Monthly Archives: September 2009

PandaLabs Says The U.S. Is Not #1 – in PC Infections

pandasecurity_logo The U.S. likes to be number one in everything – it’s just the American way. But, according to PandaLabs, the U.S. is going to have to settle for 9th place overall when it comes to malware infected computers. This is one area however, where not being number one is definitely better.

But that’s no reason to be complacent. PandaLabs, Panda Security’s malware analysis and detection laboratory, just revealed that it has detected a 15 percent increase in the total number of malware-infected computers in September, in comparison to the previous month of August.

According to data gathered from users that scanned and disinfected their computers with the free Panda ActiveScan online antivirus, the average infection ratio rose to 59 percent, the highest rate this year.

In comparison to the infection rates of 29 countries, the U.S. ranks ninth with an infection ratio of 58.25 percent, just below the worldwide average. Taiwan has the most infected PCs, with a 69.10 percent corruption, followed by Russia and China at 67.99 percent and 61.97 percent, respectively. The country with the least infections is Norway at 39.60 percent.

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According to Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs, “There is a false sense of security, as users perceive there to be no real danger at the moment. When their computers get infected, they rarely notice any symptoms.”

Panda’s study revealed that U.S. computers are infected by the most dangerous malware strains: Trojans, followed by adware, worms and viruses.

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“This is a clear sign that hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated,” explains Corrons. “Cybercriminals have found news ways to spread their creations, frequently exploiting the latest news stories to launch attacks through social networks, videos, and email. The huge amount of Trojans in circulation is due to the spectacular increase in the number of banker Trojans aimed at stealing user data.”

More information is available in the Panda Security Encyclopedia. You can also follow Panda Security’s online activity on its Twitter and PandaLabs blog.

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Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Interconnectivity, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Reports, Online Safety, Panda Security, PandaLabs, Safe Surfing, Tech Net News, Windows Tips and Tools

150 BILLION Daily Spams – Who’s Responsible?

Symantec’s latest MessageLabs Intelligence Report – unveiled today – describes in detail who’s responsible for such unprecedented levels of spam.

image Over 150 BILLION unsolicited e-mail messages are being distributed by compromised computers every day, which means that botnets are responsible for approximately 88 percent of all spam out there today.

Recent closures of rogue Internet Service Providers McColo, PriceWert and Real Host have significantly hurt the two biggest botnets of 2009: Cutwail and Srizbi, which at their peak where each responsible for 45.6 percent and 50 percent of all global spam, respectively. Since then, Cutwail has been bumped to the third most powerful botnet and Srizbi has disappeared.

ML Botnets

Here’s a look at how some of the newest botnets stack up:

Grum – the most active botnet, responsible for over 23 percent of global spam. Since June, Grum has increased its output per bot massively, pushing it to the top of the current “worst offenders”.

Bobax – has overtaken Cutwail as a top botnet, and is responsible for 15.7 percent of spam. Previously one of the smaller, less active botnets, Bobax has now quadrupled in size and its output per bot per minute is now the highest MessageLabs has ever seen.

Rustock – the largest botnet of all, with an estimated 1.3 to 1.9 million compromised computers in its control. Rustock has roughly doubled in size since June, but doesn’t have a high output. What sets this botnet apart from the rest is its highly automated cycle of spamming activity: spam from this botnet accelerates from 3am EST, peaks around 7am EST and dies down by 7pm EST.

Mega D – has been losing bots quite rapidly. It is now only one tenth the size it was in June. However, it’s now working its bots harder than ever, 2nd only to the output of Bobax in spam per bot per minute!

Maazben – meet the newest botnet, and one to watch in the future. Currently focused on sending out casino-spam, Maazben first appeared in May and has been growing the number of bots rapidly in recent weeks while keeping its output low.

What else can we expect from these powerful machines and how can businesses safeguard against their threats? You can find additional information on this and other online threats here.

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Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Email, Interconnectivity, internet scams, Malware Reports, MessageLabs, Online Safety, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 30, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now? iPod Volume Restrictions On The Way – iPods in Europe are about to get a lot more quiet? Regulators have released a new set of standards governing how loud portable music players can go, and that means the default max volume is going take a big dip from where it currently sits.

AV-Comparatives picks 7 anti-malware winners – AV-Comparatives’ August 2009 report has been released. There are two unsurprising winners and one amusing one.

Moore’s Law: no end in sight for processing power doubling – Intel CTO says Moore’s Law, in which processing capabilities double every two years — will be in force for many decades to come.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

This Week’s Top 10 Spyware Threats (The Threat Level remains at Elevated) – Some things to look out for this week are the following. There are a couple of spam campaigns: a Zeus Trojan in spam campaign under guise of a notice from the IRS. Subject line: “Notice of Underreported Income.” And a Facebook worm hijacks wall posts. It arrives as a message containing a malicious link with text: “lmao! I can’t stop laughing at you in this pic when did you do this?” Watch out for these!

Lifehacker: Microsoft Security Essentials Free Antivirus App Leaves Beta – We took a first look at Microsoft Security Essentials, the free antivirus application from Microsoft, back in June, but today Microsoft Security Essentials has left beta and is ready for your PC.

Stop Windows from Rebooting After Automatic Updates – Automated system updates: good. Automated rebooting to apply those updates: bad. Very, very bad. Here’s how to stop it from happening.

IT Security: Maxims for the ages – Steve Gibson in his latest Security Now podcast mentions one person’s quest to enlighten the rest of us about managing security. To me, his words ring true.

Can you upgrade an old XP PC to Windows 7? Should you? – How old is too old? I had a chance to think about this question twice over the weekend. Once while pondering my fifty-something birthday (as of today, I am the same age as Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons combined), and the other while deciding whether to upgrade my friend Lisa’s four-year-old Sony notebook to Windows 7.

Off Topic:

Evolution of Microsoft Windows: 1985 – 2009 – It all began in Plaza Hotel, New York City on the 10th of November 1983. Two Microsoft founders Paul Allen and Bill Gates officially announced their corporation’s first and next-generation graphical user interface operating system – Microsoft Windows.

Are you 00 or Oh no? MI6 puts test for would-be spies online - our mission, should you choose to accept it, is to complete the quiz below – without peeking at the answers. If you pass, you might be suited to a job at MI6.

The empathy jolt – Empathy…can’t get it but know you need it to move forward?

Lifehacker: How to Choose the Fastest Line at the Market – One of the more frustrating parts of grocery shopping is waiting in line, and determining which line will get you through the quickest somehow becomes a big deal. Blogger and math teacher Dan Meyer drops a little science on this common dilemma.

Today’s Quote:

“We as a society chose to get more connected, and one of the perils of doing that is, the more connected you are with everyone, the more connected you are with malicious people as well”.

- Microsoft security manager Scott Culp

Today’s Free Downloads:

Microsoft Security EssentialsMicrosoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Microsoft Security Essentials is a free download from Microsoft that is simple to install, easy to use, and always kept up to date so you can be assured your PC is protected by the latest technology. It’s easy to tell if your PC is secure — when you’re green, you’re good. It’s that simple.

Get a Visual Overview of Your Firefox Browsing History – Enter History Tree, a Firefox add-on that gives you a visual overview of your browsing history. You can view this history as either a tree (hence the name) or a grid of site thumbnails. Click the image at right to see an example of the former.

QTTabBar – QTTabBar is a add-in for Windows Explorer that adds tabs and several other features to the Explorer interface. With it, you’ll be able to quickly switch between folders by simply clicking a tab, as well as being able to perform some basic functions with new icons across the top of Explorer.

Blaze – Blaze helps you more quickly start programs, and a whole lot more. When Blaze recognizes that you’re doing something with a repetitive pattern–such as typing a sequence of numbers or moving files that all have the same word in the name–it offers to automate the task for you

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Stay in Control With Free Auslogics Task Manager

Running on Windows 7 has loads of benefits over running on Windows XP Pro, including an improvement in the Windows Task Manager tool, which finally shows “running processes”.

But Windows Task Manager still remains a bit of a tease. Sure it provides you with some usable information, but it falls far short of providing you with all the information that you really need. A recent free offering from Auslogics, of Auslogics Disk Defrag fame, takes up the challenge where Windows Task Manager leaves off.

A very simple interface makes it easy to use Auslogics Task Manager, for both novices and pros, to manage computer resources.

Windows task manager (on Win 7)

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Versus Auslogics Task Manager (on Win 7)

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Fast facts:

View application and process

Shows all open files including the application that has locked it

Provides a security rating

View open files

Shows CPU usage

View memory and disk utilization

Shows Internet traffic and priority

End or freeze a process

Adjust CPU affinity and priority

This is a terrific free application and I have added it to my geek toolbox. Since malware can often restrict access to the Windows Task Manager, this application is good insurance to have handy.

Note: also available in a portable version that is just right for geeks on the go.

Download at: Major Geeks

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Filed under Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, System Utilities, USB, Utilities, Windows Task Manager Replacement, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 29, 2009

Lifehacker: Turn Your Windows 7 PC Into a Wireless Hotspot – Everybody’s got a wireless network at home, but if you’ve ever wanted to get your iPod touch, iPhone, or other wireless device connected, but all you’ve got is a wired network at work, school, or elsewhere, Windows 7 makes this process trivial.

Mobile-Phone Banking: Convenient and Safe? – Handling your money on an easily lost device may seem risky, but you have secure options.

Disable the log-on screen in Windows XP and Vista – The program I used to customize the Windows Welcome screen—TweakNow PowerPack 2009—is the same tool I used to disable the log-on screen on my Vista laptop. Click Windows Secret in the utility’s left pane and choose User Accounts. Click “Enable auto log-on,” select the account you want to log into automatically, enter the account’s password and domain name (if necessary), and click Save. The next time you start the PC, Windows will start and open that account automatically.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

What’s the difference between anti-virus, anti-spyware and internet security software? – I’ll start by saying that it’s a confusing mess. I’ll also start by lumping them all together as “security software”, and then point out that the confusion is really in some security software vendor’s best interest.

Don’t Tell Insecure End Users They’re Stupid – Many security breaches are a result of administrative error, inattention and ignorance. Such insecurities often result in solution providers being called in to clean up the messes created by in-house, inept security managers. But does cleaning up security messes require telling end users their stupid?

Is cloud anti-virus ready for the mass-market? – There was much talk at last week’s Virus Bulletin conference about “the cloud” and the part it can play in protecting computer users from security threats. Sophos blogger Chester Wisniewski wonders if those who believe this approach gives complete security actually have their head in the clouds.

Want Windows 7 for 50 Percent Off? Order an OEM Copy – Popular retailer Newegg has listed the OEM prices for Windows 7, which will be offered at less than half what Microsoft will charge for a retail copy.

Off Topic:

How fast can LEDs replace fluorescent light? – It’s not mandatory in the U.S., but it saves energy. In places where it is mandatory, like England, protests and hoarding are breaking out.

NASA fires laser 250,000 miles to hit lunar spacecraft traveling at 3,600 mph – Think you’re a real sharpshooter? Hitting an object about the size of a minivan shouldn’t be a problem, then. The catch? Your target is 250,000 miles away. Oh, and it’s moving at 3,600 miles per hour.

Is monogamy genetic? Your fingers may hold a clue – When it comes to monogamy, your penchant for lifelong love might be as simple as the length of your ring finger.

Today’s Quote:

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are”.

- Anais Nin

Today’s Free Downloads:

Google’s Picasa – Peer at it closely and you’ll find an app teeming with features that do everything from import to edit to upload to share photos and videos online.

Foxit Reader – Foxit is the only PDF reader I use. It’s been a long while since I’ve run across a PDF file that Foxit Reader doesn’t handle perfectly. It takes up far less disk space than Adobe Reader, and it’s faster.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 28, 2009

Code breakthrough delivers safer computing – Computer researchers at UNSW and NICTA have achieved a breakthrough in software which will deliver significant increases in security and reliability and has the potential to be a major commercialisation success.

Malware torrent delivered over Google, Yahoo! ad services – End users visiting sites that used the ad syndication services often saw nothing more than a brief flash as the malware-laced ads caused their browsers to open – and then close – a booby-trapped PDF file. But behind the scenes, the payload installed Win32/Alureon, a trojan that drops a backdoor on infected machines.

Lifehacker: Five Best Twitter Clients – Twitter has risen to prominence as the most popular place to share your thoughts in short snippets. If you’re underwhelmed with the Twitter web site and looking for more features, you’ll definitely want to check out the five Twitter clients showcased here.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Use Google Picasa to Face-Tag Your PhotosPhoto-management freebie Picasa just added a killer feature. Here’s how to get started with it.

Walking Through 40 Years of Hard Disk History – Slide Show: IDEMA, the International Disk Drive and Materials Association, hosted its annual DISKCON conference in Santa Clara, Calif., Sept. 23 and 24. Included as a bonus was a chronological display of history-making hard disk drives assembled by longtime industry analyst and consultant Jim Porter.

Twitter’s $1 Billion Question: Where’d Everyone Go? – Twitter’s latest round of funding could be worth as much as $100 million — but is the service’s “wow factor” starting to wear off?

Protect Your Privacy on Facebook and Twitter – Here’s how to safeguard your identity and your personal data in the age of the social Web.

Off Topic:

Credit Report 101: Clean Up a Poor Report – Do you pay your bills late and submit the minimum payment or less on credit card balances? Have you made it a habit to max out credit cards?

Linux Knowledge Base and Tutorial – Looking for an in-depth and easy-to-understand introduction to Linux? Then look no further! We don’t just show you how to execute a handful of commands and use a few utilities. The Linux Tutorial goes beyond the basics, providing you with the knowledge necessary to get the most out of your Linux system.

Cooker that ‘grows’ meat in your kitchen beats teleporting fridge and two-second clothes cleaner to win design prize – A controversial cooker that ‘grows’ meat and fish by heating animal cells in your kitchen claimed first prize in the Electrolux design competition

When Assessing Risks, Our Emotions Can Lead Us Astray – If you find yourself more concerned about highly publicized dangers that grab your immediate attention such as terrorist attacks, while forgetting about the more mundane threats such as global warming, you’re not alone.

Today’s Quote:

“Law is mind without reason”.

- Aristotle

Today’s Free Downloads:

Hotspot Shield – Public networks (both wired and wireless) are great. After all, what would life be without connecting while at airports, hotels and coffee shops? However, the danger to your personal data exists even if you connect to a fee based open network. Thats why AnchorFree is pleased to offer Hotspot Shield. Our application keeps your Internet connection secure and anonymous on public networks.

HWiNFO32If you want to know absolutely everything there is to know about your hardware, you’d do well to download the free HWiNFO32. This freebie provides an astonishing amount of information about every aspect of your hardware, and it’s extremely easy to use.

Image Inc: Image Compositing Tool – The purpose of this utility is to blend existing images in a very fast and easy way, using a layer mask for transparency. The process is simple … load the base picture followed by a top layer image, then add a mask and the program automatically merges everything together. Ideal for anyone who doesn’t want to use a major graphics application for this task.

TweakVI Basic – No question about it, ff you want to do some serious Windows Vista tweaking and hacking, you need this TweakVI. Microsoft has gone out of its way to make Vista unfriendly to power users; it’s more difficult to tweak than XP is. But this great freebie gives you hundreds of ways to adjust the operating system, tasks that otherwise would be extremely difficult to do.

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Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware – The Best Free Security Application?

image When a free application is downloaded over 45,000 times from your site, like Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware has been at my site, you just have to know this application is a winner.

The free version of this speed demon (it’s faster at scanning than any anti-malware program I’ve tested in the last 2 years), is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers.

I run Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware every day, as a secondary malware scanner, since I have absolutely no faith that a single security application offers adequate protection.

Depending on a single security applications to provide the ultimate in protection, is an absolute “non-starter”. A single security applications does not, and never has had the ability to this, despite the commonly help belief to the contrary.

It’s important to note that the real time protection module is disabled in the free version of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware. Less critical, is the disabling of scheduled scanning, and scheduled updating in the free version.

Each day as I manually update the definition database I’ve noticed that typically, the definition database has been updated 3/5 times in the previous 24 hours. Since study after study indicate that new malware is created at the rate of 20,000 new versions every single day, it’s easy to see that Malwarebytes’ is being proactive to these conditions.

A simple, intuitive, and easy to use interface, makes Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware straightforward to setup, customize and run, for both less experienced and expert users alike.

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Since real time protection is disabled, I would not recommend that you use this free version of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware as a stand alone primary security application, since it simply will not offer you adequate protection with this restriction. Instead, use it as I do, as an on-demand, secondary scanner.

Despite this real-time protection limitation in the free version, Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware has an excellent reputation (shared by me), as a first class security application, for its ability to identify and remove adware, Trojans, key-loggers, home page hijackers and other malware threats.

Numerous users of this Blog, have commented on Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware’s ability to deal with one of the real scourges currently making the rounds on the Internet; rogue security applications.

As a full fledged security application, with all of its features unlocked; real-time protection, scheduled scanning, and scheduled updating, Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware is a terrific value at $24.95 US.

Regular readers of this site are aware that I generally do not recommend the purchase of commercial software, but in this case, I have to do so. This application is just that good.

Fast facts:

Blazing speed on quick scanning

Full scans for all drives.

Daily database updates

Quarantine function

Additional utilities for manual malware removal

Multi-lingual support

Command line support for quick scanning

Context menu integration to scan files on demand

Quick summary: Discovered malware, including 3 Trojans, not found by SpyBot, or AVG, on a recent test on my test bed systems.

Systems Requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7.

Multi-lingual support: English, Albanian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish.

Download at: Download.com

Old advice that still applies:

There is no one anti-malware tool, that is likely to identify and remove, all of the malware that infests the cyber world.

To ensure maximum safety, it’s important to have layered defenses in the ongoing fight against malware.

In other words, it’s necessary to have front line line active malware defenses which provide real time protection, coupled with a secondary malware scanner which should be employed on a regular basis, I recommend a minimum of once a week, to ensure your computer stays clean.

Another great free alternative:

The free version of SUPERAntiSpyware despite it’s lack of real-time protection  deserves its reputation as a first class security application, and it’s definitely worth considering adding to your security toolbox as a secondary line of defense.

You can read the review, and find the download link in my article “Knockout Malware With SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition”, on this site.

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Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System File Protection, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 27, 2009

AT&T calls Google a hypocrite on Net neutrality - AT&T is accusing Google of being a hypocrite when it comes to Net neutrality because it blocks certain phone calls on its Google Voice service.

Ants vs. worms: New computer security mimics nature – In the never-ending battle to protect computer networks from intruders, security experts are deploying a new defense modeled after one of nature’s hardiest creatures — the ant.

Intel Developing TV-Internet Convergence System On A Chip – Intel has a product development framework for TV-centric applications (widgets). The Widget Channel Technology Brief defines widgets as: “small Internet applications designed to enhance the the traditional TV watching experience and bring content, information and community features available on the Internet within easy reach.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Viagra spam brings bulging returns of more than $4,000/day – A peek into the world of spam affiliate networks has revealed that there is indeed a lot of money to be made by pushing all those Viagra and Cialis e-mails. Even if only a few people make purchases, it’s enough to make spamming worthwhile and guarantee that the rest of our inboxes will remain crowded.

Free software is dead. Long live open source – One of the most inspiring things I’ve witnessed in my 10-plus years in open source is its gradual embrace of pragmatism. By “pragmatism” I don’t mean “capitulation,” whereby open source comes to look more like the proprietary world it has sought to displace. Rather, I would suggest that the more open source has gone mainstream the more it has learned to make compromises, compromises that make it stronger, not weaker.

Google adds anchor links to search results – Web pages have long included anchor links, which, when clicked, send you to a specific section of the page. Wikipedia uses them heavily to help users jump between headings and navigate the sometimes large articles more efficiently. Google has announced that it is now including these anchor links in search results. This is right in line with Google’s mission of helping users to find the information that they are looking for as quickly and accurately as possible.

Apple OKs first porn star apps for the iPhone – Apple has approved the first two iPhone apps dedicated to the careers of popular (or, ahem, so we’re told) porn stars. Developed by GrindHouse Mobile and the stars, the two apps mark the first time that Apple has allowed the porn industry into the store in such an obvious way.

Pranksters Sued for … Fake Facebook Profile! – A mother and her teenage son are suing four other minors for setting up a fake Facebook profile of the son with racist and sexual statements.

Off Topic:

Virtual cop to run identity parades – A MAJOR cause of miscarriages of justice could be avoided if computers, rather than detectives, guided witnesses through the identification of suspects. That’s according to Brent Daugherty at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte and colleagues, who say that too often officers influence witnesses’ choices.

Pirate Party Canada Starts a BitTorrent Tracker – Canada has had its very own Pirate Party for a few months now. The party is currently trying to get federal approval, a goal that should be achieved in the coming week. In the meantime the party’s members haven’t been sitting still and today sees the launch of their very own BitTorrent tracker.

21 Ways To Get Something For Nothing – It has been said that the best things in life are free — and we couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’ve come up with these primo goods and services that don’t cost a dime. Go ahead. Embrace your inner tightwad.

STUDY: Time Spent on Social Networks Has Tripled – Social networking usage by Americans continues to soar. According to a new report from The Nielsen Company, Americans spent 17% of all their Internet time using social networking sites. This was nearly triple the time spent a year ago.

1993 AT&T Ads About the Future Scary Accurate – Narrated by Tom Selleck, and directed by Fight Club’s David Fincher, the ads began in 1993 and were (mostly) remarkably accurate, predicting: E-Books, in-car GPS, tablet PCs, E-ZPass, video conferencing, and video on demand.

Today’s Quote:

A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.

- Sir Winston Churchill

Today’s Free Downloads:

Avira AntiVir Personal – Free Antivirus 9.0.0.407 – Consistently at or near the top of independent efficacy testers, Avira’s AntiVir remains one of the best freeware security solutions around. Its scans are flexible, allowing the user to fully scan both internal and external hard drives, run a preloaded scan–for rootkits, for example–or customize a scan.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.41 – Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is a surprisingly effective freeware antimalware tool. It’s a relatively speedy malware remover, with the quick scan taking about 8 minutes even with other high-resource programs running. The heuristics engine proved on multiple computers during empirical testing that it was capable of determining the difference between false positives and dangerous apps.

WinRAR (32-bit) 3.90 – There are plenty of solid compression utilities to choose from, but this shareware powerhouse offers the features and ease of use that place it at the top of the compression category. WinRAR is easy to use, lightweight, and flexible.

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Prey – A Free Stolen Laptop Recovery Solution

clip_image001You’ll never lose your Laptop computer, and you take particular care to ensure it won’t be stolen, right? Of course you do. But does loss, or theft, of laptops happen? You bet.

Recent survey results from the Ponemon Institute, indicate that more than 10,000 laptops are lost, or stolen, each week at U.S. airports. Are you as surprised as I am?

Not surprised? Well, how about this astonishing statistic from the same survey: 65% of those lost or stolen laptops are not reclaimed, despite the fact that half the laptops contain confidential corporate information.

One can only hope that the data on these laptops was encrypted, although it seems when we read news stories about a lost or stolen laptop, the pattern seems to be as follows; – 200,000 (insert your own number here), bank account numbers, Social Security Numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth were on an unencrypted laptop stolen/lost earlier this week.

Other available statistics indicate that a laptop is stolen, not lost but stolen, every 53 seconds and 97% of stolen laptop computers are never recovered.

So what can you do to increase the probability that should your laptop be lost or stolen, you can increase the chances that it will be returned to you?

One solution is offered by Prey, an open source application, that can enhance recovery chances significantly.

Prey web service

According to the developer:

Prey helps you locate your missing laptop by sending timed reports with a bunch of information of its whereabouts. This includes the general status of the computer, a list of running programs and active connections, fully-detailed network and wifi information, a screenshot of the running desktop and – in case your laptop has an integrated webcam – a picture of the thief.

Prey uses a remote activation system which means the program sits silently in your computer until you actually want it to run. If so, it gathers all the information and sends it to your Prey web control panel or directly to your mailbox. The thief will never know his movements are being watched.

Stolen laptop recovery is always a hit and miss proposition, but without an application such as Prey on board the chances of recovery, at least statistically, are virtually nil.

There is no guarantee that even with Prey on board that a stolen, or lost laptop, will be recovered – but it seems sensible to make every effort to increase that likelihood. Prey, may be just the solution you’ve been looking for.

Fast facts:

Wifi autoconnect – Prey checks if there’s an active internet connection to send the information.

Geo-location aware – Prey uses wifi hotspots to locate devices geographically. This not only includes lat/lng coordinates, but also an altitude indicator.

Lightweight - Prey is written in bash which means it has virtually no dependencies, only what it different modules need to work. This also means Prey is portable and should run in just about any computer.

Modular architecture – You can add, remove and configure the different parts of Prey as you wish. Prey is composed by modules, each one performing a specific task.

Powerful report system – Get the list of current running programs, the recently modified files, active connections, running uptime, take a screenshot of the running desktop or even a picture of the guy who’s using the computer.

Messaging/alert system – You can alert the thief  he’s being chased at by sending messages which will appear on screen. You can also trigger alarms to make the message clear not only to him but also to whomever is nearby.

Module auto-installer – You don’t have to reinstall Prey to keep up with the latest and greatest modules. We keep a repository from where Prey will fetch what it needs to get the job done.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP & Vista, Mac OS, Ubuntu Linux, Linux -other distributions

Download at: The Prey Project

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Laptop recovery, Open Source, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Hard Drive Tools For Easy Diagnosing and Maintenance

Hard Drive Diag Arguably, the Hard Drive is the most important element in a personal computer since 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. However, the downside is; 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%.

In fact, just at the moment, I’m dealing with a failing Hard Drive on one of my home machines. This is the third Hard Drive failure I have personally had to deal with, in the last 18 months.

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, 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.

disk heal

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.

Emsa Disk Check 10

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.

HDDlife

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.

auslogics_disk_defrag

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.

ccleaner2

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

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, computer repair, Defraggers, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Maintenance, Hard Drive Problems, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools