Category Archives: Freeware

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 6, 2014

The best tablets for under $250;  Off the grid? Keep your devices powered-up; Roku Stick vs Google Chromecast;  Apps to help adjust to daylight saving;  Pre-installed malware found on new Android phones;  Check’s Android app manages your bills;  4 Android apps that put SMS on your desktop;  Mastering Metro apps;  The dark side of 3D printing;  CIA snooped on Senate;  How to Report Internet Fraud;  Hacking Team snoopware found on US servers;  Upskirt photos ruled legal in Massachusetts.

The best tablets for under $250 – Buying a relatively inexpensive tablet doesn’t mean that you sacrifice a solid slate experience. There are quality tablets around $100, like the $139 Amazon Kindle Fire HD, but the sub-$250 tablet category is bursting with a bevy of budget options. To that end, here are the best tablets currently available with prices under $250. If any of the products here interest you, be sure to read the full reviews for details on the quirks and idiosyncrasies of each. Also, check out our Tablets Buying Guide for an overview on tablet-buying best practices.

Off the grid? Keep your devices powered-up – We look at more than a half-dozen gadgets that can keep your phones and tablets going indefinitely, even when power’s hard to come by.

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Check’s Android app manages your bills so you don’t have to – This free app on Android organizes all of your monthly bills in one place, where you can pay them on the go. Check (Android|iOS) is a free app that helps you stay on top of all your recurring bills and help you make payments. The service works with credit card companies, cell phone carriers, utility companies, Internet service providers, car loans, mortgages, and even your rent. Essentially, if you have to bill to pay, you can likely pay it with Check.

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4 Android apps that put SMS on your desktop – When you’re sitting in front of a full keyboard and large display, you should be able to use it to answer texts! More than a few developers have hear our cries, and have created some fantastic Android tools to give you the power to text (and more) from your PC. Let’s dig into what’s possible, starting from smallest to biggest commitment.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Apps to help adjust to daylight saving – This Sunday morning, our clocks spring forward one hour to mark the beginning of daylight saving time. While it might be nice for some to have more light at the end of the day, it can be tough for bodies to adjust to darker mornings. In this Tech Minute, CNET’s Kara Tsuboi reports on some ways technology can help ease the transition.

FileThis Automatically Gathers and Files Important Documents Online – Finally, a critical missing link in the paperless billing chain has been filled. FileThis is a new Web-based service that that automatically downloads your e-statements into your PC or cloud storage. FileThis covers the gamut of household paper filing — bank statements, phone bills, tax documents, mortgage statements, credit card statements, insurance policies and benefits, online shopping accounts, utilities and so on.

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Google Voice: Just because you can port your number, should you? – Google Voice is an amazing service, but there are some limitations and gotchas. In this article, we explore the pros and cons of the service to help you decide if it’s for you.

App-Sensor Combo Tells You When Your Grill’s Tank Needs Refueling – Originally introduced in early December, Quirky’s “Refuel” app-connected propane tank sensor is now entering production. Quirky estimates the product will cost around $18. For that, you get a ring-shaped apparatus that sits under your grill’s propane tank and is connected to a gauge that adheres to your grill with a magnet. Take a peek at the gauge when you’re near the grill, or instead fire up the smartphone app that connects to Refuel to see how much gas you have left before you need to drag the tank back to Strickland Propane for a refill.

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Mastering Metro apps: 4 ways they can work for you – It’s time to give Windows 8’s modern-style apps some respect. Admittedly, some Windows Store apps are inferior to their desktop cousins. But many others take advantage of the full-screen modern (also known as “Metro”) interface to provide a different and better experience. With an open mind and a little TLC, your Start screen can be a great resource. Here are four ways you can get the most out of modern apps.

Mozilla works to squeeze more life out of JPEG – The Firefox developer releases a tool called mozjpeg that cuts image file sizes by about 10 percent through judicious optimization. The goal: a faster Web.

Six tips to manage your Google Calendar more efficiently – Google continues to add and improve Google Calendar features. It’s easier than ever to create calendar items, add meeting support details, and meet online. Follow the six tips below to manage your Google Calendar more efficiently.

Evernote for Android lets you add handwriting to your notes – Got a stylus collecting dust in your gadget bag? Maybe it’s time to dig it out, because Evernote’s Android app now features built-in handwriting functionality. The update, which begins rolling out today, enables you to jot down notes or doodle to your heart’s content in any of your digital notebooks.

Yahoo ditches Facebook and Google logins for its own ID – Yahoo isn’t messing around. Desperate to regain its former glory as an Internet giant, the company is putting the kibosh on Google and Facebook logins for its various services. The end is already nigh: Fans gearing up for March Madness with Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick’Em will have to sign in using a Yahoo ID to make their picks.

Roku Stick vs Google Chromecast: Tiny TV titans – While Microsoft and Apple are focusing on putting content through into your television through branded set-top boxes, Roku and Google have taken a different approach. The Roku Stick and the Google Chromecast are two very different solutions to the same problem, and since you’re only likely to want one sticking out of the back of your television we decided to compare to two and see what you get. At $50 for the Roku Stick and $35 for the Google stick, the two are direct alternatives for one another.

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VLC app for Windows 8 planned for release Monday, March 10 – The VideoLAN team has revealed via their Twitter account that the long awaited port of their VLC media player for Windows 8 is now planned for release on Monday, March 10.

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How to play DVDs and Blu-ray discs in Windows 8 – While earlier versions of Windows included a free, built-in DVD player, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 have no such functionality. It can still read data DVDs, but if you want to play that copy of Rocky IV you got for $2 on clearance at Target, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, you’ve got plenty of options for restoring DVD-playback functionality to Windows 8, for free. Here’s what we recommend:

Narrative Clip, a clip-on photographic memory device with a lot of grey zones – An always-on camera that takes photos every 30 seconds? The Narrative Clip is that, and it aims to be an extension of your memory, too.

Dell charges £16 TO INSTALL FIREFOX on PCs – Mozilla is miffed – The Mozilla Foundation has begun an investigation after tech juggernaut Dell appeared to be asking customers to pay £16.25 ($27) to install its free web browser Firefox on newly purchased Dell kit. A reader wrote to us to say that Dell had asked if he’d like to fork out £16.25 for the convenience of having Mozilla’s browser installed on a new machine he was attempting to purchase. Sources within Mozilla said they had launched a preliminary consultation with legal teams, but this process was at an early stage.

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BlackBerry 10 smartphone owners can now use Microsoft’s OneDrive – BlackBerry has released an app, titled Connect to Microsoft OneDrive, that allows owners of BB10 based smartphones to use Microsoft’s newly rebranded data storage service.

The dark side of 3D printing: 10 things to watch – The 3D printer is a double-edged sword. It stands to transform technology and society for the better, but we also can’t ignore the potential negative consequences.

Security:

How to Report Internet Fraud – The United States reports more fraud than any other country, accounting for over 90 percent of the complaints in 2012, according to the Internet Complaint Center, a joint effort between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. On average, victims lost $1,813 each for a total of over $525 million. If you’ve been the victim of Internet fraud, there are several reporting options, according to the type of crime. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will handle a larger majority of those complaints – check out its step-by-step online reporting form – but check out some of the more common tactics employed by fraudsters today, and how best to protect yourself and others.

Pre-installed malware found on new Android phones – Fake version of Netflix that steals personal data and sends it to Russia has been found on several phone models.

GnuTLS patch fixes certificate verification problem – A flaw in GnuTLS, which would enable an attacker to bypass certificate validation checks, has been patched. Fixes are being pushed to all major Linux distributions.

Report: Half of all exploits target Java – As Microsoft improved the defenses in its software, though, cybercrooks moved on to easier pickings. Adobe was a prime target for a while, but Adobe followed Microsoft’s lead and made its software more secure as well. According to data from the 2014 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly Report, the favorite target is now Java.

Web ads eclipse porn as leading source of mobile malware – The number of malvertisements targeting mobile devices more than tripled last year, pushing contaminated web ads past pornography as the single largest malware threat to mobile users.

Man guilty of “fixing” women’s computers to spy on them via webcam – A 30-year-old London man has been found guilty of fiddling with three women’s computers so he could spy on them through their webcams.

Company News:

Target CIO Resigns Following Massive Data Breach – Target Corp.’s Chief Information Officer Beth Jacob is resigning, effective immediately, in the wake of the massive data breach during the holiday 2013 shopping season during which as many as 70 million customers had their personal information stolen, including 40 million debit and credit card accounts.

ManageEngine Slashes IT Help Desk Expenses for 60,000+ Companies – ManageEngine, the real-time IT management company, today announced that the standard edition of its flagship IT help desk software, ServiceDesk Plus, is now available for free — with no restrictions, regardless of whether software runs in the cloud or on premise. Previously, ServiceDesk Plus Standard Edition was free for up to five technicians/agents. The move slashes IT help desk expenses for the 60,000+ companies that have already implemented ServiceDesk Plus Standard Edition and invites other companies to do the same by adopting the ManageEngine solution.

Microsoft reportedly has plans to help launch cheap Windows 8 tablets in India – A new report claims Microsoft will help to launch a number of low cost Windows 8 tablets that will be made especially for the Indian market, to try to fight off Android dominance in that country.

Intel to acquire wearable devices firm Basis for around $100 million- Intel has reportedly won an auction to acquire wearable devices making company, Basis, for an amount upwards of $100 million to strengthen itself in the newly emerging wearables market. Basis, which competes in the fitness wearables market with the likes of Jawbone and Nike, has managed to secure seven percent of the market. Intel has been interested in the wearables market in recent times and has shown off numerous concept devices such as a Bluetooth headset with Siri-like functionality and smart-chips at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show.

Facebook funds fulltime community safety police officer – In a move that has some worried and others offering praise, approval has been given unanimously by the Menlo Park City Council in favor of Facebook’s “gift” of $200,000 to fund what is being referred to as a “community safety police officer,” making this the first ever instance of a private company funding the establishment of a beat cop.

Getty Images unshackles photo library – Under its new model, the library of some 35 million photographs will be made available with a new embed tool, which tacks the image inside a player of sorts containing copyright data and a link back to the Getty Images website. The strategy has already drawn a lot of criticism from stock photography websites and photographers alike, who fear what it could mean for the industry as a whole.

AU$9bn Apple profit moved from Australia to Ireland: Report – Apple has moved almost AU$1 billion of profit each year for 10 years out of Australia, and into a Double Irish sandwich that allows the company to pay less than 50 cents of tax on every $1000 of income.

Games and Entertainment:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 “Gwen and Peter” video offers side of commentary – If the latest trailers have ramped up your excitement for the quickly approaching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie, another has surfaced that gives a deeper look into one particular aspect of the film: Gwen and Peter’s relationship. In an exclusive video simply called Gwen and Peter, viewers are given access to a hearty dose of commentary.

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Twitch Game Broadcasts Coming to Android and iOS – The Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the venerable PC all have support for recording and broadcasting gameplay footage with Twitch, but now that capability is coming to mobile at long last. Twitch has released a new mobile SDK for Android and iOS that allows developers to integrate game streaming so you don’t have to muck around with cumbersome screen capture software.

Nick App Comes to Android with Full Episodes, Games, and More – Apps aren’t only for grown ups–kids can spend some time staring at the inviting glow of a touchscreen too. To those ends, an official Nickelodeon app has arrived in the Play Store bringing games, full episodes, and original content. Although, most kids aren’t going to be able to navigate the maze of cable provider logins.

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Crockett and Tubbs Return in New ‘Miami Vice’ Digital Comic – The new Miami Vice digital comic book is penned by Jonathan London, a writer, producer, and award-winning director. The book is set in ’80s Miami and continues Crockett and Tubbs’ crime-fighting adventures. Brazilian artist Geanes Holland handles Miami Vice’s visuals.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Upskirt photos ruled legal in Massachusetts – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules that photos up a woman’s dress are legal, provided she’s wearing underwear. As if crowded train cars aren’t creepy enough, a Massachusetts high court has ruled that so-called “upskirt” photos of a woman on a Boston trolley are legal, according to a strict reading of state law.

Judge: We can’t have kids suing parents for an iPhone or Xbox – In a New Jersey case in which a teen is suing her parents for tuition fees and other bills, the judge fears kids will try to sue their parents to get gadgets.

Steve Ballmer’s temper tantrum over Nokia buyout led to his firing, says report – Steve Ballmer’s famously volcanic temper was the last straw for Microsoft’s board, and eventually led to his firing after he berated them so loudly about their not backing his Nokia buyout plan that his shouts could be heard outside the closed doors of a conference room. So reports Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Congressman Calls To Ban U.S. Dollar In Response To Plea For Bitcoin Ban – Congressman Jared Polis is calling on the Treasury to ban physical dollars in response to Senator Manchin’s plea to ban Bitcoin. “The exchange of dollar bills, including high denomination bills, is currently unregulated and has allowed users to participate in illicit activity, while also being highly subject to forgery, theft, and loss,” wrote Polis in a statement.

Artist seeks crowdfunding for normal-looking Barbie – Everyone knows Barbie isn’t real. In any sense of the word. Now a designer wants to introduce a whole line of Barbies that look like, well, women.

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Something to think about:

The more I know about business, the more I’m convinced that it is conducted in homes and churches far more than in office buildings.”

-     Laura Moncur

Today’s Free Downloads:

PaperScan Free – PaperScan is a powerful scanning software with an OCR engine centered on one idea : making document acquisition an unparalleled easy task for anyone.

NoScript – The NoScript Firefox extension provides extra protection for Firefox, Flock, Seamonkey and other mozilla-based browsers. NoScript’s unique whitelist based pre-emptive script blocking approach prevents exploitation of security vulnerabilities (known and even not known yet!) with no loss of functionality… You can enable JavaScript/Java execution for sites you trust with a simple left-click on the NoScript status bar icon (look at the picture), or using the contextual menu, for easier operation in popup statusbar-less windows.

Ghostery – Ghostery sees the “invisible” web, detecting trackers, web bugs, pixels, and beacons placed on web pages by Facebook, Google Analytics, and over 1,000 other ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers – all companies interested in your activity. After showing you who operates behind the scenes, Ghostery also gives you the opportunity to learn more about each company it identifies, including links to their privacy policy and opt-out options. Ghostery allows you to block scripts from companies that you don’t trust, delete local shared objects, and even block images and iframes.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

CIA snoops snooped on Senate to spy, spy torture report – CIA officers allegedly hacked into the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers to find out what the oversight committee had found out about its controversial detention and treatment of terror suspects.‬ The oversight committee had managed to get its hands on unapproved material, or so the CIA feared, the New York Times reports. In response, the agency allegedly went as far as hacking into the Congressional network to find out what it knew and perhaps where the leaked material came from, an unnamed official told the paper. It’s unclear whether the alleged hacking was limited to part of a CIA document leak/whistleblower hunt or went even further and resulted in electronic snooping against senators and their support staff.

Hacking Team snoopware found on US servers: Citizen Lab tags foreign governments for spying in America – Canada’s Citizen Lab has added to its record of uncovering government snooping using Hacking Team’s software, has dropped a bombshell: it’s accused 12 American data centres of hosting clients deploying the spyware. In its latest report, Hacking Team’s US Nexus, Citizen Lab* says there are 114 servers in America, in at least a dozen data centres, that are part of RCS (Remote Control Software) circuits. The group says their identification of RCS traffic isn’t some routing accident, but demonstrates “the purposeful use of US servers for the surreptitious transmission of wiretapped data to foreign governments.” The governments it accuses of snooping are, in other words, using RCS to wiretap on individuals – for example, citizens in the US, journalists reporting on their countries’ affairs, expats and activists – and send the data offshore. This violates US laws, such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Wiretap Act, Citizen Lab writes.

NSA chief criticises media and suggests UK was right to detain David Miranda – The outgoing director of the National Security Agency lashed out at media organizations reporting on Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations, suggesting that British authorities were right to detain David Miranda on terrorism charges and that reporters lack the ability to properly analyze the NSA’s broad surveillance powers. General Keith Alexander, who has furiously denounced the Snowden revelations, said at a Tuesday cybersecurity panel that unspecified “headway” on what he termed “media leaks” was forthcoming in the next several weeks, possibly to include “media leaks legislation.”

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Filed under Free Software Downloads, Freeware, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

What Does YouTube’s New Live Streaming Mean for You?

Guest author Ken Myers, takes us on a tour of YouTube’s live streaming service.

Since its creation, YouTube has generated a great deal of interest worldwide from the online community. It has been a place to promote music, acting styles, news broadcasts and more. Throughout 2013, the media powerhouse worked on implementing the ability to live stream events from a user’s account. But what does this mean for you and the YouTube community?

Further Promotional Tactics - There are many YouTube celebrities that relish in having more than half of a million subscribers watching their material. Although editing techniques are what add life and visual appeal at times, live streaming special events could drive the traffic to a channel exponentially. After all, live feeds have always been an attraction for various mediums, including traditional television.In the past, several events have been streamed live across the social media hub and were successful at engaging various viewers. Could this tactic help you promote your own business through the website?

Bloopers Galore - Some actors have a difficult time maintaining their focus on camera. It’s not often that a show can be performed live and not have a great deal of mistakes. Watching these events live could provide you with greater entertainment, though, especially if your favorite celebrities are struggling to keep it together. On the other hand, this is also how a family movie can turn into an R-rated episode. If you plan on capitalizing on the live feed, you need to bring your A-game.

Questionable Materials - Thanks to efforts by Google, you’re less likely to be able to produce material that is morally questionable without feeling some kind of repercussion. Although some people may try to take advantage of the live stream, it’s unlikely they’ll succeed at promoting this content. In order to provide a video for a live event, you need to have more than 1000 subscribers. This rule was implemented to ensure that you are serious about developing quality material for your viewers, making you less likely to take advantage of a live broadcast. If you can prove that you belong to a non-profit organization, you could begin streaming immediately.

Compared to Other Streaming Services - Many live streaming services on the Internet have been developed to allow virtually anyone with a webcam to promote themselves. Unlike YouTube, these services often don’t have any requirements past the basic illegal and adult contracts you must agree to before using the service. Without having a single follower or subscriber, anyone is able to get on these systems and talk about anything. If you’ve ever been to one of these websites, you understand how the quality of the material is lacking. YouTube live streams, on the other hand, require you to have a sense of professionalism and to provide quality material.

Engaging Your Subscribers - In order to grow a subscriber base, your material has to engaging. However, you have to begin producing videos to find out if people will find your content worthy of watching. To keep and increase your subscribers, you can further interact with them by developing a live stream and responding to questions on your Twitter account. This can increase both your viewership and your Twitter activity in a profound way. Of course, it helps to have a level of popularity before committing to a live broadcast of your show.

Future Content - Although some YouTube celebrities may see the value in live streaming their broadcasts, many may still opt out of using those services. For instance, if you produce material that is effects driven, it’s far more difficult to provide the same level of entertainment value. Talk shows and gaming channels are more likely to take advantage of providing a live feed because of the nature of their content. Many popular YouTube shows are unedited as it is, so little would change in the way of creating a live stream or a regular upload for these people.

For many, live streaming content may be nothing more than a pipe-dream. It takes a serious minded individual to develop content that is entertaining enough to draw in the necessary number of subscribers needed. For the rest of us, though, it may be an entertaining way to see our favorite YouTube celebrities sans the editing.

Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.

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Filed under Freeware, Google, Interconnectivity, Multimedia Tools, Video Tools, YouTube

Defeat Internet Browser Exploits With Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit

imageCybercriminals design malware to exploit vulnerable systems without user interaction being required – on the one hand, and craft attacks that take advantage of unaware (untrained) computer users, in which user interaction is required – on the other hand.

The second part, of this two part attack approach, can only be defeated if the computer user is aware of current Internet threats. So, knowledge and experience, are critical ingredients in the never ending and escalating battle against cybercriminals.

In order to defeat attacks which rely on exploiting vulnerable systems, the preferred method to do so is – the implementation of a layered security approach. Employing layered security should (I emphasize should), lead to the swift detection of malware, before any damage occurs on the targeted system.

Let’s talk real world:

Given existing technology, no single security application is capable of providing adequate computer system protection. Gaps exist in protection capabilities in even the most sophisticated security applications.

Layering (or stacking) security applications, offers the best chance of remaining infection free, by closing those gaps. Keep in mind however, that even the best layered protection strategy will not make up for the lack of experience, and intuitiveness, of many computer users.

So, stopping the bad guys from gaining a foothold has to be a primary objective of that layered defense strategy that I mentioned earlier. And, part of that strategy includes, raising barriers at the doorway to the system – the Internet browser.

The Modern Malware Review (March 2013), a statistical analysis performed by Palo Alto Networks which focused on malware that – “industry-leading antivirus products” failed to detect – noted a persistent trend.

From the report:

90% of unknown malware delivered via web-browsing

Given that the samples were captured by the firewall, we were able to identify the application that carried the malware. While web-browsing was found to be the leading source of malware both in terms of total malware as well as undetected malware, the application mix was very different between the two groups.

For example, SMTP accounted for 25% of the total malware, but only 2% of the fully undetected malware. Comparatively, web-browsing dominated both
categories, accounting for 68% of total malware, but over 90% of undetected samples. This clearly shows that unknown malware is disproportionally more likely to be delivered from the web as opposed to email.

Another brick in the wall:

Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit (formerly Zero Vulnerability Labs ExploitShield) – a free “install and forget” Internet browser security application (which I installed several days ago) – is designed to protect users from unknown “zero-day” vulnerability exploits aimed at Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera……..

As well, protection is also included for selected browser components – Java, Adobe Reader, Flash, and Shockwave. Added protection is incorporated for Microsoft Office components – Word, Excel, PowerPoint.

Fast facts:

Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit protects users where traditional security measures fail. It consists of an innovative patent-pending application shielding technology that prevents malicious exploits from compromising computers through software vulnerabilities.

Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit is free for home users and non-profit organizations. It includes all protections needed to prevent drive-by download targeted attacks originating from commercial exploit kits and other web-based exploits.

These type of attacks are used as common infection vectors for financial malware, ransomware, rogue antivirus and other types of nastiest not commonly detected by traditional blacklisting antivirus and security products.

Installation is a breeze and, on application launch, a simple and uncomplicated interface is presented.

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Clicking on the “Shields” tab will provide you with a list of applications protected by Anti-Exploit – as shown below.

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As a reminder that Anti-Exploit is up and running, a new Icon – as shown in the following screen shot, will appear in the system tray.

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System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

Download at: MajorGeeks

The good news: Each of us, in our own way, has been changed by the world of wonders that the Internet has brought to us. Twenty years on, and I’m still awestruck. I suspect that many of us will be thunderstruck by applications and projects yet to be released.

The bad news: The Internet has more than it’s fair share of criminals, scam and fraud artists, and worse. These lowlifes occupy a world that reeks of tainted search engine results, malware infected legitimate websites, drive-by downloads and bogus security software.

When travelling in this often dangerous territory, please be guided by the following: Stop – Think – Click. The bad guys – including the corrupted American government – really are out to get you.

The Modern Malware Review is a 20 page PDF file packed with data which provides a real-world perspective on malware and cybercrime. I recommend that you read it.

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Filed under Browsers, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware

Easily Recover Deleted Photos And More – Open Source TestDisk & PhotoRec

Summary: When it’s time to recover deleted files from an SD Card, Hard Drive, Flash Drive, etc., this powerful portable recovery application, (despite its command line type interface), makes deleted file recovery just about as simple as it gets.

In previous reviews, I’ve covered more than a few file recovery tools,  some of which have lived up to the developers’ claims – but, most have not. PhotoRec, part of the bundled package included in TestDisk – despite it’s name – is capable of recovering 390 types of files, according to the developer.

In the following review, I’ll describe how easy it was to recover deleted photos from my camera’s SD Card and, deleted music files from my iPod. As you’ll see, this application is not wizard driven – but, despite that, it’s still very easy to use.

First up was a recovery attempt on a camera.

On launching the application, the connected camera was immediately identified.

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Selecting the drive was a simple matter of cursoring down, and pressing the Enter key.

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In just a few minutes (under 3 minutes), PhotoRec identified and recovered 121* previously deleted photos.

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* Much to my surprise, the application actually recovered 241 previously deleted photos. I’m not complaining.   Smile   All recovered files were saved to the recovery directory (a sub-directory of the directory the application is running from) – as shown below.

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Here’s a recovered shot (August 2012), of my BlackBerry Playbook in its Bluetooth keyboard case. As an aside – Tablets are super duper consumption devices – but, for real work, a physical keyboard is a must for me.

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Next up – music file recovery from my iPod.

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In just a few moments (less than a minute), PhotoRec identified and recovered *105 previously deleted tunes.

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* The application actually recovered 106 previously deleted tunes.

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But, can they be played? You bet!

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Fast facts:

Fix partition table, recover deleted partition.

Recover FAT32 boot sector from its backup.

Rebuild FAT12/FAT16/FAT32 boot sector.

Fix FAT tables.

Rebuild NTFS boot sector.

Recover NTFS boot sector from its backup.

Fix MFT using MFT mirror.

Locate ext2/ext3/ext4 Backup SuperBlock .

Undelete files from FAT, exFAT, NTFS and ext2 filesystem.

Copy files from deleted FAT, exFAT, NTFS and ext2/ext3/ext4 partitions.

System requirements: Windows (NT4, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, Windows 7 (x86 & x64), Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, SunOS and MacOS X. (Reviewed on Win 8 x32)

Download at: Cgsecurity.org

You may only need this application a time or two – but, wouldn’t it be nice to have it sitting in your USB toolbox when you do? The answer is – YES.   Smile

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Filed under downloads, File Recovery Software, Freeware, Open Source, Windows

Beat Obama’s Bandits With TrueCrypt Free (Open-Source) Encryption

The so called “War on Terror” has long since lost its luster and should be appropriately reclassified as The War of Terror. The U.S. has been singularly impudent in terrorizing the terrorists but instead, it has managed to terrorize the rest of the world using a system of surveillance schemes that have gone off the board. Chalk one up for Al Qaeda – the only winners in this debacle.

In the meantime, Americans continue to live in fear – trading away freedoms for security in a war that is simple unwinnable. Obama, despite his assurances that he would “fight terrorism while maintaining our civil liberties” has been a principle mover in this assault on democracy.

And, the master of the reversal has more -

Obama, in a 2008 election sound bite, drew a sharp contrast with the Bush administration which he proclaimed, offered Americans “a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.” And for good measure – for stooping “to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime.” It’s a surreal world we live in, is it not?

But why be satisfied with my ramblings? Here’s the video.

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As America continues its slide into Fascism (eagerly joined in the venture by Canada, Australia, the U.K. and countless other self-advertised “democracies”), the justified expectation held by these governments is – you – yes, you – will take no active part in expressing your outrage at the escalating intrusions into your private life. Sadly, the undermining of democracy, or more to the point, democracy as we though we knew it, continues apace.

As a consequence (hardly the only consequence, of course), encryption technology is once again in the spotlight. And no, using encryption does not mean that one has something to hide.

Sophisticated and  aware computer users know, that financial data and other confidential information, can easily be subject to intrusive viewing by those not authorized to do so.

Putting Obama and his bad boys aside, here are some examples of how this might occur:

Internet malware attack: Increasingly, statistics reinforce the fact that financial data continues to be targeted by hackers/information thieves, for the purpose of identity theft.

Contrast that reality with these facts; there is no such thing as a totally secure Internet connected computer. All Internet connected computers are subject to attack and compromise.

Lost or stolen Laptop: How often have we read the following – 200,00 (insert your own number here), bank account numbers, Social Insurance Numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth were on a laptop stolen/lost earlier this week.

In too many of these cases, negligently, the data is unencrypted. Certainly Laptop theft or loss is not restricted to organizations; it can just as easily happen to you.

Lost or stolen USB drive: Since USB flash drives are so portable, you can take a drive virtually anywhere. Just like most items that are portable and that you carry with you, this type of drive can be lost, or stolen.

To reduce or eliminate the security threat of sensitive data exposure then, the most prudent course of action is data encryption. Essentially, data encryption is a secure process for keeping your sensitive and confidential information private. It’s a process by which bits of data are mathematically jumbled with a password-key. The Encryption process makes the data unreadable unless, or until, decrypted.

It happens to us all: Just this past week, I lost not only my house keys (first time ever) – but the USB key attached to the keychain. If you guessed that the drive was encrypted – take a bow.   Smile

TrueCrypt:

TrueCrypt is an outstanding free open source software application for establishing and maintaining an on-the-fly-encrypted volume. On-the-fly encryption simply means that data are automatically encrypted, or decrypted, just before they are loaded or saved – without any user intervention. The program automatically and transparently encrypts in real time.

No data stored on an encrypted volume can be read (decrypted) without the correct password/key file or correct encryption keys. The entire file system is encrypted (i.e., file names, folder names, contents, free space, Meta data, etc.).

Files can be copied to and from a mounted TrueCrypt volume just like they are copied to/from any normal disk (for example, by simple drag-and-drop operations). When you turn off your computer, the volume will be dismounted and files stored in the volume will be inaccessible and encrypted. You may of course, manually dismount the volume.

TrueCrypt offers a number of options – you can store your encrypted data in files, partitions, or on a portable storage device such as a USB flash drive.

Installation is simple and straightforward – no gotchas here. Lots of steps – but easy steps.

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If you choose “Keyfiles”, be sure you understand the ramifications. This is an extra security step which has limited application for a home user. You do not need to select this option.

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And – Win 8’s File Explorer reports that the volume has been setup successfully. If you expand the graphic below (click), you’ll also notice my first TrueCrypt volume on this HD from May 9, 2006.

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Indicative of this application’s popularity is the fact that it is downloaded tens of thousands of times each day, across the Internet.

Fast Facts:

Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk

Encrypts an entire hard disk partition or a storage device such as USB flash drive

Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent

Provides two levels of plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password – Hidden volume – No TrueCrypt volume can be identified (volumes cannot be distinguished from random data)

Encryption algorithms: AES-256, Serpent, and Twofish. Mode of operation: XTS

Ability to encrypt a system partition/drive (i.e. a partition/drive where Windows is installed) with pre-boot authentication (anyone who wants to gain access and use the system, read and write files, etc., needs to enter the correct password each time before the system starts

Pipelined operations increasing read/write speed by up to 100% (Windows)

I’ve been using TrueCrypt for a number of years, and I have developed a lot of confidence in this outstanding application. If you determine that encryption of your sensitive data is a priority, I highly recommend that you give TrueCrypt a try.

How effective is TrueCrypt? If you have any doubts as to how effective TrueCrypt really is, then read this article. FBI hackers fail to crack TrueCrypt:

The FBI has admitted defeat in attempts to break the open source encryption used to secure hard drives seized by Brazilian police during a 2008 investigation.

System Requirements: Win 8, Win 7, Vista, XP, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Download at: TrueCrypt

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Filed under downloads, Encryption Software, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Open Source, Software, Utilities

Checkout Your Internet Risk Factor With OPSWAT’s Free Security Score

Not an imaginary conversation.

Me – How are you handling all the crazy new cyber threats currently being thrown at us on the Internet?

She – I’m cool! I’ve got the best Anti-virus program there is (her reference – the neighbourhood geek.)

Me – Good to hear that. So, what are you doing to take care of the rest?

She – What rest?

Rinse, wash and repeat this conversation a thousand times – and, the “rest” almost always becomes the new focus of attention. As it should – it’s here, in an often murky area (at least to a typical user), that, that user, runs a major risk of stumbling.

Security – both physical and electronic – isn’t about eliminating all risk – if it was, you and I (on the physical side), wouldn’t cross the road. Similarly, in Internet security, we can’t eliminate all the risks – short of unplugging the connection. Instead, a more realistic approach requires that we focus our attention on eliminating as many known risks as possible (just as we do in the physical world.)

In other words – we need to engage with the proactive side of Internet security rather than continuing to focus on the reactive side – the, “I’ve got the best Anti-virus program there is” side.

Luckily, there’s a terrific little application – OPSWAT’s Security Score – that in a matter of just a few seconds, evaluates and sets out the “rest” – and, should the application determine that a security issue needs to be addressed, helpful tips/hints are provided.

Regular readers may remember that I first reviewed this application several months ago, and while I agreed in principal with the concept, the execution (in my view), was not up to standard. OPSWAT has since revised and expanded the application in such a way, that Security Score should be considered a “must have” addition to a security toolbox. Particularly for those users who are less familiar with the ever changing cyber threat landscape.

Let me backtrack just a little and put up a graphic from the first run through with Security Score, in April. As you can see, the application teased out a score of 60/100. A less than impressive score for a security professional.

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Good News:

The issues which prevented Security Score from digging into the system in order to provide an authentic result have been addressed and, are reflected in the following graphic – June 7, 2013.

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The above graphic indicates an encryption raw score of zero which reflects the fact that I choose not to use Windows BitLocker.

However, as I wrote in my previous review – “I don’t do full disk encryption. I do however, encrypt selected files/folders (a much better choice for most users in my view), using what has long been considered the premier free encryption application available – TrueCrypt. Still, it’s good to see that the application addresses an issue which often escapes the notice of less experienced users.

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Since application and operating system patches are often neglected by average users, a key component in Security Score measures the users adherence to a patch management routine.

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Often not considered as part of a layered security approach, system/file backup is, in fact, a key element in any such process. You’ll note from the following graphic that Security Score has picked up on my use of a number of backup schemes including Google Drive…..

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and Microsoft’s SkyDrive.

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As the following graphic indicates, I’ve been marked down slightly on AV coverage since the application cannot be aware that I substitute full on-board AV scans with weekly scans using a Linux Live CD.

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Given the conditions that we are now forced to deal with on the Internet – active PC monitoring with a view to insuring the security status of the machine is in good order is not just a preference or a recommendation – it’s an absolute necessity.

Sure, you can do all that this application does, manually. Choosing this route however, one could increase the risk of possible shortcomings in an otherwise acceptable security strategy. So, do yourself a favor and install OPSWAT’s Security Score. Better yet, introduce your friends/relatives/co-workers, to this neat freebie – we’ll all be the better for that.

Download at: OPSWAT

How OPSWAT calculates your security score:

OPSWAT’s score calculation is based on security industry and market research reports, over ten years of expertise in the security field, and feedback from leading security technology vendors on the relative importance of the categories and status of security software.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Freeware, OPSWAT

OPSWAT’s Security Score Beta – NOT Ready for Primetime

imageThe concept behind OPSWAT’s  Security Score (currently in Beta) – that is – active PC monitoring with a view to insuring the security status of the machine is in good order – has obvious value. In this case unfortunately, the execution could do with a shake-up. Let’s take a quick walkthrough.

As a security professional it came as more than just a mild surprise to see my test bed (a Win 8 reinstall just 2 days ago), pop out of this application with a dismal security score of 60/100, as shown in the following graphic. Yikes!!

BTW, I ran a series of identical tests – the results – identical – 60/100.

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No, no, no – it won’t get away with it.   Smile

Firewall:

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The lack of response, in the application, to the Windows Firewall – I’m assuming that the Windows Firewall has not been certified by OPSWAT – is a head-shaker.

If I can make the argument that the majority of computer users are not particularly “PC savvy”, I suspect that a “Not Detected” notification might be cause for panic.

The reality – as the following graphic illustrates; Windows Firewall is up and running.

I’ll take 5 points back, thank you!

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Hard Disk Encryption: Sorry – but, I don’t do full disk encryption. However, since I do encrypt selected files/folders (a much better choice for most users in my view), using what has long been considered the premier free encryption application available – TrueCrypt (shown below) – I’ll take my 10 points back, thank you.

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Patch management: Now I’m insulted – sort of. I’m a bear for patch management!   Smile

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Secunia PSI, a free patch management application (again, perhaps the premier example of such software), begs to differ with OPSWAT’s  Security Score. This application, as it has for many years, runs in the background on all my machines.

I’ll take my 10 points back, thank you.

Todays score:

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Public File Sharing: Yes, I do run a torrent application on this machine but, not all file sharing is illegal. To the contrary – virtually all file sharing is legal.

I’ll take my 5 points back, thank you.

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Antivirus score – 18/30: During the system reinstall on this machine, on the recommendation of super user and regular reader Bob Gostischa, I installed avast! Free Antivirus (substituting for AVG Free – a great app too). Much to my delight, incidentally.

avast! Free Antivirus, has been, and continues to be, an exceptional free application ( a quarter of a Billion downloads on CNET alone, speaks to that) – so, an OPSWAT certification of “Bronze” puzzles me. I’m not suggestion that popularity equates to an effective solution – we all know better.

Equally however, many of us do know that avast! Free Antivirus is a very effective solution.

Since OPSWAT suggests that the user may well be better off substituting the installed security application with an OPSWAT certified higher level product, let me counter-suggest that the developer provide access to an explanation of the certification process and, the testing methodology.

In this particular case, OPSWAT’s assessment of avast! Free Antivirus falls short of the generally accepted view as to this application’s effectiveness. I know that, and I suspect that you do as well – but, a typical computer user may not.

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avast! Free Antivirus – My new number one.

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I’ve long been a fan and a strong supporter of OPSWAT, and continue to be – with good reason – the company provides a series of superb free products which techies have come to rely on. AppRemover, as well as Metascan Online and Secure Virtual Desktop.

Yep – I realize this application is in Beta – but, there are Betas and then there are Betas. In the past few years, we have gotten quite use to the “Beta” that for all practical purposes, represents a fully functioning product. This is not one of them. Nice presentation, but…………….

I like the idea – so c’mon guys, hurry with a fix.

I have no doubt that this application will be brought up to the standard we have come to expect from OPSWAT. But, in its current state of Beta, this application provides neither accurate, nor complete information. Incidentally, I awarded myself a 10 point bonus just for the sheer aggravation.   Smile

If you want to take this one out for a test drive, you can download the application here. If you do so, I’d be interested in hearing about the results.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, downloads, Freeware, Malware Protection, OPSWAT