Monthly Archives: May 2011

Cruise Ships Leading the Way in Technology Revolution

Guest writer Ben Johnson (no, not Ben Johnson – Shakespeare’s contemporary), but UK based regular contributor Ben Johnson, takes a look at how Cruise lines have managed to not only meet the technology needs of their guests, but have taken the lead in technology adoption.

imageQuite often large companies don’t always embrace technological advances, happy with the status-quo these innovations are simply ignored or put on hold until several business case studies later. One industry bucking this trend is the cruise industry, due to the ultra-competitive nature of the industry cruise liners are constantly trying to “out do” one another.

While the destinations visited will continue to be the biggest draw, many cruise goers simply don’t want to leave behind their technology filled life’s behind, after all technology really does make life easier as the examples below demonstrate:

  • No longer do you have to worry about missing the latest 3D movie release, cruise ship operators including Royal Caribbean Cruises have updated their onboard cinemas to include the latest 3D experience.
  • The most technology filled gyms in the world can be found be found onboard cruise ships. Carnival Cruises makes working out a joy with its floor to ceiling windows facing the sea creating an atmosphere of tranquility.
  • Apple lovers and technology buffs in general will love Celebrity Cruises who now offer computer classes as well as the chance to buy the latest products from the onboard Apple store.
  • Royal Caribbean recently installed solar panels to its Allure of the Seas cruise ship, which will help create a whopping 111,108kWh annually for the ships shopping area.
  • Once again Royal Caribbean is leading the way in technology innovation this time in the shape of facial recognition. When you check in to the Oasis of the Seas, a crew member shoots a photo, which is sent to the ship and linked with passenger’s room key. That picture is not only used for security purposes but when the onboard photographer takes your photo this is then automatically assigned to you.
  • Onboard the Royal Caribbean you will never have to wait in a queue to get your food, shape recognition cameras are used to analyze foot traffic and this information is sent in real-time to the 300 interactive boards dotted around the ship.
  • The world’s largest cruise ship is Royal Caribbean International’s, Allure of the Seas, a gigantic 1,187ft capable of carrying over 6,000 passengers. The size of the ship can be daunting for many especially for those with children, to put parents mind at ease Royal Caribbean have recently developed an application which can track kids as well as plan onboard activities.

The cruise industry is innovating at a phenomenal rate, what innovation would you like to see next within the tourism industry?

Biography:

Guest writer Ben Johnson is a freelance travel writer and cruise enthusiast. While specializing in luxury cruises and maritime law, Ben’s knowledge covers a wider spectrum of consumer tourism.

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Filed under Business Applications, Guest Writers, Integrated Solutions, Point of View, Software

MenuUninstaller 1.2.1 – Uninstall Applications From The Context (Right Click) Menu

imageIf you’re a power user, and a fan of the right click context menu, then you might consider adding MenuUninstaller to your setup. MenuUninstaller is a free Context Menu alternative to the Windows Add or Remove Programs applet, which will allow you to quickly uninstall an application without having to search out an application’s native uninstaller (assuming there is one).

A quick walkthrough:

In the following example, I’ve right clicked on the selected programs icon on the Desktop, then clicked on “Uninstall).

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If you follow the same process, you will be asked for confirmation (a just in case moment).

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Make sure the correct application is selected and then hit “Go”.

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In the event that the application can’t remove the selected program (and I did find a few), it will offer to open the Windows Add/Remove applet.

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System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7.

Download at: Developer’s site (LeizerSoft).

Overall, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the limited functionality of this application. My choice for this type of work has long been (and remains), Revo Uninstaller’s “Hunter mode.

Revo Uninstaller’s unique  Hunter mode, offers some simple, easy to use, but effective and powerful approaches to manage applications (uninstall, stop, delete, disable from auto starting), and to search out information on installed and/or running applications.

Selecting Revo Uninstaller’s “Hunter Mode”……..

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will place a “Hunter” (target) icon on your screen.

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Drag the target icon (say, on your Desktop), to an application’s icon and ….

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you can then uninstall the application, or chose from a range of additional actions, as illustrated in the following screen shot.

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System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7.

Download at: The Revo Group

Revo Uninstaller is one of the very few applications I have ever rated a 10/10.

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Software, Uninstall Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 31, 2011

Free Photofly Can Turn Your 2D Digital Photos into 3D Objects – Photofly 2, a free piece of software from Autodesk, the company behind the ancient and illustrious AutoCAD software, can stitch standard digital photos into accurate 3D models. You don’t need a fancy camera — a point-and-shoot is more than good enough — and by leveraging Autodesk’s cloud computing cluster, you don’t even need a powerful computer to use Photofly. 3D models can be created out of faces, static objects, interior rooms, and even external architecture. Best of all, though: Photofly 2 is free.

How to install Google’s Chrome OS – You don’t need a Chromebook to try Google’s Linux-based Chrome OS. Here’s how to give it a try today.

Screensaver LazySave Backs Up While Your PC Is Idle – In the world of modern computing, few things are as important as backing up, and few experiences are as jarring as realizing you’ve just lost a vast amount of work due to a hardware or software malfunction. But backing up can be time-consuming, and you may forget to do it. Even worse, you may set up an automated solution and find out at the moment of truth that it didn’t work right–you thought your files were being backed up, but they weren’t. With LazySave ($24, seven-day free trial), this will never happen.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

PBS website hit by hacktivists, its database leaked online – The group – which calls itself “Lulzsec” – has managed to breach the PBS servers and exfiltrate a large amount of data. Finally, to make the breach public and as embarrassing as possible for the broadcasting company, they published a fake news item saying that the famous (decesed) rapper Tupac Shakur is alive and living in New Zealand on the PBS website:

What Your Wireless Carrier Knows About You – Like a lot of cell phone users, you may be wondering just what your wireless company knows about you. Can it see what kinds of apps you’re running on your phone and where you go online while you’re out and about? Can it tell what types of phones and tablets are connected to their networks, and how much data they consume? The answer to these questions is “yes.”

Fake YouTube notifications doing rounds – With “YouTube Administration sent you a message: Illegal video warning” as the subject line, the fake pharma peddlers are trying to create a sense of urgency that will make the recipients less careful and make them click on the offered link instead of signing in to the service as they normally would.

UK developing cyber-weapons programme to counter cyber war threat – The UK is developing a cyber-weapons programme that will give ministers an attacking capability to help counter growing threats to national security from cyberspace, the Guardian has learned. Whitehall officials have revealed that the UK needs to have a new range of offensive options, and not just bolster defences around the country’s critical services and government departments, which regularly come under attack from hackers. (submitted by Michael F.)

Web Application Attack and Audit Framework 1.0 released – The Web Application Attack and Audit Framework’s (w3af) goal is to create a framework to find and exploit web application vulnerabilities that is easy to use and extend.

Chromebook for Business: Don’t Go There – Chromebooks, basically netbooks from Acer and Samsung, make their debut on June 15. And while Google is offering a hardware-as-a-service option for business, does it really make sense for commercial accounts? Here’s why corporate customers will turn up their noses at Chrome OS.

Poll: Should you really trust the cloud with your valuable data? – I am no Luddite when it comes to technology. If something comes along that makes sense and makes my life easier, I will adopt it as soon as it is practical. However, the people selling cloud computing and other web-based services have yet to convince me that the merits of their products and services outweigh the liabilities.

Company News:

Asus Demos Phone-Tablet Combo, Meego Netbook – Taiwan’s Asustek Computer has previewed a smartphone-tablet PC combo device that seeks to bring together the strengths of both devices.

Backdoor instructions for Allied Telesis switches leaked - A simple categorizing mistake has resulted in the publishing of an internal Allied Telesis document that reveals how to set up backdoor accounts for the company’s switches.

Nvidia touts quad-core Kal-El chip in Android tablet – Using a Honeycomb tablet, Nvidia shows a game it says needs all four cores of its Tegra mobile processor that’s due to ship later this year.

Sony set to revive PSN in Japan – The restoration in Japan and other Asian countries will begin tomorrow, allowing gamers to play titles from the PlayStation console. Qriocity will also become available again.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Why you might soon have a $100,000 jetpack – The idea of human beings flying around in the sky like Michael Jackson used to fly into concerts–via jetpack–might seem a trifle outlandish. However, those crafty souls at the Martin Aircraft Company have flapped one more wing toward the idea of your own personal, $100,000 jetpack, on which you can avoid traffic and soar into (or at least onto) your well-deserved corner office.

The 20 Best Gadgets of 2011: So Far – It’s been a good year for tech toys, and it’ll probably get better, but here are some of the best gadgets we’ve seen in the first half of 2011.

15 High-Tech Cooking Tools for BBQ Season - If grilling with the neighbors tends to turn into competitive smack-downs, you’ll need new ammo for your season opener. Embrace tech and science in the kitchen and leave your guests dumbfounded at your remarkable menu–and your gear.

Researcher’s strong signal on cell phone risk (Q&A) – CNET talks to a cancer researcher with the National Academy of Sciences who says more information on the health effects of cell phones is sorely needed and that we should err on the side of caution.

Today’s Quote:

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

-    Buddha

Today’s Free Downloads:

Paint.NET – Don’t let the Web-oriented name fool you: this is a powerful image-editing program, one stuffed with Photoshop-quality features like layers, special effects, and plug-ins. The just-released 3.5 version of Paint.NET adds an updated user interface, new effects, improved startup performance, and a long list of tweaks and fixes. Best of all, it’s absolutely free.

Soluto 1.2.119.0 - Frustrated by your sluggish and unresponsive PC? Soluto is bringing an end to PC user frustration with transparency, killer technology, and your help.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 30, 2011

Best Free iPhone and iPad Apps of 2011 (So Far) - They’re new, they’re fun, they’re useful and best of all, they’re free — Here are 20 iOS apps for work and play.

Top 10 Paid Antivirus Programs for 2011 – The battle for antivirus software supremacy is a close one. Ultimately, Norton Antivirus 2011 ekes out a narrow victory over its competitors.

Windows 7 Photo Galleries – The top 10 Windows 7 desktop gadgets.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to Keep Your Data in Sync Across Platforms and Devices – Keeping your contacts, calendars, and other data synced across all your mobile devices and PC platforms isn’t as difficult as it seems.

The Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator – Ever wanted to quickly and easily define your own keyboard layout for a language Microsoft doesn’t support? Or define your own keyboard layout so you can quickly and easily enter your favorite symbols with a simple keystroke? Have the keyboard work on 64-bit platforms, or make use of custom locales in Windows 7 to provide new language names? Well, want no more: the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator is here! (submitted by Michael F.)

Lockheed Martin confirms it came under attack – Defense contractor Lockheed Martin confirmed last night that the network problems it has been contending with during the last several days are the result of a “significant and tenacious attack” carried out against its network.

UbitMenu – No doubt about it, Microsoft’s Ribbon (which appears in most Office 2007 and all Office 2010 programs) can seem daunting to anyone accustomed to earlier versions of Word, Excel, and the like. If that’s you, check out UBitMenu. This free plug-in brings pull-down menus back to Office 2007 and 2010, thus easing your transition. Thankfully, it keeps the Ribbon, too, so you can learn the new interface without totally abandoning the old one.

WordPress 3.1.4 Gets Clickjacking Protection – The open source WordPress blogging application is being updated to version 3.1.3 this week adding multiple security fixes and improvements.

IPv4 is dead. Long Live Ipv6: Last of the IPv4 Addresses Allocated – Early this morning, the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) announced that it had been allocated two /8 address blocks from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA ). Those two blocks, 39/8 and 106/8, were the last unallocated blocks in the IANA free pool of IPv4 address available to Regional Internet Registries (RIR). With the allocation, the final days of IPv4 have moved closer as the number of available addresses that can be allocated will dwindle.

Company News:

Windows Phone 7 Mango: A Visual Tour of the New Features – Get a closer look at the top 10 coolest new features in the Windows Phone 7 Mango update, coming this fall.

As netbook sales fall, Intel will slash Atom pricing – Intel will respond to falling netbook sales by slashing the price of its upcoming “Cedar Trail” Atoms, bringing the cost of complete devices below $200, reports say. The 1.86GHz Atom N2800 and 1.6GHz Atom N2600 will both sport dual cores, while TDPs will be 3.5 and 6.5 Watts, respectively.

Softbank unveils the simplest phone in the world – The new handset was developed in conjunction with China’s ZTE Corp. and features a single button used to automatically call parents or other emergency contacts when the child or elderly person needs immediate help. After the call the device automatically sends an email with GPS data pinpointing the person’s location. (submitted by Michael F.)

Short Story of the Week:

Paul Andrew Russell’s – The Path of Life Never Runs Smoothly

Pete Johnson hated his boss, Fred Pike. From the moment he walked into the office, until the clock struck five and he left for home, Fred made Pete’s life a misery. He enjoyed it too.

Off Topic (Sort of):

A Trip Around Our Solar System – Wonderful photo gallery showing the full variety of our solar system. From close-up shots of Mercury’s surface to craters on Mars, giant asteroids and comets as you have never seen them before. An awe-inspiring collection.

Your Commute Is Killing You – People with long journey times suffer disproportionate pain, stress, obesity, dissatisfaction. So why do we do it? Often it’s to get a bigger home for our money. But we fail to take the cost of our time spent commuting into account.

Consumer Complaints Made Easy. Maybe Too Easy – GRIPE helps you get complaints heard and resolved with the help of your friends & followers. We use your online word-of-mouth power on social networks and review sites to help get your complaints in the real world heard and resolved! (submitted by Michael F.)

Twitter gives up details of anonymous tweeter – In a case that might help the legal action of soccer star Ryan Giggs, Twitter reveals the personal details of a British tweeter who is alleged to have libeled members of a local council in the U.K.

Today’s Quote:

Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

-    Mark Twain

Today’s Free Downloads:

IncrediMail 2 6.29 - IncrediMail 2 is a powerful, easy to use, feature-rich and fun email program. Better and smarter than ever before, IncrediMail 2 includes features such as a powerful and fast email search tool, taking less than a second for IncrediMail 2 to search through 10,000’s of emails.

Win7codecs 2.8.9 – Win7codecs is an audio and video codec package for Windows 7. The installer will automatically remove most other popular codec releases from your computer before installing this concise yet comprehensive package.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Internet Security – An Oxymoron?

imageInternet security warnings from my Tech Net News column in the last few days. This is only a small sampling of the hundreds of cyber criminal activities I’ve posted to Tech Net News so far this year.

Fake VirusTotal site serves malware

Hotmail flaw allows attackers to exfiltrate emails

LinkedIn security flaws allow account hijacking

Sony online store hacked and user information published

Black Hole Exploit Kit Available for Free

Cybercrime statistics show widespread phishing problem

Not Even Security Managers Immune to FakeAV Infection

Major weapons makers see networks breached by hackers

Apps with dangerous permissions pulled from Chrome Web Store

Security researcher finds ‘cookiejacking’ risk in IE

Norwegian Military Hit by Cyber Attack in March

Google Patches Critical Chrome Bugs

Newest MacDefender Scareware Installs Without a Password

The question:

Why should it be necessary for me to run FIVE  security applications on my home machine – including  Zemana AntiLogger, WinPatrol, Microsoft Security Essentials, PC Tools Firewall Plus, and ThreatFire – to guard against cyber crime ?  On top of that, in order to maximize security potential, I have to  run in a virtual environment (BufferZone Pro), while surfing the Net.

It doesn’t stop there though. In addition to all of the above, I have to load up my Browser (Firefox), with TEN security/privacy add-0ns including – Adblock Plus, Better Privacy, WOT, Ghostery, GoogleSharing,  HTTPS-Everywhere, NoScript, Perspectives, Qualys BrowserCheck, and Search Engine Security.

Reality:

The reality is – we are immersed in a mess that has reached virtually unmanageable proportions. We are now at a full blown crisis stage vis a vis Internet security.

The tech speak, which this situation engenders, reminds me in a sense of the political rhetoric we are constantly exposed to – everyone has identified the  problem/no one has identified the real problem; everyone has a problem solution/no one has a solution, everyone seems to discuss it/no one truly discusses it.

The end result? It appears as if no one seems to give a damn. So, we just keep on piling up the victims of cyber crime.

Finger pointing, and finger wagging, is the order of the day. It’s the developers fault; it’s the users’ fault; it’s the very nature of the backbone of  the Internet (as if the Internet was a parallel universe not subject to laws, or moral and ethical consideration); it’s the lack of effective law enforcement; it’s the lack of truly effective security applications; Internet security is a business, so it’s unlikely anyone is going to kill the goose that lays the golden egg; …………… Round and round it goes.

What a mess! Are you as tired of been forced to deal with this seemingly never-ending escalation in cyber crime, as I am?

Something to consider – cyber criminals are not the only ones who find Internet security a lucrative field. I’ll admit that I’m a cynic – but, I’ve never yet met a problem solver who worked himself out of a job. Something to think about the next time you purchase a security application, or appliance.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Opinion, Personal Perspective, Windows Tips and Tools

Save $49.95: WinX DVD Ripper Platinum KungFu Edition – FREE Until May 31

A shout out to long time reader Ben Blasto, for the tip on Digiarty Software’s latest license giveaway – WinX DVD Ripper Platinum KungFu Edition.

This post is informational only – I have not tested this application but, I have downloaded it. It just might come in handy.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

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Fast facts (from the site):

Bypass all Copy Protections & Region Locks – It provides breakthrough performance to access all DVD encryption technologies, including DVD CSS, region code, RCE, Sony ArccOS, UOPs, Disney X-project DRM.

Feature-rich DVD Ripping Software – WinX DVD Ripper Platinum offers worry-free conversion of DVD to AVI (DivX, Xvid), MP4, MPEG, WMV, 3GP, MOV, FLV, which makes DVD compatible with all popular Windows media players, Apple iPhone (iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4), iPad/iPad 2, iPod, Sony PSP, Zune, Mobile phone, etc.

Clone DVD to ISO & Copy DVD – The built-in DVD copy feature supports 1:1 full DVD disc to ISO image clone. It also allows you to copy full title/main content of DVD to MPEG-2 file with lossless video quality and 5.1 Channel AC3/DTS Dolby audio.

No.1 Fast DVD Ripping Speed – With this DVD converter, you can flexibly set CPU utilization. It also supports the newest CUDA, owns optimized configuring for i5 i7 CPU and Super Encode Engine based on MMX- SSE & 3DNow.

Enjoy Unmatchable Video Audio Quality – The embedded High Quality Engine and “Yadif Double Frames” De-interlacing Engine greatly improve the output video effect.

Rip DVD to iPhone iPad/iPad 2 – Perfectly rip and backup DVD to popular portable devices, including Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV, Sony PSP, Zune, Zen, etc. Plus, this program comes preloaded with a number of profiles for these devices.

Happily, you don’t need to visit the developer’s Facebook page to “like” (a pain in the ass marketing tool currently being used by too many developers), or register with the developer, in order to receive the license code. Simply download from the site and apply the following license code.

WINXRP-5357-7234-1561

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista (32 & 64 bit), Windows 7 (32 & 64 bit).

Download at: the developer’s site (Digiarty Software)

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, CD/DVD Cloning, CD/DVD Tools, Digital Media, downloads, Giveaways, Software, Software Giveaways, Video Apps, Video Tools, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 29, 2011

Not Even Security Managers Immune to FakeAV Infection – Can you believe it? As I sat down this morning to write this column, I got hit by a drive-by download of FakeAV. My computer is infected with pop-up warnings and file scans telling me I have security problems, and Internet Explorer has been hijacked to keep sending me to a website where I can “purchase the software.” Pop-ups are coming from my taskbar, showing up in the middle of the screen, and rifling through my files with a fake scan. My computer is being held for ransom.

Lifehacker: Top 10 Simple Privacy Tricks Everyone Should Use – Protecting your privacy on the internet these days seems like a hefty undertaking, but there are a few things you can do to protect your privacy with just the click of a button. Here are our favorite super-simple tricks.

New Malware Scanner Finds 5% of Windows PCs Infected – One in every 20 Windows PCs whose users turned to Microsoft for cleanup help were infected with malware, Microsoft said this week. The 420,000 copies of the tool that were downloaded in the first week of its availability cleaned malware or signs of exploitation from more than 20,000 Windows PCs, Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center (MMPC) reported Wednesday. That represented an infection rate of 4.8%.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Apps with dangerous permissions pulled from Chrome Web Store – The Android Market has already been found offering “trojanized” apps, and now the Chrome Web Store has been spotted offering two popular game extensions that request potentially dangerous permissions of users that want to install them. The apps in question are named Super Mario World and Super Mario 2 and are not manufactured by Nintendo.

Major weapons makers see networks breached by hackers – Hackers have broken into the computer systems of Lockheed Martin and other major U.S. weapons manufacturers, potentially gaining access to information about future weapons programs as well as military technology currently in use, according to a Reuters report.

Number Guru Provides Free Reverse Lookups – Have you ever received a call from a mystery number and wished you could figure out who was calling? A new service from BeenVerified.com called Number Guru lets you perform reverse phone number lookups–using a phone number to identify its source / owner. Best of all, it’s free.

Cloud Security: The 2 Biggest Lies – Survey after survey note that security is the biggest concern potential users have with respect to public cloud computing. Here, for example, is a survey from April 2010, indicating that 45 percent of respondents felt the risks of cloud computing outweigh its benefits. CA and the Ponemon Institute conducted a survey and found similar concerns. But they also found that deployment had occurred despite these worries. And similar surveys and results continue to be published, indicating the mistrust about security persists.

Patriot Act renewed despite warnings of ‘secret’ law – After senators reveal that Justice Department has a secret interpretation of controversial law, speculation turns to whether cell phone location records are being vacuumed up.

Six Great Experimental Features to Enable in Google Chrome’s Labs – Google Chrome is a favorite among power users in no small part due to its innovative experimental features (many of which are eventually integrated into the stable browser). For our final installment of the best of Google Labs, we’re taking a look at the best experimental, advanced features you can add to Google Chrome.

Company News:

Microsoft’s lucrative new revenue stream? Android – The irony’s enough to make your head explode: Microsoft makes more money from Android than it does Windows Phone. This according to Citi analyst Walter Pritchard, who says $5 from the purchase price of every HTC Android handset sold ends up in Microsoft’s pockets. Evidently, the terms of the patent licensing deal Microsoft negotiated with HTC over its Android offerings last April included some very lucrative royalties.

Hardware Vendor Offers Backdoor with Every Product – IT administrators know there’s nothing more frustrating than losing administrative access to your network equipment. But Allied Telesis, a Japan-based maker of switches, routers and other networking devices, has a fix: guaranteed backdoors for every product.

Microsoft to showcase new tablet OS next week? – Citing three anonymous sources, Bloomberg reported yesterday that the software giant will be discussing its plans for tablets at some point in the next week, though they weren’t certain where or when it would happen. Bloomberg’s sources told the publication that the tablet-friendly Windows version would be running on hardware boasting Nvidia’s ARM-based Tegra processor.

PayPal Sues Google for Stealing Mobile Payment Secrets – Google NFC Partner event PayPal has sued Google and two of its top execs, both former PayPal employees, for stealing trade secrets that helped the search company break into the multi-billion dollar mobile payments industry.

Off Topic (Sort of):

One Hundred Years Of The Indy 500 – Wonderful account of the first Indy 500 car race, held on 30 May 1911. Thrilling, horrifying, at times comical but compelling reading throughout. Features 40 daring drivers, dramatic crashes, confusion over the eventual winner.

Physics and the Immortality of the Soul – The topic of “Life after death” raises disreputable connotations of past-life regression and haunted houses, but there are a large number of people in the world who believe in some form of persistence of the individual soul after life ends. Clearly this is an important question, one of the most important ones we can possibly think of in terms of relevance to human life. If science has something to say about, we should all be interested in hearing.

Poach or Roast Sausages Before Grilling (and Other Expert BBQ Tips) – It’s barbecue season, and that means its time to review our grilling strategies. Esquire’s “Eat Like a Man Grilling Awards” rounds up some top tips from chefs, butchers, and enthusiasts, like this suggestion for cooking sausage for a crowd.

Giving to Charity by Managing Your E-Mail – A new service, GiveBackMail, introduced this week, promises to give 25 percent of its profit to charity if users will route their e-mail activities through its Web site. “The more you use e-mail, the more money you direct toward your charity,” said Rambod Yadegar, who founded the service with his brother, Sam. (submitted by Michael Fisher)

Today’s Quote:

Self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with ourselves.”

-     Nathaniel Branden

Today’s Free Downloads:

Advanced SystemCare Free 4.0.1 – Advanced SystemCare Free has a one-click approach to help protect, repair, clean, and optimize your PC. With over 20 MILLION downloads since 2006, this fantastic, award-winning, free PC repair software is a “must-have” tool for your computer.

Process Lasso 5.0.0.15 – Process Lasso is a software that will improve system responsiveness and stability. Process Lasso is a unique new technology intended to automatically restrain running processes that are consuming too many CPU cycles.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Scareware Is Everywhere – As Mac Users Just Found Out

The success cyber criminals have had with the recent Mac scareware attack (MacDefender, which has already morphed into a new variant – MacGuard), emphasizes the following point – given the opportunity, Mac users may be just as likely as Windows users to say “Yes” to an invitation to download a rogue security application.

Considering Apple’s marketing style, which reinforces the myth that Macs are inherently more resistant to malware infections than Windows PCs (bolstered by the cachet that Mac users are somehow smarter than PC users), I suspect that Mac users are in for a rough ride in the coming months. Undoubtedly, Mac users will learn that cyber criminals use of social engineering is not platform specific.

Hopefully, this reality check will put a stop to nonsensical forum comments like the following.

“Well this is why I’m glad to have a Mac just saying”

“If Windows didn’t exist these things wouldn’t happen to people”

Since myths tend to die a slow and painful death however, I somehow doubt it.

Early last year, I posted an article – Say “Yes” on the Internet and Malware’s Gotcha! – which pointed out the potential consequences to those Internet users who instinctively, and unthinkingly, click on “Yes” or “OK”. Given the unprecedented rise in the number of malicious scareware applications in the interim (often, but not exclusively, promoted through poisoned Google search results), that article is worth reposting.

The following is an edited version of that earlier article.

It's not my fault Virtually every computer user, at both the home user level (my friends), and at the corporate level, whom I come into contact with, tends to downplay personal responsibility for a malware infection.

I hear a lot of – “I don’t know what happened”; “it must have been one of the kids”; “all I did was download a free app that told me I was infected”; “no, I never visit porn sites” or, Bart Simpson’s famous line “it wasn’t me”. Sort of like “the dog ate my homework”, response. But we old timers, (sorry, seasoned pros), know the reality is somewhat different, and here’s why.

Cybercriminals overwhelmingly rely on social engineering to create an opportunity designed to drop malicious code, including rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots, on Internet connected computers.

In other words, cybercriminals rely on the user/potential victim saying – “YES”.

Yes to:

Downloading that security app that told you your machine was infected. Thereby, infecting your computer with a rogue security application.

Opening that email attachment despite the fact it has a .exe .vbs, or .lnk.extension, virtually guaranteeing an infection.

Downloading that media player codec to play a  porno clip, which still won’t play, but your computer is now infected.

Clicking on links in instant messaging (IM) that have no context, or are composed of only general text, which will result in your computer becoming part of a botnet.

Downloading executable software from web sites without ensuring that the site is reputable. Software that may contain a Browser Hijacker as part of the payload.

Opening email attachments from people you don’t know. At a minimum, you will now get inundated with Spam mail which will increase the changes of a malware infection.

There are many more opportunities for you to say “yes”, while connected to the Internet, but those listed above are some of the the most common.

The Internet is full of traps for the unwary – that’s a sad fact, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Cyber criminals are winning this game, and unless you learn to say “NO”, it’s only a matter of time until you have to deal with a malware infected machine.

Here’s an example of a rogue security application getting ready to pounce. A progressively more common occurrence on the Internet.

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I can’t say this often enough. Ensure you have adequate knowledge to protect yourself and stay ahead of the cybercrime curve. Make a commitment to acquire the knowledge necessary to ensure your personal safety on the Internet. In a word, become  “educated”.

If you lack this knowledge the answer is simple – you can get it. The Internet is loaded with sites (including this one), dedicated to educating computer users on computer security – including providing application reviews, and links to appropriate security software solutions.

It’s important to be aware however, that security applications alone, will not ensure your safety on the Internet. You really do need to become proactive to your Internet safety and security. And that does mean becoming educated.

Internet users who are aware of significant changes in the Internet security landscape, will react accordingly. Unfortunately, experience has taught me that you can’t fix stupid.

Before you say “yes”

Stop – consider where you’re action might lead

Think – consider the consequences to your security

Click – only after making an educated decision to proceed

Consider this from Robert Brault:

“The ultimate folly is to think that something crucial to your welfare is being taken care of for you”.

I’ll put it more bluntly – If you get a malware infection; it’s virtually certain it’s your fault. You might think – here’s this smug, cynical guy, sitting in his office, pointing undeserved critical fingers. Don’t believe it.

If users followed advice posted here, and advice from other security pros, and high level users, the Internet could be a vastly different experience for many. At the very least, we might have half a chance of dealing more effectively with the cybercriminal element. To this point, we’re losing rather magnificently.

Computer users would be vastly better off if they considered Internet security advice, as a form of inoculation. It’s a relatively painless way to develop immunization. While inoculations can be mildly painful, the alternative can be a very painful experience.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Safety, internet scams, Mac, Malware Alert, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, scareware, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 28, 2011

Killer tips for mastering Google Chrome – It’s been a long time since our first collection of tips for Google Chrome, and so we’ve got a new collection of tricks to help you get the most out of your browser. Which one’s your favorite?

Lifehacker: The 10 Best Android Apps that Make Rooting Your Phone Worth the Hassle – Android phones are spectacular little devices because they’re able to so much that others simply can’t, but one big snag in that greatness is that many of those best features require that the phones be rooted.

Google Wallet: The Complete FAQ - Google Wallet turns your smartphone into a mobile payment machine. Here’s everything you’re itching to know about the new mobile service.

Firefox 6 Hits Aurora Channel – In a bid to accelerate the Firefox development process, Mozilla introduced a new update channel called Aurora last month. Shorter release cycles mean that Mozilla has absolutely no time to bask in the glory of Firefox 4’s success. In fact, Mozilla has begun two-timing (for lack of a better metaphor) Firefox 5 and Firefox 6. The latter is now available in the Aurora update channel, the browser vendor announced Friday.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Is Chrome OS An Impregnable Fortress? Not According to Trend Micro – Google is confident that its cloud-based Chrome OS will change the computer security landscape beyond recognition. That the many layers of security built in to the operating system will be enough to render third-party anti-virus solutions useless.That you will no longer have to “spend hours fighting your computer to set it up and keep it up to date.” But not everyone – least of all computer security companies – is convinced.

Fedora 15’s five best features – Red Hat’s latest community Linux desktop distribution, Fedora 15, is now out and it wasn’t for GNOME 3.0, I’d love it.

Security researcher finds ‘cookiejacking’ risk in IE – A security researcher in Italy has discovered a flaw in Internet Explorer that he says could enable hackers to steal cookies from a PC and then log onto password-protected Web sites. Referring to the exploit as “cookiejacking,” Rosario Valotta claims that a zero-day vulnerability found in every version of Microsoft’s IE under any version of Windows allows an attacker to hijack any cookie for any Web site

MalwareTips.com Giveaway: DefenseWall Personal Firewall – The Giveaway starts on 27 May 2011 and ends on 5 June 2011. We will give away 5 licenses to our forum members and 1 license on Twitter.

Email is far from dead; ‘no viable replacement’ in sight – Email is not dead, and will not die out any time soon. Most visitors of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! go straight to email, and even social networking cannot fully compete.

Yahoo! Mail Gets a Facelift – “Splashy” and “centralized” are the two words that come to mind when looking at the latest changes to Yahoo Mail. The site has been working toward a major upgrade for several weeks, and users can now upgrade their accounts to the widely available beta.

It’s not just you, Apple hates everyone – In my previous article, Apple doesn’t love you, they just want your money, I pointed out that Apple instructed its support personnel to not assist with the removal of the MacDefender malware. Eventually Apple caved in to pressure from their customers and bad press, and released instructions on how to avoid and remove MacDefender. Better late than never, but they should not have had to be shamed into providing support.

Company News:

Facial Recognition is Too Creepy Even For Google – The search giant has a reputation for keeping close tabs on you, but there are certain technologies which “cross the creepy line.” They will not be participating in these.

Twitter Acquires TweetDeck – The old adage “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” has proven true. After months of rumors, Twitter has finally announced that it has acquired third-party client TweetDeck.

Invisible Cursor-Tracking Program Knows What Your Eyes Have Seen – Microsoft researchers have developed a new way to collect information about web users’ eye gaze–information that could transform online advertising. The business implications are that this new method of cursor tracking is so lightweight from a programming perspective that it could easily be bundled with most analytics service packages and become a norm in online data collection—without you, the user, ever knowing.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Smart shirt monitors your breathing while you sleep – To help track your sleep wellbeing, a nightshirt embedded with sensors monitors your breathing patterns, while a small chip in the pocket processes the data. It determines your phase of sleep – REM ‘dream’ sleep, light sleep, or deep sleep. And these sleep diagnostics can help track how various things like alcohol or stress affect how well you sleep.

Nine guidelines for writing effective email messages – If you want people to pay more attention to your email, perhaps you should pay more attention to your email!

Duke Nukem Forever: Almost Here? – Could it be? Is “Duke Nukem Forever” actually going to be released? 2K Games and Gearbox Software announced today that “Duke Nukem Forever,” has now gone gold, which basically means the game has been released to manufacturers and is ready to go.

New health guidelines for porking it up on Memorial Day – According yesterday’s announcement by the US Department of Agriculture, you no longer have to cook pork to a miserable, drying 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

47% of Facebook Walls contain profanity – Around 47 percent of users have profanity on their Facebook Wall. Do you care?

Today’s Quote:

Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute.”

-     Josh Billings

Today’s Free Downloads:

TightVNC 2.0.3 - TightVNC is a free remote control software package. With TightVNC, you can see the desktop of a remote machine and control it with your local mouse and keyboard, just like you would do it sitting in the front of that computer.

Macrium Reflect FREE Edition – With Macrium Reflect Free Edition you’ll be able to easily make an accurate and reliable image of your HDD or individual partitions. Using this image you can restore the entire disk, partition or individual files and folders in the event of a partial or complete system loss.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Nitro PDF Software Advises – PDF Security Blunders You Need To Know

imageIf you’re a serious PDF user, then it’s almost a given that you’re familiar with Nitro PDF Software. Nitro PDF Software is a leading PDF software vendor, and the company behind Nitro PDF Professional. And, for those of us who love free software, Nitro PDF offers the award-winning free Nitro PDF Reader – you can read my take on Nitro PDF Reader here.

If you’re looking for a free PDF creator, Nitro PDF Software has you covered here as well, with its free application –  PrimoPDF – which many consider (including me), to be the best free PDF creator available.

This past week, Nitro PDF Software published a list covering three major PDF security blunders, a recent public example of each, and additionally – the best practices computer users can take to ensure their own digital document security.

Security conscious users will find the following information especially useful.

From Nitro PDF Software (with permission):

Protection, Passwords, and Permissions to Safeguard Confidential Information

Problem & Example: In what might be the only example of a lax approach to document security resulting in the #1 spot on Amazon.com’s best seller list and a subsequent film deal, first-time author Adam Mansbach’s self-proclaimed “children’s book for adults”, Go the #### to Sleep, enjoyed unexpectedly positive consequences when a bootlegged PDF became a viral success story, according to Fast Company.

It’s fair to assume Adam is less than upset right now, but – unfortunately for the rest of us – more common outcomes for similar incidents tend to involve phrases like “identity theft” and “job dismissal.”

Solution: There are a number of ways to mitigate against the risks inherent with electronic distribution, the most simple being password protection – an effective way to reduce the chances of someone other than the intended recipient being able to view the document. Always provide the password separately to the document itself – ideally over the phone or in person – and try to think of something more challenging to guess than “password.”

Did you know you can also set permissions with PDF files? This enables you to specify what a user can actually do with your document. File permissions are an effective way to prevent manipulation or unauthorized sharing – allow or deny big-ticket items like printing or editing, and even block individual actions like copying text or images.

Flatten Documents to Maintain Authenticity and Prevent Manipulation

Problem & Example: The decision to release US President Barack Obama’s birth certificate only fanned the flames of debate when the PDF version made public contained a number of so-called “inconsistencies” – most visibly the presence of layered content, giving the impression the document had been digitally altered. A more realistic conclusion would be the use of optical character recognition (if the certificate had indeed been manipulated, it’s difficult to imagine such a rookie mistake would have been committed.) Read a full story at the National Review.

Solution: The majority of us will never be subject to this kind of public scrutiny, but there are best practices to follow when publishing final form documents that are relevant to almost anyone –layered content in PDF files often holds information relating to the text and images it displays, which often remains after the visual component has been deleted. “Live” text (such as form field data or annotations) is also more easily manipulated.

Certain industry bodies standardize and regulate document practices to safeguard against similar incidents – an example being the legal sector and its usage of the TIFF format, to preserve the integrity and authenticity of legally binding documents after publishing. Most desktop PDF solutions enable you to create image-based PDFs, ensuring that vector objects, text, annotations, and everything else that exists as an independent element is baked into the page as an image.

(Not) Deleting Confidential Information

Problem & Example: Whilst an effective way to redact (or permanently delete) information from physical paper, the “black marker” method happens to be rather ineffective with digital documents, as the British Navy discovered recently when they accidentally revealed information about the security of their nuclear submarines. IT security blog NakedSecurity explains it well, but the highly confidential document was “redacted” by applying a black background to the (black) text intended for removal, allowing anyone to simply copy and paste the text obscured by the black background.

Solution: As we mentioned before, PDF files have multiple layers – what looks like flat paper onscreen is three dimensional underneath. Redaction is a complex and powerful tool that (used properly) enables the complete removal of all content, and not just what you see rendered in front of you. You should never assume that simply deleting text or images guarantees complete removal, and anyone working with confidential documents should possess an understanding of their file structure and processes like redaction.

About Nitro PDF Software

Headquartered in San Francisco, Nitro PDF Software has operations spanning North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Competitively priced, Nitro PDF Professional provides users full control over PDF documents, including commenting, form-filling and authoring, digital signatures, text editing, one-click creation from Microsoft Office and more. Nitro PDF Software products have won multiple “Editors’ Choice” and “Product of the Year” awards and are used by millions of people worldwide, including a significant number of Fortune 500 organizations.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Digital Media, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free PDF Software, Freeware, Multimedia Tools, Software, Software Trial Versions, Windows Tips and Tools