Monthly Archives: April 2010

Google: Fake antivirus is 15 percent of all malware – Is this NEWS?

image When I get into one of my “what the hell is going on” moods, I can’t help but consider mainstream media, and what a pathetic job it does when it comes to informing Internet users of critical consumer safety issues.

Part of my distain for so called News organizations, is based on mainstream media’s habit of consistently “coming late to the party”, when dealing with a technology issue that demands an immediate response.

Take Google’s recently released (April 28, 2010), 13 month study of Fake antivirus software, for example. Immediately upon release of this study, this “news” was everywhere on the NEWS.

So, what’s wrong with this “news” story? Well, how about this – This is NOT news! Certainly not “late breaking news”. Simply because this study is not news of course, doesn’t mean that it can’t be MADE news.

Here’s a clue for these News organizations – every day, for years now, typical Internet users’ have been exposed to this type of sophisticated malware and penetration attempts, just by surfing the Web. Oh, by the way, when you’re giving advice to consumers as to how they should deal with these issues – get the underlying technology issues right. That’s a minimum expectation!

The Google report is only marginally informative, contains limited new Internet security information of any value, and is, on the face of it, not news to anyone who has been even marginally aware of security conditions on the Internet during the past two years. Despite this, I found that every News channel that I generally watch, had a story in which the Google study was quoted.

Selected outtakes from the Google study:

A rise in fake antivirus offerings on Web sites around the globe shows that scammers are increasingly turning to social engineering to get malware on computers rather than exploiting holes in software.

Once it is installed on the user system, it’s difficult to uninstall, you can’t run Windows updates anymore or install other antivirus products.

Fake antivirus is easy money for scammers.

On this site, (like many others), we have been reporting on Fake AVs (rogue security software) since the first day essentially – more than 100 articles to date.

Additionally, guest writers on this site have addressed the fake AV issue. Guest writers such as Sergei Shevchenko, Senior Malware Analyst at PC Tools, who, in his guest article, “Be Prepared for 2010’s Malware – PC Tools Malware Trends in 2010”, offered readers a peek into the 2010 malware landscape and made the following observations respecting Fake antivirus applications – long before Google’s report.

Cybercriminals operate in the same way as legitimate organizations – they’re looking for the best return on their investment. It’s therefore inevitable that as we move in to 2010 there will continue to be increased interest in producing malware that brings swift and healthy dividends, with a focus on new and diversified rogue security solutions and in continuing to employ social engineering techniques.

When the initial “accumulation” phase of the rogue security software businesses comes to completion, we might expect cybercriminals to start using their budgets for establishing call centers, support lines, virtual offices, registering off-shore companies, and even launching advertising campaigns.

Users who keep an eye on the range of security software solutions on the market will be aware that many vendors already provide at least one of these services. The difficulty lies with making an informed choice on which offers the best protection – and that’s where the independent anti-malware testing labs come to the fore.

I’ll stop ranting now.

If you found this article useful, 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.

17 Comments

Filed under Bill's Rants, cybercrime, Google, Interconnectivity, Internet Security Alerts, Rogue Software

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 30, 2010

Thwart Antivirus-Crippling Malware by Changing File Extensions – Certain annoying types of malware stop your antivirus program from running (stopping you from removing the malware). If it’s of the less intelligent variety, you can outsmart the virus by changing your antivirus apps’ file extension to something besides .exe.

Lifehacker: The Cleverest Ways to Use Dropbox That You’re Not Using – Free utility Dropbox is great at syncing files between computers, but it has a lot more potential than just that. Here’s a handful of clever ways you can use Dropbox that you may not have thought of.

Ubuntu 10.04 (“Lucid Lynx”) Review: Linux Even More for the Masses – One of the most user-friendly of all Linux distros takes some major steps toward broader-based popularity, with considerable success.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Learn How To Get More Out Of Your Browser – This article describes how to get more out of Internet Explorer with the use of bookmarks (“Favorites” ), and tabs. Though Internet Explorer 7 debuted some time ago, the basic lessons are the same for the current version, IE 8; and the principles apply to other Web browsers, such as Firefox, as well.

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T: Six Cores on a Shoestring Budget – AMD offers six-cores at a palatable price–and performance isn’t too bad, either.

Storm Worm Reappears – Slightly revamped version of original malware used by the infamous Storm botnet being actively spammed — and spreading.

WordPress Sites Hacked, Again! – Zscaler found that 87 percent of hosts infected with malicious iFrames or JavaScript are running WordPress.

Twitter Name Recognition High, Actual Usage Low – In 2008, only 5% of Americans had ever heard of Twitter. By 2010, that number was 87%. Facebook’s current awareness is at 88%. The stark difference is in usage numbers. A whopping 41% of Americans have a Facebook page, while only 7% use Twitter.

Off Topic:

Browser Protection: The Next Generation – The Web Browsers and ISP’s of the future will behave like the “Deflector Shields” of Star Trek, protecting our computers against malware and scripting attacks.

Canadians healthier, live longer than Americans – Canadians are healthier and live longer than Americans to a “striking” degree, a health investigator says after conducting an analysis of both countries. The most dramatic differences kick in for people 40-plus, just when they need health care, said David Feeny, senior investigator at the Centre for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Northwest in Portland, Ore.

Dear Parrot Whisperer, I Have This Parrot That… – Even hand-hatched parrots have the instincts of a wild animal. Advice for someone who wants a parrot. (submitted by dar)

Polaroid instant cameras are back (for real): Introducing the Polaroid 300 – Polaroid fans have been through the wringer. First the company went bankrupt, then it got acquired.

The iPad Song – To the tune of The Zephyr Song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. (submitted by Dar)

Today’s Quote:

“I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”

-    E. B. White

Today’s Free Downloads:

SkyOrb – From any location in space, SkyOrb calculates the positions of planets, sun, and moon, as well as the rise and set times of the object’s satellites. It quickly does 3D rendering of views from space.

LocalCooling – Finally, here’s a way not to get your PC cleaner, but to help keep the earth cleaner. This clever little freebie helps you save electricity when using your PC, and in that way makes your PC contribute less to global warming. It will also cut your energy bills as well.

FotoMorph 10.1.1 – Amaze your friends and family with unbelievable transformations. FotoMorph lets you make incredible morphs in minutes.

If you found this article useful, 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.

6 Comments

Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Cloud Hosting vs. Dedicated Hosting

A primer, by guest writer Charles Homes, on how choosing the right hosting plan can significantly impact your business.

image There are quite a variety of hosting plans for businesses to pick from, with the “best choice” being entirely dependent on how your business is set up.

When it comes to companies who perform the vast majority – if not the entirety – of their business online, there are two main alternatives to investing in, and setting up, in-house servers.

For businesses that are already well established and stable, dedicated hosting would likely be the choice that makes more sense. However, for newer companies that are still in the process of starting up, cloud hosting is the better choice.

Let’s take a good look at the differences between these two kinds of hosting, and the reasons your online business should rely on either one, or the other.

Cloud Hosting

Essentially, if you are a start-up that (1) relies heavily on its web-based technology, (2) currently lacks the resources necessary to invest heavily in on-site hosting, but (3) plans to undergo quite a few significant growth spurts in the very near future, then your business would benefit greatly from cloud hosting.

Since your business is primarily web-based, you really cannot afford to experience a significant amount of down-time, but at the same time you have the need to be very frugal with your funds since, as a start-up, you can’t really afford to invest too much in one area when such funds could be better invested elsewhere.

Cloud hosting is a very flexible option, allowing you to adjust your hosting plan quickly and easily in response to your changing needs. This kind of hosting lets a business rent a virtual server, which can be scaled as the need arises.

Many cloud hosting providers also grant you the choice of which operating system to use (Windows or Linux), will provide you the self-service flexibility offered through dedicated hosting, flexible billing, and an API or web-based interface, to configure your server on the fly.

Overall, your business can save money by only paying for what you need when you need it, while at the same time benefiting from a reliable, stable hosting plan. That kind of scalability is ideal for a start-up web-based company that does not have the resources or need to commit to something as comprehensive as a dedicated hosting package.

Granted, this all means that your IT department will likely have to be spending a great deal of its time managing your server configuration. With your traffic and userbase always in a state of flux, your server’s configuration will not remain static. Then again, your techs would likely be busy doing that anyway.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting works in an entirely different way. Whereas with cloud hosting you are only buying part of a server’s space (and possibly sharing that server with other businesses), with a dedicated hosting plan a company leases one or more servers and has complete control over that (or those) server(s).

A dedicated hosting plan has three distinct advantages. Firstly, a dedicated sever is located in a secure and stable data center, meaning that your business does not have to spend anything in investing in any hardware or infrastructure (such as redundant power systems), or the additional space that is needed when you have your servers on-site.

Secondly, a dedicated hosting plan means that the server in question is completely dedicated to your business’s applications, websites, and platforms. Unlike shared hosting, your company’s websites, et cetera, enjoys the full and complete power and bandwidth of the servers they are hosted on, and nothing should affect those servers’ performances (such as load times), unless you choose to let it.

Finally, with a dedicated hosting plan, your IT department has full reign and is able to fully customize server performance to perfectly suit the needs of your business.

So, who is dedicated hosting right for? The answer is, essentially, large and stable business which relies very heavily on its online presence (and therefore its hosting) to survive and make money.

If your business fits that description, then this is likely the kind of hosting that you are looking for. As a web-based company cannot do business without having a strong online presence, it needs its sites and applications to run smoothly so your customers and access them at any time and buy that company’s products or services.

An example of such a company is a large online retailer, which manages a significantly large inventory through a custom CMS. A retailer like that would be processing thousands of queries a minute, which means that every minute lost to downtime, could mean losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

Another example is, an online advertising network. Such a business would have an ad platform consisting of hundreds or thousands of ad campaigns, spread across thousands of domains for dozens of advertisers. If that business were to experience downtime and those banners would not render, clients would not have to pay them, and publishers, and if seeing this as a recurring event, would stop working with them. Therefore, maximum bandwidth and up-time is essential to the survival of that business.

Choosing a Business Hosting Provider

After deciding which kind of hosting is best for your business, the next step, choosing the right provider, can be very tricky. After all, while some hosting providers may excel at providing cloud hosting services, their dedicated hosting plans may not be that great or vice versa.

Start by looking for reviews that address how the provider handles the specific kind of hosting your looking for, not just about the provider in general. After you have a list, involve your IT team in the decision making progress. They are the ones that will be configuring your servers, so they’re in the best position to accurately evaluate a potential host’s technology and help you make the decision that’s best for your company.

Article by Charles Homes who is a consultant at Hosting.com, for more info check out their Dedicated Server Hosting.

If you found this article useful, 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.

9 Comments

Filed under Business Applications, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, Networking, Recommended Web Sites, Web Hosting

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 29, 2010

The Beginner’s Guide to PC Backup – You know you’re supposed to back up your data, but you don’t. If you’re just not sure how to get started, our overview of the options will help.

Stupid Geek Tricks: Compare Your Browser’s Memory Usage with Google Chrome – Ever tried to figure out exactly how much memory Google Chrome or Internet Explorer is using? Since they each show up a bunch of times in Task Manager, it’s not so easy! Here’s the quick and easy way to compare them.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Chrome extensions: Potential cracks in the armor? – Chrome is one of the most secure Web browsers right “out of the box” due to sandboxing. Understanding that, cybercriminals are turning to a different attack vector, aftermarket extensions.

More Than 40 Percent Of U.K. Users Say They Have Been Fraud Victims – More than one-third of victims say they were never reimbursed by their banks.

Two plus ways to transfer files via FTP in Windows – Alan Norton explains two-plus methods for transferring files via FTP using tools already provided by Microsoft Windows 7 that you may not know about.

Facebook Safety: A Primer – Your participation in social networking can be turned against you – here’s how to make friends safely.

New Threat: Undetectable Facebook Scams – Facebook, with its millions of users, has become a major target for online crooks who try to use malicious apps for everything from phishing to spam to a first step toward installing more dangerous malware onto your PC.

3, 2, 1 action! Record your Windows screen – There are likely a dozen reasons for a person to record the goings-on of his or her computer screen – such as a product demo, tutorial, or even a cry for help. Whatever your impetus, you’ll need tools of the trade, such as the four we’ve picked out here.

IE6: The Browser That Wouldn’t Die: Like it or Not, Internet Explorer 6 Lives on in Corporate IT – Despite repeated calls to stop using Internet Explorer 6, the browser continues to hold a market share similar to, or even higher than, more advanced browsers such as Safari and Chrome.

HP to Buy Palm in $1.2 Billion Deal – Move would see HP, the PC, enterprise technology and IT services giant, snapping up ailing mobile device pioneer Palm, gaining its Pre line of smartphones, its webOS software and assorted mobile IP.

Malware Campaign Relies on Unfixed PDF Flaw – Several security companies today warned of a major malware campaign that tries to dupe users into opening rigged PDFs that exploit an unpatched design flaw in the format. Users who open the attack PDFs are infected with a variant of a Windows worm known as “Auraax” or “Emold.”

Off Topic:

Gallery: Hubble’s greatest hits – 20th anniversary – Here are some of greatest discoveries and spectacular images from the orbiting space observatory which is about the size of a school bus.

Sony Debuts 3D Sound for Home Theaters – It’s not only TVs that can offer a 3D experience at home–Sony’s new 5.1 speaker system promises to brings aural enjoyment in multiple dimensions.

Can Ubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx” lure the social crowd? – This Thursday Canonical will release the next incarnation of Ubuntu, version 10.04, codenamed “Lucid Lynx.” This release does something that no other OS has done and integrates “social” right into the OS.

Digitally deprived kids face bleak future – Children in the UK without access to the internet will earn less money and become a burden to the country, according to a new report. Children that don’t get access to the internet could cost the UK billions of pounds.

Today’s Quote:

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”

-    Thomas Szasz

Today’s Free Downloads:

VLC - The free self-contained media player of choice finally makes it to version 1.0.0 with a host of new features.

Agent Ransack (32-bit version) – Agent Ransack allows you to create customized searches that go well beyond basic Windows searches. Its most powerful features are aimed at programmers and other techies.

If you found this article useful, 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.

1 Comment

Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Rustock Botnet Eclipses Cutwail As the Biggest Botnet

image When you run a business, market position needs to be foremost in your mind – you can’t let the competition get one step ahead.

Spam is a business, just like any other business, and the strategies and tactics that apply to legitimate business apply equally to an illegal business like Spam.

Technical sophistication, in terms of both creativity and delivery techniques, continue to improve in the Spam marketplace, motivated of course, by the cyber criminals’ need to generate increasing opportunity for financial gain and identity theft.

MessageLabs April 2010 Intelligence Report indicates there has been some jockeying for position in the Spam Botnet marketplace, where the Rustock Botnet has now surpassed Cutwail as the biggest botnet, both in terms of the amount of spam it sends, and the amount of active bots under its control. Rustock is now responsible for 32.8 percent of all spam.

So, what does this mean to you, and me, in terms of risk? As an indication of the substantial risk we continue to face from Spam, MessageLabs Intelligence reports in their April 2010 release, that they intercepted 36,208 unique strains of Spam delivered malware during the month, which translates into 1 in every 287 emails packed with a virus.

Being aware of the shape of the Internet landscape, and the changes that are occurring, or may occur in that landscape, now, more than ever, is a necessity – a prerequisite to protecting yourself and your computer from cybercriminal attack. Forewarned is forearmed, needs to be your guiding light – appropriate knowledge will act as your shield.

Symantec’s latest MessageLabs Intelligence Report is scary stuff, and I encourage you to read this report which will give you some indication of where we’re likely headed, and what we’ll have to deal with.

MessageLabs Intelligence report highlights:

Spam: In April 2010, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was 89.9 percent (1 in 1.11 emails), a decrease of 0.8 percentage points since March.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 340.7 emails (0.294 percent) in April, an increase of 0.01 percentage points since March. In April 28.9 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, an increase of 12.1 percentage points since March.

Phishing: In April, phishing activity was 1 in 455.2 emails (0.219 percent) an increase of 0.03 percentage points since March. When judged as a proportion of all email-borne threats such as viruses and Trojans, the proportion of phishing emails had increased by 5.7 percentage points to 70.3 percent of all email-borne threats.

Web security: Analysis of web security activity shows that 10.9 percent of all web-based malware intercepted was new in April, a decrease of 4.0 percentage points since March. MessageLabs Intelligence also identified an average of 1,675 new websites per day harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs such as spyware and adware, a decrease of 12.7 percent since March.

Geographical Trends:

· Spam levels in Italy rose to 95.5 percent in April positioning it as the most spammed country.

· In the US, 90.2 percent of email was spam and 88.9 percent in Canada. Spam levels in the UK rose to 89.4 percent.

· In the Netherlands, spam accounted for 91.5 percent of email traffic, while spam levels reached 89.4 percent in Australia and 92.3 percent in Germany.

· Spam levels in Hong Kong reached 91.0 percent and spam levels in Japan were at 86.9 percent.

· Virus activity in Taiwan was 1 in 76.3 emails, keeping it as the most targeted country for email-borne malware in April.

· Virus levels for the US were 1 in 646.3 and 1 in 416.2 for Canada. In Germany, virus levels were 1 in 471.0, 1 in 1,120.0 for the Netherlands, 1 in 416.5 for Australia, 1 in 501.0 for Hong Kong, 1 in 1,161.0for Japan and 1 in 613.0 for Singapore.

· UK remained the most active country for phishing attacks in April with 1 in 199.7 emails.

Vertical Trends:

· In April, the most spammed industry sector with a spam rate of 94.9 percent remained the Engineering sector.

· Spam levels for the Education sector were 91.1 percent, 90.2 percent for the Chemical & Pharmaceutical sector, 90.7 percent for IT Services, 90.9 percent for Retail, 88.4 percent for Public Sector and 88.4 percent for Finance.

· In April, the Public Sector remained the most targeted industry for malware with 1 in 99.1 emails being blocked as malicious.

· Virus levels for the Chemical & Pharmaceutical sector were 1 in 438.2, 1 in 487.5 for the IT Services sector, 1 in 600.2 for Retail, 1 in 109.6 for Education and 1 in 365.9 for Finance.

The full April 2010 MessageLabs Intelligence Report provides greater detail on all of the trends and figures noted above, as well as more detailed geographical and vertical trends. The full report is available here.

Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from our control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world.  Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available here.

If you found this article useful, 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.

5 Comments

Filed under bots, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Email, email scams, Internet Security Alerts, MessageLabs, spam, Symantec, System Security, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 28, 2010

Recover Data Like a Forensics Expert Using an Ubuntu Live CD – There are lots of utilities to recover deleted files, but what if you can’t boot up your computer, or the whole drive has been formatted? We’ll show you some tools that will dig deep and recover the most elusive deleted files, or even whole hard drive partitions.

10 dumb things users do that can mess up their computers – We all do dumb things now and then, and computer users are no exception. Inadvertently pressing the wrong key combination or innocently clicking OK in the wrong dialog box can change important settings that alter a computer’s behavior or even crash the system.

Move and Copy files the old tried and true way in Windows 7 – Greg Shultz presents a little refresher course on the Microsoft Windows Send To command and the Copy To Folder and Move To Folder commands.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Simple Tips Banish Computing Hassles – This week I tell you how to use Ctrl-Z for just about anything, add events to Google Calendar with your phone, and wrangle Windows 7 taskbar icons.

Deja Vu All Over Again.. Again – Criminals are once again using Skype to send phishing “chats” in an attempt to defraud you and trick you into clicking poisoned links. This criminal attack will reappear every so often (roughly every 30 days) with a slightly different name and URL… It is a classic scareware attack.

Large List of Downloadable Computer Repair CDs – One of our Technibble forum members, PcTek9, and a handful of other Technibble members have compiled a large list of CDs for various computer repair tasks. In this list, the following types of CD are available for download: Antivirus Boot CDs, Recovery Disks, Hardware Diagnostic Boot CDs, Network Testing/Monitoring, Data Recovery Boot CDs and Special Purpose CDs.

Getting Touchy with Windows 7 Touch Pack – Microsoft has made the Windows 7 Touch Pack–games and applications for touchscreen displays–available for download.

Windows Home Server “Vail” Available for 64-Bit Testing – Many of you may already know that Microsoft has been hard at work on the next version of Windows Home Server. We are excited to announce today that the beta of this next version (code name “Vail”) is now available. We invite everyone to check it out by downloading the software from the Microsoft Connect site.

Police, medical records found on used copy machines – CBS News finds used copy machines loaded with sensitive data–police records, pay stubs, copied checks, and private medical documents.

Free Windows 7 Compatibility Tool for SMBs – Microsoft announced an alliance with ChangeBase, an application-compatibility tool vendor, which will let IT professionals and servicing partners for small and medium businesses test and fix issues with programs that balk at running under Windows 7 — without resorting to Windows 7 Professional’s “XP Mode.”

Off Topic:

10 lies managers tell themselves – We all lie to ourselves. Why, I don’t know. Guess self-delusion is part of the human condition, whatever that means. I’m sure a relatively competent shrink can explain it, but who needs all that psychobabble, right?

Violent Game Law Goes To Supreme Court – The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review a federal court decision to throw out a proposed law that would prohibit the sale or rental of violent videogames to anyone under the age of 18 in the state of California.

Girl Giving Grad Speech Tries to Convert Crowd, Collapses – Video from a Texas public university’s graduation of a girl going absolutely insane and passing out while giving a speech.

Top 10 gaffes on Facebook, Twitter and Google – A new poll says that three in every four Facebook users avoid adding their boss as a ‘friend’ out of fear that their actions on the site could cost them their job. We round up the best social media gaffes from Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Today’s Quote:

“I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.”

-    Henry Ford

Today’s Free Downloads:

SuperAntiSpyware – If your PC is infected with a virus, your regular, always-on antivirus program has failed and may be compromised. Try this free tool to scan your system for nasties and then whack any it finds.

GridMove – Resizing all your windows can be tedious. Use this utility to resize and move your windows to fit a customizable grid.

If you found this article useful, 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.

1 Comment

Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Download Free Comodo System Cleaner – Gets the Deep Dirt Out!

What could be a more powerful free solution, than that old standby CCleaner, which removes unused files, and ensures your privacy by cleaning traces of your online activities? Well, how about Comodo System Cleaner (last update February 09, 2010), which will do all that, and much more.

I’m a big fan of Comodo’s products, including their free Firewall and AntiVirus software. So, I was expecting big things from Comodo System Cleaner, and I wasn’t disappointed. After considerable testing, I gave this free application a big “thumbs up”.

Comodo Privacy Cleaner 1

Fast facts:

Registry Cleaner – Optimizes and repairs your Windows registry by running an in-depth scan to remove, or repair, unnecessary or corrupted registry keys.

Disk Cleaner - This utility lets you quickly clear them all, to free up space and improve performance. Also allows you to schedule regular clean up routines.

Privacy Cleaner – Obliterates your digital paper trail and helps protect you from identity theft by cleaning history, cache, cookies and usage records from Internet browsers, Windows locations, and popular software.

System Settings - With over 50 tweaks in the ‘System Settings’ area alone, you can optimize Windows behavior in a more powerful and intuitive way than ever before.

System Information – Detailed and easily accessible ‘dashboard’ summary of all the hardware and software installed on your computer.

Autorun Manager – Fingertip control over exactly which programs and services start with Windows. Helps improve Windows boot up time, stops unwanted programs from hogging system resources and boosts overall system performance and stability.

File Pending Delete – Provides the ability to delete files that are locked and cannot otherwise be deleted when in Windows ‘User Mode’. Specifying a file with the ‘File Pend Delete’ tool will schedule that file to be deleted immediately after the next system restart.

File Wiper – Allows you to permanently remove confidential or sensitive files from your hard drive. When you ‘delete’ a file in Windows, you are really only removing the reference to that file from the system table. The file itself remains on your drive and could be easily re-opened by data thieves. ‘File Wiper’ ensures that the files you want to delete are comprehensively erased and cannot be recovered.

Free – for both home and business users.

Comodo Reg Cleaner 1

I’m a big fan of “all-in-one” system utilities and I have to admit, I really liked this all-in-one free application, with its simple and effective user interface. I particularly liked the easy access the user interface allows to Windows system settings, which makes tweaking the OS a snap.

As the fast facts point out, this application has a wide range of built in system utilities, which in my view, are perfect for the new, or casual computer user. I should point out however, that the built in registry cleaner, just like all registry cleaners, should be used cautiously.

Here’s why – despite the fact that the registry cleaner has a neat feature; it will restart your machine to test if the registry removal will adversely affect your system, on a test run this module screwed up my game settings.

I’m not blaming the module. It was my own fault, since I did not exercise proper caution. Just shows you – even geeks can be careless! It was not a big deal to recover but……….

Comodo provides a comparison chart, on their site, which illustrates the differences between their application and the competition, which you may find interesting.

Comodo Cleaner Comparison

If you’re a casual computer user, Comodo System Cleaner is definitely worth considering as an addition to your system utilities toolbox.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 and Server 2003 (all – 32 or 64 bit)

Download at: Comodo

If you found this article useful, 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.

10 Comments

Filed under Comodo, Computer Maintenance, downloads, Freeware, Registry Cleaners, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Cyber Criminals Know Your “Net” Worth – To the Penny!

image According to Marian Merritt, security provider Symantec’s Internet Safety Advocate, a cyber crime goes down every ¼ of a second – a pretty startling statistic. What makes this statistic so astonishing is, unless you are in the Internet security business, you are probably unaware of this.

More stats that shock:

One in four consumers is a cybercrime victim.

An identity is stolen every three seconds online.

Nearly 10 million people have reported identity theft in the U.S. alone, in the last 12 months.

Global cybercrime revenues exceed that of the international drug trade.

A stolen identity can be bought on the Internet for as little as $100.

Stolen credit card numbers may sell for as little as $2 to $25.

Zombie computers are the main source of online fraud, spam and other scams on the internet.

If you were unaware of these statistics don’t be surprised, or chagrined. There’s  a surprisingly simply reason why you may not have known – the lack of responsible reporting by mainstream media.

IT media do a highly credible job of keeping IT professionals like me, in the loop on cybercrime issues. But CNN and the rest of the mainstream media, do a pathetic job when it comes to informing the general public on these critical consumer safety issues. I suspect these issues are just not sexy enough; not violent enough.

Symantec’s Merritt made this point clear when she stated, “You turn on the news and they are talking about capturing drug dealers ……….., but they rarely show a hacker in handcuffs”.

By now you’re probably looking at the title of this article and asking yourself – where’s Bill going with this? When is he going to tell me how much I’m worth to a cybercriminal?

Well, here’s one answer. According to a recent report Get Safe Online, partially funded by the British government, the average surfer is worth $25,000 to the cybercriminal community.

Norton calculator

But there’s a better way than just relying on this statistic. You can figure out what you’re worth to a cybercriminal, right to the penny. Well, sort of.

The free Norton Online Risk Calculator, recently released by Symantec, will help you evaluate how valuable you are to the cybercriminal economy. The calculator is easy to use, and bases its assessment on a number of simple questions  concerning your net usage.

Please consider taking this test. If you are aware of just how much value you have as a victim, I’m sure you will take all the appropriate steps to ensure you don’t become a victim.

If you found this article useful, 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.

5 Comments

Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Security Alerts, Online Safety, Software, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – April 27, 2010

10 free security tools that actually work – Plenty of solid products are available to help you protect your system — and some of them don’t cost a dime. Here’s a list of some of the most popular and effective free tools for defending yourself against a variety of threats.

10 MORE outstanding Firefox extensions – It’s been a while since we last took a look at worthwhile Firefox extensions. Well, it’s time again. But now, Firefox has added collections to the mix. Extension collections are exactly what they sound like — collections of related extensions. In this list, we have a few worthwhile collections (since they’re new, there aren’t many) as well as some stand-alone extensions.

Critical Flaws Haunt VLC Media Player – VideoLAN has released a security advisory to address multiple vulnerabilities in the VLC Media Player. These vulnerabilities may allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial-of-service condition.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Windows Malware: The final straw that broke the penguin’s back – It was simply a matter of time before Linux became my primary operating system. My most recent malware incident was the final straw that sent me into the safe haven of Ubuntu.

A FREE Way to Monitor Your Kids Online Activity – To help you, as a parent, take a bite out of the dangers of the internet, I would like to introduce you to McGruff Safeguard.  This application intelligently monitors kids’ internet activity such as internet chatting, search engine phrases, and social networking profiles (e.g. Facebook, My Space).

Download and read Kindle books – no Kindle required – For those of you who still actually read (a dying art), I thought you might like to know that Amazon has come out with Kindle e-Book reading software that you can download free. The software (still in beta) can be installed on PC’s, Macs, iPads and iPhones, and BlackBerrys, with more “coming soon”.

Video: Change the Windows 7 logon screen wallpaper – Bill Detwiler shows you a quick and easy registry hack that let’s you change the logon screen wallpaper in Windows 7.

How antivirus software works: Is it worth it? - We are told, in order to survive on the Internet, our computers need protection afforded by antivirus applications. If that’s true: Why do computers still get infected? Would it be a lot worse if we didn’t use antivirus programs?

McAfee Promises to Reimburse Consumers for Bad Update – McAfee told consumers it will reimburse ‘reasonable expenses’ related to last week’s antivirus update; it has yet to say anything about its plans for…

Scareware hackers exploit McAfee false positive – Hackers are exploiting a problem with McAfee’s anti-virus product that has affected enterprises around the world. Sophos explains the latest example of SEO poisoning being used by hackers to spread a fake anti-virus attack.

Windows XP Still Less Secure than Win 7 and Vista – Microsoft has released a new Security Incident Report–the eighth volume of Microsoft’s quarterly overview of computer and network security trends. The report illustrates once again that security can be greatly improved by upgrading to the latest software, and through user education.

Off Topic:

How to Sell Your PC (and Other Gadgets) – Need cash to buy the latest and greatest? Here’s how to turn your drawer full of old smartphones, cameras, and other tech toys into some brand-new gear.

Lifehacker: How to Decide Between a Prepaid or Contract Wireless Plan – The flexibility of prepaid cellphone plans is great, and can potentially save you tons of cash—so why does everyone still insist on signing a contract? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of prepaid vs. contract cellphone plans.

College students are ‘addicted’ to media, study says – Describing their feelings during a 24-hour assignment in which they abstained from all media use, 200 Maryland college students used some of the same terms associated with drug addiction.

Today’s Quote:

“When ideas fail, words come in very handy.”

-     Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)

Today’s Free Downloads:

MWSnap 3.0.0.74 screen capture – MWSnap is ideal for those looking for a simple one-stop solution for capturing and saving screenshots.

Jing – Jing lets you capture anything on your screen as a static image or a movie, then save it or store it on TechSmith’s server for free. You can share images and movies quickly and easily while chatting or e-mailing, to help you get a point across. It’s great for tech support or working remotely.

If you found this article useful, 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.

1 Comment

Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Principles of Security: Keeping it Simple

Popular guest writer Mark Schneider looks at how to increase system security by focusing on core applications.

image Computing on the Windows platform today can be very rewarding. The problem with Windows applications is, as Microsoft has made improvements in patching security holes in Windows, the Black Hat hackers have begun to focus on third party applications to exploit the Windows platform.

Recent highly publicized exploits on the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader, have been just the tip of the iceberg. According to Secunia, creators of PSI a security tool which scans your PC  for out of date software, half their users had 66 or more programs on their PC’s.

Once all the programs and required patches were tabulated, it totaled over “75 patch incidents annually”, per average PC. That averages out to a patch every 4.9 days.” (Source InfoWorld Security Central)

This state of affairs obviously puts the average user at risk. Most people do well just to keep their Windows OS patched, much less check more than once a week for patches to their other applications.

This leads to the crux of my point, keep it simple. Don’t download every application you see, or hear about. Pick a core of useful applications that allow you to use your computer in the way you need to, and stop!

Your computer is a serious tool that can be very useful, so treat it seriously. You can still have fun with your computer, but you don’t need 5 different media players –  choose one, and stick with it. If you find one you prefer uninstall the old one first.

Many people use old out of date programs because they don’t like the “feature creep” of newer applications. This is a mistake; keep what programs you have up to date. This is especially true with PDF readers, browsers, email clients, and media players. Keeping your flash player up to date is extremely important. Adobe Flash is a major exploit vector, and I frequently run with it disabled.

Trying new applications can be fun and rewarding but, the best way to try new applications is in a virtual machine. Using a program like Virtual Box from Oracle Systems, is a great way to safely try new applications without committing yourself to a new program, or loading your Hard Drive with a ton of unnecessary applications that need to be constantly updated.

image

Finally, run Secunia’s free PSI. It will help you keep your applications up to date, and add another layer of security to your computer.

image

This is a guest post by Mark Schneider of the Techwalker Blog, who brings a background as a high level techie, to the blogging world.

If you found this article useful, 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.

9 Comments

Filed under Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Guest Writers, Personal Perspective, Security Rating Applications, Software, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools