet Browser Security add-on let me explain. WOT is a free Internet Browser add-on (my personal favorite), that has established an impressive 4.5/5.0 star user rating on CNET. WOT tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

Here’s a Google search in which WOT indicates the unsafe sites. Notice the unsafe sites in the Google ads! (Click pic for larger)

As an added safety feature take a look at what happens if, in fact, you do end up on an unsafe web site. WOT’s dropdown warning current blocks access to the site until you determine otherwise.

Quick facts – WOT checks the following:

Links embedded in your email – Google, Yahoo!, Gmail

Site Trustworthiness

Vendor reliability

Site Privacy

Site Child Safety

More quick facts:

Ratings for over 20 million web sites

Downloaded over 2,000,000 times

The WOT browser add-on is light and updates automatically

WOT rating icons appear beside search results in Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Gmail, etc.

Settings can be customized to better protect your family

Security Scorecard shows rating details and user comments

Works with Internet Explorer and FireFox

Interface supports English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish and Finnish.

Surf more securely, by installing this unique browser add-on which will provide you with an in-depth site analysis based on real world results. Keep in mind however, that you are your own best protection. Stop · Think · Click

Download at: MyWot

For a complete review of WOT’s Internet browser add-on, take a look at “Safer Surfing with WOT – Find out How!” on this site.

Watch a demo video showing how WOT works in the real world.

1 Comment

Filed under Browser add-ons, Browsers, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Safety, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Phishing, Privacy, Safe Surfing, Software, System File Protection, Windows Tips and Tools