Monthly Archives: December 2007

Gone Phishing? Protect Yourself – Stop · Think · Click

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Phishing refers to the act of tricking people into revealing sensitive or private information. It relies on the premise that asking a large number of people for this information, will always fool at least a small number of those people.

In a phishing attack, the attacker creates a situation wherein people believe that they are dealing with an authorized party, like their bank or another service provider. The attacker will ask the victim for sensitive information such as credit card information.

Most of this activity is automated, and the targets are, as stated earlier, large numbers of Internet users. So phishing is considered an opportunistic attack, rather than the targeting of a specific person.

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Phishing attacks generally target:

  • Bank information – e.g. VISA and PayPal accounts.
  • Username and password information.
  • Social Security numbers.
  • Information which can be used to retrieve forgotten or lost credentials.

The information obtained allows criminals to:

  • Make fraudulent charges on credit or debit cards.
  • Make use of an individual’s credentials on online services, like eBay, Amazon and others, to commit crimes with little risk of being caught.

 

Gartner Research, noted for their strong research in ongoing computer related issues, recently stated that U.S. consumers have lost approximately $3.2 billion in phishing scams. This translates into roughly, 3 million+ victims. It’s not surprising that these figures are higher than those of both 2005 and 2006.

It appears that the increase in losses stems from a rise in attacks that combine phishing with malware infections: generally through banker Trojans that use multiple techniques (key loggers, ‘men in the browser’, and others), to obtain user’s banking and identity information. Computer security industry statistics show that Banker Trojans accounted for over 18% of malware infections in 2007, and 24% of the total number of infections caused by all Trojans.

This combination of phishing and malware increases the effectiveness of attacks, since available statistics indicate; eleven percent of US adults interact with the Internet with no malware protection installed on their computers.

Recently, I have seen figures that indicate 36% of computers scanned by Panda Security’s Infected or Not website at http://www.infectedornot.com, were not protected against malware attacks. In my view, this is an astonishingly high figure.

I have found it a worthwhile practice to scan my personal machines, once a week, at the Infected or Not website since these online solutions have access to a larger knowledge base and can therefore detect more malware, even the malware codes that go undetected by the solutions currently installed on my computers.

Internet users must be extremely cautious against the type of combined attacks noted above, since the monetary and other damages suffered can be very substantial.

Follow the tips below to protect yourself against these threats:

· Your bank will never ask you to divulge account information or passwords via email. Never give out this information, especially via email.

· Don’t open emails that come from untrusted sources.

· Don’t run files that you receive via email without making sure of their origin.

· Don’t click links in emails. If they come from a known source, type them on the browser’s address bar. If they come from an untrusted source, simply ignore them, as they could take you to a web designed to download malware onto your computer.

· Keep your computer protected. Install a security solution and keep it up-to-date. Also, before carrying out any kind of banking transaction on the Web, scan your computer with a second-opinion security solution, like NanoScan at www.nanoscan.com.

Elsewhere in this Blog you can download freeware anti-malware solutions that provide excellent overall security protection. Click here.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Terrific Advanced Free Media Player Replacement

4_gomplayer.jpgTired of Windows Media weaknesses? Tired of its outrageous overhead requirements? Then GOM Player may well be the tool you’ve been looking for. GOM Media Player’s support for a wide range of file formats and its advanced playback capabilities has made it one of the most downloaded of all Media Player replacements.

This is a multimedia player that can play most encoded video formats including AVI, DAT, FLV, MPEG, DivX, XviD, and more, with its own built-in codec system. GOM can play video files that are being downloaded, or that are broken during the downloading process.

An interesting feature (Screen Capture) allows you to take a screenshot of your video directly from GOM Player. Using the Burst Capture feature, you can take continuous screenshots, up to 999 shots.

Key Features:

  • Watch DVD-quality videos with 5.1 channel audio output.
  • Supports most codecs (AVI, DAT, MPEG, DivX, FLI using an embedded codec system
  • Plays incomplete or damaged AVI file by skipping the damaged frames
  • Plays Locked Media Files while downloading or sharing
  • Supports HTTP Streaming ASF/OGG/MP3/AAC/MPEG PS/MPEG TS
  • Subtitle, Overlay Mixer features, Keys Remapping, Super speed/High Mode
  • Plays Audio CD
  • Plays Video CD/SVCD/XCD
  • Enhanced Filter Rendering

 

Advanced Features:

  • Customizable settings on the control panel
  • Adjust image brightness, hue, and saturation
  • Sharpen and add noise to your video
  • Audio equalizer
  • Fast forward/rewind using left/right keys
  • Repeat a section of your video using A-B Repeat feature

This is my personal choice of media player and I have yet to be disappointed with its performance. I highly recommend this one.

GOM player has been downloaded 3,597,963 times on Download.com.

Download at: http://www.download.com/3000-20-10551786.html

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Filed under Freeware, Media Player Replacement, Multimedia Tools, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Blender – Free Open Source Tools for 3D Creation

blender5.jpgBlender is a very robust free 3D software animation program. It has been designed for modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, skinning, animating, rendering, particle and other simulating, non-linear editing, compositing, and creating interactive 3D applications.

The program is made up of a feature set that is characteristic of high-end modeling software such as Cinema 4D, 3ds Max and Maya. These features include advanced simulation tools such as rigid body, fluid, and soft body dynamics, modifier based modeling tools, powerful character animation tools, Python for embedded scripting and a node based material and compositing system.

In a review of this type it is impossible to adequately describe all of the advance features that make up this incredible software package. Only selected features have been highlighted for this review. There are many more features other than those noted below.

 

 

 

 

Supported Platforms:

· Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista

· Mac OS X (PPC and Intel)

· Linux (i386)

· Linux (PPC)

· FreeBSD 5.4 (i386)

· SGI Irix 6.5

· Sun Solaris 2.8 (sparc)

blender4.jpgInterface Features:

· Revolutionary non-overlapping and non-blocking UI delivers unsurpassed workflow

· Flexible and fully configurable window layout with as many screen setups as you prefer

· Undo support on all levels

· Anti-aliased fonts with international translation support

· Windows for animation curves/keys, outliner, schematic scene diagram, generic node editing system, non-linear video sequence editing, character animation action editor, non-linear animation mixer, image/UV editing, file/image selection and file management

· Built-in text editor for annotations and editing Python scripts

· Graphical user interface for Python scripts

· Custom themes

· Consistent interface across all platforms

 

 

 

Rigging:

· Fast skeleton creation mode

· Interactive 3D paint for vertex weighting

· Fast envelope based skinning

· Mirror editing (bone creation and weight painting)

Animation:

· Armature (skeleton) deformation with forward/inverse kinematics

· Auto IK allows posing FK chains easily

· Non-linear animation editor for mixing individual actions created in Action editor

· Automated walk cycles along paths

· Animated constraint system

· Vertex key framing for morphing, with controlling sliders

· Edit and create new blend shapes from existing targets

· Character animation pose editor

3D/Game Creation:

· Graphical logic editor for defining interactive behavior without programming

· Collision detection and dynamics simulation now support Bullet Physics Library. Bullet is an open source collision detection and rigid body dynamics library developed for Play Station 3

· Shape types: Convex polyhedron, box, sphere, cone, cylinder, capsule, compound, and static triangle mesh with auto deactivation mode

· Discrete collision detection for Rigid Body simulation

· Support for in-game activation of dynamic constraints

· Full support for vehicle dynamics, including spring reactions, stiffness, damping, tyre friction etc

· Python scripting API for sophisticated control and AI, fully defined advanced game logic

· Support all OpenGLTM lighting modes, including transparencies, Animated and reflection-mapped textures

Modeling:

· A range of 3D object types including polygon meshes, NURBS surfaces, Bezier and B-spline curves, metaballs, vector fonts (TrueType, PostScript, Open Type)

· Very fast Catmull-Clark subdivision surfaces with optimal iso-lines display and sharpness editing

· Full multiresolution sculpting capabilities with 2D bitmap/3D procedural brushes (Paint, Smooth, Pinch, Inflate, Grab) supporting symmetry

· Modifier stack deformers such as Lattice, Curve, Armature or Displace

Rendering:

· Very fast inbuilt ray tracer

· Over sampling, motion blur, post-production effects, fields, non-square pixels

· Tile-based and fully threaded

· Render layers and passes

· Render baking to UV maps (full render, ambient occlusion, normal, textures)

· Render engine tightly integrated with the node compositor

· Halo, lens flares and fog effects

· Vector motion-blur post-process effect (using node compositor)

· Realistic defocus (DOF) post-process effect (using node compositor)

· Edge rendering for toon shading

· Interactive preview rendering panel in any 3d view

Shading:

· Diffuse shaders such as Lambert, Minnaert, Toon, Oren-Nayar, Lambert

· Specular shaders such as WardIso, Toon, Blinn, Phong, CookTorr

· Node editor for creating and mixing complex materials

· Material previews rendered by main render engine

· Fast, realistic subsurface scattering

Physics and Particles:

· Particle system can be attached to any mesh object. Control methods include weight painting, textures, curve guides, wind and vortex effects. Particles can be deflected by moving geometry

· Hair strands can be created by a static particle system, supporting all particle control methods

· Fluid simulator with fully animated inflow, outflow, obstacle and fluid objects. Gravity and viscosity settings can also be animated. Supports vector blur and is integrated with the particle system

If you’re into 3D creation, then this solid program will more than meet your needs.

The Blender Web Site is an astonishingly complete site which includes the following: Features & Gallery, Download, Tutorials & Help, Community, Development, and e-Shop.

 

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Malicious Software – Malware Explained – Solutions

malware.jpgThere are many kinds of software that are written to be troublesome and that can be dangerous to an unprotected system. These programs are referred to as malware; shorthand for malicious software.

 

Details

The most common types of malware programs are listed below. Some types of software are written to mimic behavior of simple living organisms. That is, they reproduce themselves or live parasitically in other systems. It’s not that these programs are actually alive, but they can be just as annoying and hard to deal with as a living pest. The level of threat associated with malware corresponds to the intent and skill level of the programmer.

Trojan

A Trojan horse program is named after the legendary Trojan horse used by the ancient Greeks to compromise the defenses of the city of Troy. A Trojan horse program appears to be a program that is useful or desirable, but in reality hides malicious software that can compromise a system. A Trojan horse program can do significant damage to a computer system, including deleting files or stealing private data such as passwords or credit card numbers. A Trojan horse program that hosts a server is referred to as a Remote Access Trojan.  This type of Trojan is becoming increasingly popular.

Virus

A virus is a program fragment that uses other programs to run and reproduce itself. A typical virus is inserted into the code for an otherwise normal program. When the affected program runs, the virus code also runs, allowing the virus to operate. Usually the first thing a virus will do is try to insert copies of itself into other programs or more serious, the system code.

Worm

A worm is a type of program that uses the networking facilities of a computer to reproduce itself. E-mail is a common mechanism for worm reproduction. Even if a worm carries no hostile payload, it can easily duplicate itself to the point that network traffic involved in its reproduction consumes the bulk of resources available.

The following link will take you to an article within this Blog where you can download highly effective anti-malware freeware programs to protect your system from malicious software.

Click Here:  Free Security Applications  

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Another FaceBook Hoax. Whatever Happened to Our Supposed Computer Literacy?

my-facebook-page.jpgWithin the last several days I received the following FaceBook Super Wall posting from a number of my adult FaceBook friends. This is only one of the many hoaxes that I have received in the past few months. But I think this is the one that annoys me the most. Have a read and see what you think.

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Attention all Facebook membeRs. Facebook is recently becoming very overpopulated, There have been many members complaining that Facebook is becoming very slow.Record shows that the reason is that there are too many non-active Facebook members And on the other side too many new Facebook members. We will be sending this messages around to see if the Members are active or not,If you’re active please send to other users using Copy+Paste to show that you are active Those who do not send this message within 2 weeks, The user will be deleted without hesitation to create more space, If Facebook is still overpopulated we kindly ask for donations but until then send this message to all your friends and make sure you send this message to show me that your active and not deleted.

Founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg

I got a little miffed at the people who forwarded this on to me without even a cursory attempt to think about the message itself. So, I posted the following on the FaceBook page of all those who sent the original posting to me.

Hey *******,

Got your message re: FaceBook overpopulation.

Do you really believe this kind of nonsense? It’s nothing more than another FaceBook hoax.

It reads as if a child wrote it, or at the very least, it was written by a person who is barely literate.

FaceBook is a virtual community hosted on computer servers, not a real world where people take up real space. You can’t “overpopulate” a network of servers. To accommodate growth you simply add more servers to the network; something FaceBook does continuously.

The downside of this type of hoax is the server time it takes up by being forwarded to other FaceBook users. The morons who write these things must get a real laugh when they see the huge number of postings.

We continuously hear and read that we, in North America, are computer literate. Nothing could be further from the truth. The credence that people give to a hoax such as this, goes a long way to proving that point.

Functional illiteracy severely limits interaction with information and communication technologies (e.g. using a personal computer working with a word processor, a web browser, a spreadsheet application, or using a mobile phone efficiently).

The American Council of Life Insurers reported that 75% of the Fortune 500 companies provide some level of remedial training for their workers. In the United States 40-44 million (28-30% of adults) are functionally illiterate.

It’s not uncommon that first year college students are required to take a course in remedial reading. How’s that for literacy; is it any wonder that these types of hoaxes get spread so quickly!

There, I feel better after that little rant.

This is a pretty funny comment made in response to all those inane “forward messages”. I received this from a friend on my FaceBook page.  It says it all!

Hello, my name is Martin and I suffer from the guilt of not
forwarding 50 billion fucking chain letters sent to me by people
who actually believe that if you send them on, a poor 6-year-old
girl in Tumbarumba with a breast on her forehead will be able to
raise enough money to have it removed before her redneck parents
sell her to a traveling freak show.

Do you honestly believe that Bill Gates is going to give you, and
everyone to whom you send “his” email, $1000?

How stupid are we?

Ooooh, looky here! If I scroll down this page and make a wish, I’ll
get laid by a model I just happen to run into the next day!

What a bunch of bullshit.

Maybe the evil chain letter leprechauns will come into my house and
sodomize me in my sleep for not continuing a chain letter that was
started by Saint Peter in 5 AD and brought to this country by midget
pilgrims on the Endeavor.

Fuck ’em.

If you’re going to forward something, at least send me something
mildly amusing. I’ve seen all the “send this to 10 of your closest
friends, and this poor, wretched excuse for a human being will
somehow receive a nickel from some omniscient being”.

I don’t fucking care.

Show a little intelligence and think about what you’re actually
contributing to by sending out these forwards. Chances are it’s
our own unpopularity.

The point being? If you get some chain letter that’s threatening to
leave you shagless or luckless for the rest of your life, delete
it.

If it’s funny, send it on. Don’t piss people off by making them
feel guilty about a leper in Botswana with no teeth who has been
tied to the ass of a dead elephant for 27 years and whose only
salvation is the 5 cents per letter he’ll receive if you forward
this email.

Now forward this to everyone you know.

Otherwise, tomorrow morning your underwear will turn carnivorous
and will consume your genitals.

Have a nice day.

 

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Filed under FaceBook, Just for Laughs, Living Life, Personal Perspective

AbiWord – Free Multilingual Word Processor for Windows, Linux, QNX, FreeBSD and Solaris.

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Recently, I got a call from a friend who had saved his resume in Microsoft Word format, but who no longer had access to Microsoft Word. As a consequence, he could not update his resume. He wondered if, he could “borrow” my copy of Word to install on his computer so that he could revise his resume. It struck me that he, like many computer users, was unaware of the many free alternatives to Word that are available for download, most of which “save” and “open” in Word’s .doc format.

AbiWord is arguably the best of these in the class that I refer to as, light word processing applications. AbiWord has been designed to integrate perfectly with the operating system it runs on. It will take advantage of the functionality provided by the system, such as image loading, or printing capabilities.

As important, AbiWord is able to read and write all industry standard document types, like OpenOffice documents, Microsoft Word documents, WordPerfect documents, Rich Text Format documents, HTML web pages and many more.

AbiWord has a quite small resource footprint, which allows full functionality on systems that are not considered “State of the Art”.

I find AbiWord with its surprising amount of features and simple straightforward interface, to be the appropriate word processor I need running in the background while I’m on the Internet. As stated earlier, its small memory footprint as opposed to memory hogging Microsoft Word is ideal for most of my day to day work.

In fact, as you can see from the lead picture, this article was produced on AbiWord.

Features:

  • Multi Platform
  • Internationalized
  • Advanced document layout options
  • Tables, bullets, lists, images, footnotes, endnotes and styles
  • Available in most common, and many not-so-common languages
  • Spell checker
  • Dictionaries for over 30 languages
  • Supports right-to-left, left-to-right, and mixed-mode text
  • The above feature allows support for languages like Hebrew and Arabic
  • Mail Merge capabilities

Download at:  http://www.abisource.com/

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Protect Your Sensitive Data with TrueCrypt – Free Open-Source Encryption Program

truecrypt.jpgT r u e C r y p t is a free open-source disk encryption program for Windows and Linux, which creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk. 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.

TrueCrypt’s Main Features:

  • Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts the file as a real disk.
  • Encrypt an entire hard disk partition, or a portable storage device such as a USB flash drive.
  • Encryption is automatic, occurs in real-time, and is transparent.
  • Provides two levels of plausible deniability.
  • The volume is hidden.
  • No TrueCrypt volume can be identified; volumes cannot be distinguished from random data.
  • TrueCrypt uses encryption algorithms AES-256, Blowfish (448-bit key), CAST5, Serpent, Triple DES, and Twofish.

Download at:  Downloads.com

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Filed under Encryption, Freeware, Privacy, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools