Monthly Archives: August 2009

YouSAB – The Best Way to Surf Anonymously

This is a guest post by Patrick Holm, in which he explains the benefits of YouSAB, a Secure VPN & VOIP messenger service, which is particularly effective for users living in countries that censor Internet content.

After reading Bill Mullins blog Iranian Surfers Downloading Anonymous Surfing Tool, I made a comment on our new service that can be used by Iranian web surfers (and other web surfers living under repressive regimes), to ensure them they can use the internet without fear of reprisal from government bodies.

These comments prompted Bill to invite me to describe our new software in the guest blogging section, which I have gratefully accepted.

image After living and working in the IT industry, in Dubai, for the last 8 years, (which has censorship of Internet content), some of my colleges and I, managed to create VPN software to allow freedom for all on the internet.

After encouraging responses from the YouSAB community, we formed a company called YouSAB Ltd, in alliance with the payment gateway provider Gulhmes Ltd, to provide a VPN service which is a little different from other VPN providers.

What is the YouSAB community?

YouSAB is a Secure VPN & VOIP messenger service that enables users to access and interact with their social and business peers, through totally secure downloadable VPN software.

Originating from a vision of freedom and security, YouSAB was born out of a desire to fundamentally change the way people communicate.

YouSAB Ltd, and Gulhmes Ltd, veterans of the Internet payment security and high tech security industries respectively, joined together to create an easy to use, consumer-centric, truly converged peer-to-peer service, enabling its users to take control of their on line security from one single place on their computer.

One of the main purposes for the development of YouSAB community was to take a conventional VPN set up, and provide more usable features the ‘every day person’ can use to remain safe while online, at a fraction of the industry price.

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What is the difference between YouSAB messenger and other VPN providers?

One of the main differences of the VPN messenger compared to other VPN providers is; VPN messenger has taken the highly secured method of VPN and added an additional layer of security protection using proxy Dynamic TCP tunnels Network, so if the VPN network was ever comprised, Internet users would have the safety of a proxy network to keep them anonymous at all times. Coupled with these two layers of protection are a whole host of features that really make YouSAB Messenger stand out from other VPN providers.

These include the following:

A platform where YouSAB community users can use two forms of communication, VOIP and Messenger texting.

YouSAB messenger, as the name suggests, allows all of its users to invite and build a buddy list of all their YouSAB contacts that they wish to communicate with, via VOIP and messenger. All members’ accounts have in built VOIP and messenger features, so users can use both forms of communication to contact their business, or social contacts across the VPN network.

Both methods are highly secured, and both are totally anonymous to the outside world, with no third party monitoring communications. We have had several independent reviews of the speed of the service, and download quality is very acceptable and voice quality is comparable to Skype, and Call serve PC-PC. YouSAB accounts also have profiles where users can post business or personnel information about themselves, if they wish.

Once connected to the VPN network, you are provided with uncensored internet use, and a non traceable IP address.

YouSAB messenger unblocks all your favorite websites, which are deemed, unsuited for viewership by your Employer, Internet Service Provider or country Government E.g. VOIP providers, and Unblock Facebook. It also gives you a bogus IP address, which is non-traceable, even to a highly experienced hacker.

This program really works well for users who are using unsecured Wi-Fi hot spots, or people who want to file share without fear of authorities tracking their activity.

Prepaid card facility that allows to you purchase credit to use the service for as low as 3 Euro, minimizing the risk versus a yearly, or monthly, payment subscription.

The YouSAB messenger network, with its advanced features, was originally designed with the business network in mind. This was to assist in business activity at a fraction of the cost of normal VPN business networks. After been encouraged by good response from the public, based on YouSAB’s ease of payment, we decided to offer it to the public.

YouSAB is a micro pay as you use service, and is controlled by the payments solution provided YouSAB Intercard. This service is a highly secured form of collecting payments and it works in conjunction with the popular online merchant PayPal which handles all payments.clip_image001

Intercard payment solution controls the debits, or credits, to and from your YouSAB messenger account. Intercard is responsible of providing a clear and transparent service so you are able to understand at all times, what you have been charged, to the nearest micropayment.

Without getting into the complex workings of Intercard, the basic numbers that you need to be aware of are:

100 units of Intercard credit, is equal to 1 euro. This will allow you 40 hours of using your YouSAB messenger service.

Intercard will deduct 0.125 units every 3 minutes that you use the service, so you can be sure that you are getting value for money at all times.

YouSAB offers you different values of Intercard credit which are:

300 units which will give you 120 hours of use for 3Euro

500 units will give you 240 hours of use for 5 Euro

1000 units will give you 500 hours of use for 10 Euro

One of the best features of using Intercard is; you can use it to carry out balance transfers to and from your Intercard account. This feature was introduced as a test bed for our soon to be released online money exchange bureau, that users will be able to use to exchange online currency at favorable exchange rates e.g. PayPal to Web money.

These are just three main features for the YouSAB community, but we continue to work from feedback from our users (which we welcome), to further improve the service, so we that we can all retain our privacy while online.

Hope you liked the article, and if you want to download the software freely to test, you can do so here.

For further information checkout my site.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Anonymous Surfing, Communication, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, Peer to Peer, Software, Surveillance, Video Calling, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 31, 2009

Snow Leopard Is a Pale Imitation of Windows 7 – Let’s wade through Apple’s laundry list of borrowed features and derivative works in the new Mac OS.

64-bit Snow Leopard defaults to 32-bit kernel – Apple’s Snow Leopard operating system, released Friday, by default loads with a 32-bit kernel, despite running 64-bit applications. While Mac OS X version 10.6 ships with a number of 64-bit native applications, the kernel itself defaults to 32-bit, unless the user holds down the “6″ and “4″ keys during boot time, at which point the 64-bit kernel is loaded. Only Apple’s X-Serve products, using Snow Leopard Server, boot into a 64-bit kernel by default.

Lifehacker: Five Best Disk Defragmenters – Your computer’s a busy beaver, rapidly accessing and utilizing files all in the name of bringing you what you want, when you want it. Sometimes it needs a little help tidying up, and that’s where these five disk defragmenters come in.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

FontCapture Turns Your Handwriting into a Font – If you’ve got a few minutes, stylish script, and a scanner, FontCapture can turn your handwriting into a font. That keeps all your mad-scientist notes on the computer, yet still gives them that essential lab bench grit.

Can You Trust Free Antivirus Software? – Lots of companies offer software that s supposed to stop worms, viruses, and other malware for free. We tested nine such security programs to find the ones you can really depend on.

Why Macs Can’t Beat PCs with Windows 7 – Apple’s heyday of picking on Windows is over, and it can no longer claim its OS is better than Windows 7 — here are 5 reasons why.

Thanks, Canada: Facebook’s 4 Big Privacy Fixes – Canadian courts are pushing Facebook to clarify and enforce privacy issues that we should’ve demanded earlier — but we still have a wish list.

12 Tips for Making Google Gmail, Google Apps Easier to Use – More than 37 million people visited Google’s Gmail application in July, but how many of these users know that they can control Gmail without pointing and clicking with the mouse. Similarly, millions of users, including 1.75 million businesses, use Google Apps services. This includes Google Docs, Calendar, Sites and Talk. Many of these users may not realize how easy it is to share content with fellow collaborators.

Off Topic:

51% Rate Alcohol More Dangerous Than Marijuana – Pot or not, that is the question – Fifty-one percent (51%) of American adults say alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Just 19% disagree and say pot is worse.

Blackwater Founder Accused in Court of Intent to Kill – The founder of Blackwater USA deliberately caused the deaths of innocent civilians in a series of shootings in Iraq, attorneys for Iraqis suing the security contractor told a federal judge Friday. The attorneys singled out Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL who is the company’s owner, for blame in the deaths of more than 20 Iraqis between 2005 and 2007.

San Francisco, 1941 [PICS] view! – Taken by a man on his trip to the city in 1941. Enjoy the trip back in time.

Today’s Free Downloads:

SenderOK Beta – SenderOK can help you carve a path through the e-mail burying you. It integrates into Outlook 2003 and 2007, and also works as a browser add-on for Web-based mail services such as Gmail and Hotmail. SenderOK works by sorting your incoming mail by their importance, ranging from Routine to Important to VIP. If you use multiple e-mail services, it can help you cut through the clutter on all of them.

Motherboard Monitor – Is your PC getting toasty? Is your CPU getting charred and your motherboard melting? Okay, I’m exaggerating, but if your components are reaching a potentially damaging temperature, Motherboard Monitor can let you know. This free program monitors and reports on the temperatures inside your PC case using the built-in sensors on the processor and motherboard. If things get too warm, it can sound an alarm and automatically shut your PC down before anything gets damaged.

Use a Tilt-Shift Image Editor to Simulate Miniatures – Add the “dollhouse effect” to your digital photos with free image editing software.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Computer and Internet Related Addictions

Guest writer, Rick Robinette, writes a thoughtful article on computer and Internet addiction, and what overindulgence might mean.

Overindulgence, in anything, (including computers and the internet) will result in devastation of some form.

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Have you lost your connection with the real world as a result of excessive computer usage and what the internet has to offer (e.g. video games, chatting, texting, social networking, blogging, gambling, buying, pornography, compulsive surfing, etc…)?

Do you know someone personally, as a result of excessive use of the internet, whose:

marriage has been devastated?
career has been shattered?
family has been broken?
health has been affected?
financial ruin has occurred?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are witness to someone (or yourself) of a computer or internet related addictive behavior.  Here in the U.S. we are just starting to recognize these addictive behaviors and are taking steps to provide help and resolution.

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One such place to seek help is called reStart: Internet Addiction Recovery Program. reStart is the first program of its’ kind in the U.S. designed to specifically help internet and video game addicts overcome their computer or online dependencies. reStart is a 45 day in-patient (therapeutic) program, 6-bed facility (family style retreat), located in Fall City, Washington.

Current research suggests that anywhere from 6-10 % of the online population is dependent on one or more aspects of cyber technology and the internet. Among gamers, those playing multi-user games (like World of Warcraft) appear to be addicted at much higher levels. Both China and South Korea have designated Internet Addiction as their #1 public health danger and have responded by developing multiple treatment programs. The United States, by contrast, has been slower to recognize and respond to the problem but now is beginning to take some active steps.  This program is part of that process.

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Another great resource is the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery, located in Bradford, PA. You will find treatment services for:

Cybersex/Cyberporn

Studies show that men are more likely to view cyberporn, while women are more likely to engage in erotic chat.

Online Affairs

Partners engaged in an online affair go through several personality changes and often rationalize that an online affair isn’t really cheating.

Online Gambling

At an alarming rate, people in recovery from gambling addiction have relapsed because of the availability of virtual casinos, as they use the Internet as another vehicle to satisfy their addiction.

Online Gaming

Like a drug, gamers who play almost every day, play for extended periods of time (over 4 hours), get restless or irritable if they can’t play, and sacrifice other social activities just to game are showing signs of addiction.

Compulsive Surfing

Internet Addiction is an impulsive-control problem and five subtypes have been defined:

  1. Cybersexual Addiction
  2. Cyber-Relational Addiction
  3. Net Compulsions
  4. Information Overload
  5. Computer Addiction

eBay Addiction

Online auction houses create a stimulating place where users can conquer others as the highest bidder, which can be intoxicating as one beats out others in the last precious seconds to win the desired prize.

Take a Test

- Cybersexual Addiction Quiz
- Internet Addiction Test (IAT)
- Quiz for Obsessive Online Gambling
- Quiz for Compulsive Online Gamers
- Quiz for Online Auction Addiction
- The Partner’s Addiction Test
- The Parent-Child Addiction Test

I have personally witnessed the evolution of computers and the internet from the very beginning. On a personal level, I have witnessed the devastation that can occur as a result of overindulgence in the various avenues that computers and the internet has to offer. The internet, in a sense is a virtual world, where your soul and mind can become consumed, if you let it. If you need help, please seek it!

In connection to this article and information, I also encourage you to read A Look At Our Newest Addiction at Tech-for Everyone.

Note: To read my personal contrary take on computer or Internet addiction, please read “Internet Addiction – Do You Qualify?”, on this site.

This is a guest post by Rick Robinette, who brings a background as a security/police officer professional, and as an information technology specialist to the Blogging world.

Why not pay a visit to Rick’s site at What’s On My PC. Like me, you’re sure to become a frequent visitor.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under addiction, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, Internet Addiction, Living Life, Mental Illness, Personal Perspective, pornography, Windows Tips and Tools

Scareware Not Swine Flu – An Epidemic Nevertheless!

Cyber crooks are continuing to develop and distribute “rogue software”, also known as “scareware’,  at a furious pace; there are literally thousands of variants of this type of malware currently circulating on the Internet.

Unless you have had the bad experience of being trapped by this type of malicious software, you may not even be aware that such a class of software even exists. The average computer user that I speak with informally, has no idea that rogue applications even exist.  But they do, and distribution has now reached virtual epidemic proportions on the Internet.

It’s all about the money:

Rogue software is software that uses malware, or malicious tools, to advertise or install itself. After the installation of rogue software, false positives; a fake or false malware detection warning in a computer scan, are a primary method used to convince the unlucky user to purchase the product.

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, in many cases, 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, allow hackers access to important personal and financial information.

(Current Internet infections – courtesy of Panda Security)

The highest rated articles on this Blog, in the last 12 months, have been those associated with this type of malicious software. It’s easy to see why.

So how much money is really involved here? Lots -according to Panda Security, approximately 35 million computers are infected with scareware/rogueware each month (roughly 3.50 percent of all computers), and cybercriminals are earning more than $34 million monthly through rogueware attacks.

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(An example of a current rogue security application)

Recently, a reader of this Blog made the statement “These people (cyber criminals), should stop doing this and get a real job”. The obvious answer to this of course is – this is their real job! How many jobs – a relatively easy job at that – could produce this type of income?

The following two examples taken from this Blogs readers’ questions, illustrate the consequences of becoming infected by rogue security software.

Victim #1What do you do if you were duped into buying the XP Antivirus software? Should I take any precautions such as canceling credit card and/or email passwords etc.? Is my home edition of avast! 4.8 Antivirus enough to keep me safe from bogus and/or rogue software???? Please help…my computer is my life! Thank you.

Victim #2I unfortunately fell for the “virus attack” after trying to remove it, gave in and bought the XPAntivirus. They charged me not only for what I had bought but charged me again, $ 78.83 for something which I hadn’t ordered, nor ever received. It was a nightmare trying to get in touch with anybody.

I finally connected with a guy with an accent, who told me to E-mail the billing service re: my problem. I wrote them tried to call, it’s been a week, and they still won’t contact me to clarify what occurred. I printed off a purchase order from them when I bought the XP which verifies what I received. Anybody know what state their in, I’ll notify the states attorneys office. These people are crooks.

(These two readers were responded to privately.)

If you become infected by this, or other scareware (rogue software), have your PC worked on by a certified computer technician, who will have the tools, and the competency, to determine if the infection can be removed without causing system damage. Computer technicians do not provide services at no cost, so be prepared for the costs involved.

If you feel you have the necessary skills, and you want to try your hand at removal, then by all means do so. The following removal solutions will be invaluable.

The individuals / companies, who wrote and developed these free tools, and who offer free removal advice, are to be congratulated for giving back, so freely, to the Internet community.

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

Free resources:

Malwarebytes, a very reliable anti-malware company, offers a free version of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, a highly rated anti-malware application which is capable of removing many newer rogue applications.

411 Spyware – a site that specializes in malware removal. I highly recommend this site.

Bleeping Computer – a web site where help is available for many computer related problems, including the removal of rogue software. This is another site I highly recommend.

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

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

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.

Do not click on unsolicited invitations to download software of any kind.

Additional precautions you can take to protect your computer system:

When surfing the web: Stop. Think. Click

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/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 email attachments

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox Add-ons, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Internet Explorer Add-ons, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Panda Security, Rogue Software, Rogue Software Removal Tips, Scareware Removal Tips, Software, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 30, 2009

Detect All Computers Connected to Your Wireless NetworkWireless networks are biggest victim of hacking and misuse of connection. Wireless network setup inside your home and office may be misused by your neighbors as a way to get free internet connection. You must protect your Wireless network with strong password to prevent unauthorized users from accessing.

New Rules For U.S. Border Searches Of Portable Devices – The Obama administration unveiled new rules for searching computers and other electronic devices when people enter the United States, attempting to address concerns about violating privacy and constitutional rights.

Attack Of The Tweets: Major Twitter Flaw Exposed – U.K. researcher says vulnerability in Twitter API lets an attacker take over a victim’s account — with a tweet.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How To Copy Your BookmarksInternet “bookmarks” (called “Favorites” in Internet Explorer) make it easy for you to return to a particular Web page. And if you’re like me, you have collected a few, and maybe even come to rely on them. It is much, much easier to pick a name from a list than it is to remember and type in a Website’s address!

Your Cloud Insurance Policy – Security is all about managing risk — looking at the threats, evaluating the likelihood that they will affect you, and determining what the impact would be. But in the end, do the numbers really make us feel warm and fuzzy? I didn’t think so.

Run Line Commands for XP, Vista or 7Here are a few commands that can be run from the run line, for quick access or shortcut creation.

Facebook personal info leak vulnerability – or – How your identity can be compromised just by reading forum posts.

New Malicious Web Links Up More Than 500 Percent In First Half 2009 – There has been a 508 percent increase in the number of new malicious Web links discovered in the first half of 2009, according to a security research report.

The New Threat to Oil Supplies: Hackers – Earlier this year, a sullen, 28-year-old contractor in California was charged in federal court with sabotaging the computerized controls on oil-rig sitting off the coast, allegedly out of spite for not being hired full time.

Defying Experts, Rogue Computer Code Still Lurks – Like a ghost ship, a rogue software program that glided onto the Internet last November has confounded the efforts of top security experts to eradicate the program and trace its origins and purpose, exposing serious weaknesses in the world’s digital infrastructure.

Beware fake Snow Leopard sites – People eager to get a copy of the latest version of the Mac operating system, Snow Leopard, should be wary of sites offering free copies because they are likely to get some nasty malware instead, according to antivirus company Trend Micro.

BlockDefense – or Block Defense – is scareware dolled up to look like legit security software. BlockDefense is a clone of rogue antispyware software SaveDefense, SaveKeep, SaveSoldier, and Trust Ninja.

Off Topic:

Unsettling Old Photos of the “Living” Dead – Victorian mourning photography, in which the dead are posed as if they were “just sleeping” and photographed, creating an expensive memento mori that was often the only photograph a family would have of the deceased loved one.

Quotes – Winston Churchill

The customer is not always right – Hell In A Handbag

Take Five Minutes to Watch 100 Years of Visual Effects – Let’s take a five minute break from Food Week to watch this compilation of some incredible moments in the history of visual effects, from silent films to recent blockbusters. Oh, and pay attention to the background track.

Today’s Free Downloads:

FREE Online Virus and Malware Scanners – Listed are FREE online virus and malware scanners that can be used to compliment the scanner(s) already installed on your PC.

Ubuntu – Ubuntu is a community developed operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. Whether you use it at home, at school or at work Ubuntu contains all the applications you’ll ever need, from word processing and email applications, to web server software and programming tools.

Google Pack – Google Pack is a collection of software, selected by Google, to make your internet life easier.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

SaveSoldier Fake Antivirus – Panda Security Takes a Look

Courtesy of Panda Security.

This week’s PandaLabs report discusses the SaveSoldier fake antivirus and the Ramson.G worm.

The first malware we’re looking at this week is another example of malicious programs that pass themselves off as legitimate software applications in order to steal users’ money by tricking them into believing that they will eliminate (non-existent) threats.

This fake antivirus is designed to collect personal and bank details provided by users when they buy it. This malware scans the system searching for infected software -

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and displays an interface which resembles the interface of a typical antivirus program -

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It then asks users to buy and install certain software to resolve problems caused by the malicious software supposedly detected on the computer.

When the fake antivirus ‘detects’ infected files, it prompts the user to enter a code they will receive when they buy the antivirus pack.

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To do so, users are redirected to a page where they can purchase the software using a credit card.

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It also displays several warnings informing about malware problems, registry errors, etc.

The second example of malware in this report is the Ramson.G worm, which appears on screen with the icon of an executable file and constantly launches the Windows taskkill utility to eliminate processes, passing a series of commands.

When the computer is restarted, a message in Russian is displayed

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and a code to access the system is requested. Once the code is entered, it displays another message and restarts the system.

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It spreads through mapped, shared and removable drives. It uses its autorun.inf configuration file for malware to self execute through these drives.

More information about these and other malicious codes is available in the Panda Security Encyclopedia.

You can also follow Panda Security’s online activity on its Twitter and PandaLabs blog.

If you become infected by this, or other scareware (rogue software), have your PC worked on by a certified computer technician, who will have the tools, and the competency, to determine if the infection can be removed without causing system damage. Computer technicians do not provide services at no cost, so be prepared for the costs involved.

If you feel you have the necessary skills, and you want to try your hand at removal, then by all means do so.

The following free resources can provide tools and the advice you will need to attempt removal.

Malwarebytes, a very reliable anti-malware company, offers a free version of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, a highly rated anti-malware application which is capable of removing many newer rogue applications.

411 Spyware – a site that specializes in malware removal. I highly recommend this site.

Bleeping Computer – a web site where help is available for many computer related problems, including the removal of rogue software. This is another site I highly recommend.

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

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

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.

Do not click on unsolicited invitations to download software of any kind.

Additional precautions you can take to protect your computer system:

When surfing the web: Stop. Think. Click

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/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 email attachments

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Panda Security, PandaLabs, Rogue Software, Rogue Software Removal Tips, scareware, Scareware Removal Tips, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 29, 2009

Head to head: Snow Leopard vs Windows 7 – Our definitive verdict – should you be upgrading your OS?

Facebook Tweaks Privacy Policy in Face of InquiryBowing to pressure from Canadian regulators, social networking giant said it plans to give users more control over how data is shared on the site.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2: Gameplay Video Leaked – This Video was filmed at Game Crazy company convention and shows part of the gameplay of the history Mode.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Phishing In A World Of WarcraftHackers are once again targeting players of the fantasy game “World of Warcraft” in an attempt to steal passwords and other game credentials.

Study: Social Networkers Vulnerable to Attacks – Sure everyone is Tweeting, friending one another on Facebook and getting LinkedIn, but at what cost? A survey released today by the CMO Council and security software maker AVG found that less than a third of social community members are taking steps to prevent cyber attacks.

Message From Hackers: Enjoy The Summer Break Because Winter Attacks Will Be Harsh – More than 80 percent are more active over the winter holidays, according to newly released survey of hackers at Defcon17.

Employers Crack Down On Social Networking, Web Surfing At Work – More than three-quarters of organizations now block social net sites, ScanSafe says.

The 10 most annoying programs on the Internet – Let’s face it: Some software is just plain aggravating. Here’s a list of one editor’s picks.

Lifehacker: Snow Leopard Malware Blocker Only Protects Against Two Trojans – Earlier this week we got a little excited about Snow Leopard’s new malware-blocking skills. Upon closer examination, however, it looks like the malware blocker is a bit underwhelming. We’re talking “I only block two trojans” underwhelming.

Off Topic:

More ‘Evidence’ of Intelligent Design Shot Down by Science – Intricate cellular components are often cited as evidence of intelligent design. They couldn’t have evolved, I.D. proponents say, because they can’t be broken down into smaller, simpler functional parts. They are irreducibly complex, so they must have been intentionally designed, as is, by an intelligent entity.

30 Most Hilarious License Plates – Hilarious collection of the funniest license plates from across the country.

Stupid User Tricks, Vol. 1 – End users are IT’s worst nightmare. They have a nearly inexhaustible capacity for misusing and damaging equipment, misunderstanding instructions and applications, and ignorance for how technology works. The Spiceworks community of IT professionals and service providers maintains a rolling list of stupidest questions end users ask. Here’s a sampling.

12 words you can never say in the office – These outdated tech terms really show your age; we’ve put together a list of alternatives. Welcome to the world of cloud computing, the smartphones and the virtual desktop.

Today’s Free Downloads:

ThreatFire AntiVirus – Traditional antivirus solutions can’t protect you until after they’ve discovered a new threat. With ThreatFire you get behavior-based protection using a proprietary combination of analytics, risk algorithms, program histories and tolerance thresholds to identify and shut down threats so you are always protected, no matter how new the threat.

FotoSketcher – Turn digital photos into beautiful pencil sketches or paintings in seconds. FotoSketcher can create images that look like they have been hand drawn by the best artists.

TweetCraft - If you want to give your Twitter followers play-by-play highlights of your World of Warcraft sessions, then TweetCraft is for you. The free, open-source tool lets you send and receive tweets from within the game.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Want to be a Successful Cyber Crook – Here’s a Tip!

If you want to enhance your chances of being a successful cyber scam artist/cyber crook, you need to; look the part and act the part, of a successful Internet business organization.

How hard is that? Not hard at all when you consider all you need to do is offer a product that appears genuine, and perhaps most importantly – advertise in readily available and trusted media.

So, if you want to succeed in the $105 BILLION “Internet shadow economy”, advertising your “product” on an Internet search engine, could be a major step in helping you reach your goals.

Why an Internet search engine? Well, if one were to poll a group of typical Internet users as to the safety and reliability of search engine results, including the pervasive ads that search engines sprout; there is little doubt that the answer would be positive. In a sense, search engines impart instant legitimacy.

Part of the process of offering a product that appears to be genuine, would include producing and promoting a Web site that instills confidence in those unlucky enough to click on your ad, such as the site pictured below for ErrorSmart, a notoriously misleading application .

image

But hold on! Given that search engine results can be manipulated, or worse (see “Search Engine Results – Malware Heaven!” on this site), it is reasonable to ask the question – why aren’t typical Internet users aware of this situation?

The simple answer is – search engines make little, or no effort, to educate their users in the risks involved in relying on advertisements appearing in their applications. As a consequence, the typical user I come into contact with believes search engine output to be untainted, and free of potential harmful exposure to malware.

A user looking for a review of ErrorSmart, for example, has a reasonably good chance of finding the following fraudulent review:

ErrorSmart uses the industry’s most advanced error-resolution technology and puts it to work for you. By scanning your hard drive, analyzing the errors and correcting the problems, ErrorSmart can restore your system performance and increase startup speed by up to 70 percent.

Whether it’s incomplete uninstalls, failed installations, driver issues or spyware infections that are affecting your PC, ErrorSmart will rid you of your computer problems in just minutes.

Fact: Consumer confidence in the strength and reliability of search engine results, particularly ads, is seriously misplaced.

For example ErrorSmart (the site pictured earlier), a “scareware/rogueware” application developed to mislead uninformed computer users’ into downloading and paying for the “full” version of this bogus software, based on the false positives generated by the application, has been “advertised” for months on a number of leading search engines.

I shudder when I think of the huge numbers of surfers who have suffered the consequences of accepting a download of this misleading application.

If you are one of the unlucky computer users’ who is struggling with computer chaos caused by the installation of this “scareware”, visit 411-spyware.com, a great site that specializes in helping those who have been manipulated into installing rogue software.

If you think this is a one off, or an isolated incident, then you’ll be surprised to learn it’s not. According to Panda Security, approximately 35 million computers are infected with scareware/rogueware each month (roughly 3.50 percent of all computers), and cybercriminals are earning more than $34 million monthly through rogueware attacks.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – an argument can be made, that the Internet has turned into a playground for cyber-criminals.

So will search engine providers address the issues described in this article? Sure – but only when consumers who are totally fed up with tainted search engine results, and malicious hackers, finally force them to.

Fact: Failure to protect the Internet, which by definition is an open network, has substantial penalties ranging from productivity decreases, infrastructure compromise, to a failure in consumer confidence and more.

Great business model!!

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Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Free Security Programs, Freeware, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Panda Security, Rogue Software, scareware, Search Engines, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 28, 2009

Researchers crack WPA Wi-Fi encryption in 60 seconds – Computer scientists in Japan have developed a way to break the WPA encryption system used in wireless routers in just one minute. The attack, which reads encrypted traffic sent between computers and certain types of routers that use the WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption system, was devised by Toshihiro Ohigashi of Hiroshima University and Masakatu Morii of Kobe University.

Opera 10 release candidate available – Opera Software has completed its first release candidate of Opera 10, a browser that the company says has better performance, a Turbo mode for slow …

Mac Malware Poses As Popular Freeware PDF ViewerPhony versions of the freebie Foxit Reader PDF viewer and printer claiming to be for the Macintosh is really malware that has been attacking users falling for the scam.

Survey Shows Ignorance Works in Security VARs’ FavorHere’s how solution providers generally paint their security customers: They lack in skills and knowledge, motivated by fear of losing their job, suffer poor management and are generally lazy. Yeah, you read that right. Those are the top reasons solution providers gave why customers misrepresent or misreport security incidents.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Microsoft Plans to Cut Xbox 360 Elite Price by $100 – Microsoft Corp plans to slash the price of its high-end Xbox 360 video game console by $100, or 25 percent, stepping up the price war in the video game console market following a similar move by rival Sony Corp.

Mac OS Snow Leopard: Great news for Windows 7Snow Leopard offers an even more streamlined Mac experience than Leopard and noticeably faster interface responsiveness. It might also make an even better case for Windows 7 on a Mac.

Most Insider Leaks Happen By Accident – Unintentional leaks may cause more damage than internal fraud, research study says.

BitDefender Offers Twitter Spam Protection TipsHow users can avoid falling prey to some of the most common tricks regularly employed by hackers.

Hacker Ring Tied To Major Breaches Just Tip Of The Iceberg – TJX-Heartland attacker and cohorts also reportedly hacked ATM machines in 7-Elevens, but their wide net is likely just one of many…..

Phishing In A World Of Warcraft – Hackers are once again targeting players of the fantasy game “World of Warcraft” in an attempt to steal passwords and other game credentials.

Bogus Snow Leopard Update Sites Lead to DNS Changers – Fake sites promising Mac users free copies of the newest version of the Mac OS actually infect users with a DNS changer Trojan.

Searching For Jessica Biel Puts Users At Risk - McAfee researchers say Jessica Biel is now the most dangerous celebrity to search for on the Web — if you do, there’s a one in five chance of visiting a Website that can infect you.

Off Topic:

Dinosaur Sightings: Microsoft Arcade for Windows 3.1 – Take a trip back in time with five classic arcade games.

Tips for writing a smart business plan: – Remember the time-starved reader.

The nine new rules of media – There’s no shortage of bloggers and self-proclaimed social media experts spelling out the new rules of media. Most of them are interesting, well supported and appear right.

How To Hide An Airplane: Pics – During World War II the Army Corps of Engineers needed to hide the Lockheed Burbank Aircraft Plant to protect it from being a target for a Japanese air attack. They covered it with camouflage netting and to make it look like a rural subdivision from the air…

Narrowest House In New York Up For Sale – It’s 9 1/2 feet wide and 42 feet long and is billed as the narrowest house in New York City. But there’s nothing small about its asking price: $2.7 million.

Today’s Free Downloads:

Five Best DVD Ripping Tools – Whether you want to watch a movie on your iPod or back up your too-easily-scratched DVDs, DVD ripping is a mysterious realm for many. Even those in-the-know find it difficult to keep up with the best tools for the job, especially in the face of increased copy protection.

FreeMat – FreeMat is a free environment for rapid engineering and scientific prototyping and data processing. It is similar to commercial systems such as MATLAB from Mathworks, and IDL from Research Systems, but is Open Source. FreeMat is available under the GPL license.

OGLE: The OpenGLExtractor – OGLE (i.e. OpenGLExtractor) is an open source software package by the Eyebeam OpenLab that allows for the capture and re-use of 3D geometry data from 3D graphics applications running on Microsoft Windows. The primary motivation for developing OGLE is to make available for re-use the 3D forms we see and interact with in our favorite 3D applications.

Video gamers have a certain love affair with characters from their favorite games; animators may wish to reuse environments or objects from other applications or animations which don’t provide data-level access; architects could use this to bring 3D forms into their proposals and renderings; and digital fabrication technologies make it possible to automatically instantiate 3D objects in the real world.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Paranoia on the Internet Pays Off

paranoia 2By chance, I met a very interesting cab driver today; one who was extremely computer competent and far more security conscious than the typical computer user I normally meet informally.

What struck me immediately, was Mike’s sense of paranoia surrounding his use of the computer on the Internet, which extended to the installation of software from unknown sources, including software from “friends”.

I must admit, it was very refreshing to have a discussion with a security conscious user, who was very aware of the security issues surrounding the use of computers.

So, is it paranoia if they really are after you? Well I can assure you, if you are connected to the Internet – they really are after you!

The Internet is a world that is full of cyber criminals, scam and fraud artists, and worse. A world that reeks of tainted search engine results, malware infected legitimate websites, drive-by downloads and bogus security software. Believe me, this is a very incomplete list!

It is beyond dispute that the Internet now fits the criteria of a world that is not just perceived to be, but is in fact, personally threatening to uninformed or casual Internet users.

I’ve often felt that given the present dangers on the Internet, it’s unfortunate that we can’t buy paranoia at the local computer store, or that we can’t download it freely from the Internet.

Despite the best efforts of antispyware, antivirus, and other Internet security products, you still face substantial risks while surfing the Internet. Malware (a genetic term for all sorts of nasties), evolves so rapidly today, that staying ahead of the curve has proven to be all but impossible for security software developers.

While reputable Anti-malware software is often capable of detecting harmful and malicious attempts to compromise your computer, this is not always the case. Anti-malware programs that rely on a definition database (most anti-malware programs) can be behind the curve in recognizing the newest threats.

Some statistics suggest that a zero day malware threat (a threat so new that no viable protection against it yet exists), will only be caught 57% of the time by installed Anti-malware software. Personally, I believe that this figure is a gross exaggeration.

Given these conditions then, we all need to become infected with a mild case of paranoia when using the Internet. Being paranoid, suspicious, and untrusting while surfing the web, might not make you invulnerable to malware infections or worse, but it will certainly reduce the odds enormously.

The prime area where paranoia can play an important role in preventing you from becoming a victim of cyber criminals is in overcoming the instinctive human response to just “click” while surfing the Internet. That instinctive response poses one of the biggest risks to your online safety and security.

Curiosity, coupled with a conditioned response can often override self-discipline and common sense; so it’s not unusual for people to engage in some, or all, of the following unsafe surfing practices.

Downloading files and software through file-sharing applications such as BitTorrent, eDonkey, KaZaA and other such programs.

Clicking links in instant messaging (IM) that have no context or are composed of only general text.

Downloading executable software from web sites without ensuring that the site is reputable.

Using an unsecured USB stick on public computers, or other computers that are used by more than one person.

Opening email attachments from unknown people.

Opening email attachments without first scanning them for viruses.

Opening email attachments that end in a file extension of .exe, .vbs, or .lnk.

So it’s time for you to develop a case of healthy paranoia while surfing the Internet, and as a first step be actively aware of the following threats to your personal and computer security.

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

Having developed this new sense of paranoia you will no doubt take the following actions to protect your computer system, your money and your identity:

Install an Internet Browser add-on such as WOT, 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.

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

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 you have adequate software based protection on your computer, then check out “The 35 Best Free Applications – Tried, Tested and Reliable!”, on this site, and download free security software that is appropriate for your personal circumstances.

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Paranoia, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Software, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools, worms, WOT (Web of Trust)