Monthly Archives: August 2008

I am LOP – I am Adware – I WILL Control Your Computer

I might be adware, but I’m pretty polite; I won’t infect your computer unless you invite me in. But I can count on lots of you doing just that.

I’ll accept your invitation, to infect your system, if you download and install either of two rogue Peer to Peer (P2P) applications currently making the rounds on the Internet. BitRoll-5.0.0.0, and Torrent101-4.5.0, are two programs that are used to exchange P2P files that I like to piggyback on.

Just so you know though, I’m pretty lazy so you won’t be able to actually download any files using these bogus applications.

My masters (some might call them cyber-crooks – actually, everyone calls them cyber-crooks), are experts at using false/rogue applications to install malicious code like me.

I’m a pretty neat piece of adware (my masters are pretty smart fellows), since I’ve been designed to display ads from a range of advertisers through pop-up windows, banners ads and so on. Oh, and I’ll automatically switch your Internet Explorer home page to my own search engine. One I particularly like is http://www.mp3search.com. When searches are made with this engine, the results that you get will be advertising pages that I choose to display.

Just in case you decide that I’m no longer welcome on your computer (that happens to me all the time), I’ll connect every so often to a web page from which I’ll download new files containing variants of myself which will make it difficult to delete all of my active malicious files on your system.

I should tell you that I’m extremely hard to get rid of, and just in case you try to get rid of me, I’ll make over 200+ changes to your Registry Keys. And in case that’s not enough to dissuade you from trying to kick me out, you should know that I have the ability to invite lots of my other adware friends over to party on your system.

I love to monitor your system’s processes, and I can even play with your security applications making them ineffective. Once I’ve done that, I can unleash my keylogger to capture your key strokes and just for fun, I might even scan your email address book so that I can bug your friends.

In my spare time I’m going to look around your operating system for vulnerabilities, because I’m pretty certain, that like many people, you haven’t installed the latest updates nor have you updated your security applications, like you’re supposed to.

Hey man, I’m here for a long, long visit, so think carefully before you offer me that invitation.

Have a good day now.

Elsewhere on this Blog you can read an article on free anti-malware programs, including anti-virus software, and you can download those that may suit your needs.

6 Comments

Filed under Freeware, Interconnectivity, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Peer to Peer, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System File Protection, System Security, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools

Peer to Peer (P2P) File Sharing – Risks You Need to Know!

Every day, millions of computer users share files online. Whether it is music, games, or software, file-sharing can provide computer users with access to a wealth of information.

All that’s required to participate in Peer to Peer file sharing is the installation of the necessary file sharing software such as LimeWire, FrostWire, or Ares, that connects your computer to an informal network of other computers running file sharing software.

Millions of users could be connected to each other through this type of software at any one time. File sharing applications are often free, and easily accessible as a download on the Internet.

Sounds promising, right? Maybe; but make sure that you consider the trade-offs and the very real risks involved. The number of times I have been called upon to rescue a friend’s computer because of system damage caused by peer to peer downloading, has convinced me to give this form of file sharing, on public file-sharing networks, an automatic “thumbs down”.

Risk factors

Privacy: When you are connected to file-sharing programs, you may unintentionally allow others to copy confidential files you did not intend to share. So be sure to setup the file-sharing software very carefully. If you don’t check the proper settings when you install the software, you could allow access not just to the files you intend to share, but also to other information on your hard drive. Information such as your tax returns, email messages, medical records, photos, and other personal and financial documents.

It’s extremely important to be aware of the files that you place in, or download to, your shared folder. Don’t put information in your shared folder that you don’t want to share with others. Your shared folder is the folder that is shared automatically with others on peer to peer file sharing networks.

Copyright Issues: You may knowingly, or otherwise, download material that is protected by copyright laws and find yourself caught up in legal issues. Can this really happen? You bet.

Copyright infringement can result in significant monetary damages, fines, and even criminal penalties. Some statistics suggest as many as 70% of young people between the ages of 9 – 14, regularly download copyrighted digital music. I f you are a parent, you bear the ultimate responsibility for this illegal activity.

Adult Content: Again, if you are a parent you may not be aware that their children have downloaded file-sharing software on the family computer, and that they may have exchanged games, videos, music, pornography, or other material that may be unsuitable for them. It’s not unusual for other peoples’ files to be mislabeled, and you or your children, can unintentionally download these files.

Elsewhere in this Blog you can read an article on child safety on the Internet, and download a free parental control program that comes highly recommended.

Go to: Free Internet Child Protection – Parental Control Bar.

Spyware: There’s a good chance that the file-sharing program you’re using has installed other software known as spyware to your computer’s operating system. Spyware monitors a user’s browsing habits and then sends that data to third parties. Frequently the user gets ads based on the information that the spyware has collected and forwarded to these third parties. I can assure you that spyware can be difficult to detect and remove.

Before you use any file-sharing program, you should buy, or download free software, that can help prevent the downloading or installation of spyware, or help to detect it on your hard drive if it has been installed.

Elsewhere on this Blog you can read an article on free anti-malware programs, including anti-virus software, and you can download those that may suit your needs.

Go to: Free Windows Software You Can’t Afford Not to Have!

Viruses: Use and update your anti-virus software regularly. Files you download could be mislabeled, hiding a virus or other unwanted content. Use anti-virus software to protect your computer from viruses you might pick up from other users through the file-sharing program. Generally, your virus filter should prevent your computer from receiving possibly destructive files. While downloading, you should avoid files with extensions such as .exe, .scr, .lnk, .bat, .vbs, .dll, .bin, and .cmd.

Default Closing Behavior: It is critical that you close your connection after you have finished using the software. In some instances, closing the file-sharing program window does not actually close your connection to the network. That allows file-sharing to continue and will increase your security risk. Be sure to turn off this feature in the programs “preferences” setting. What’s more, some file-sharing programs automatically run every time you turn on your computer. As a preventive measure, you should adjust the file-sharing program’s controls to prevent the file-sharing program from automatically starting.

For more on the potential dangers involved in peer to peer file sharing, check out the FBI’s web site.

If you decide peer to peer file sharing is for you, the following free applications are spyware free when downloaded from reputable download sites such as Download.com, or Sourceforge.net.

LimeWire: Download at Download.com

Ares: Download at Sourceforge.net

FrostWire: Download at Download.com

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Filed under Free Security Programs, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Parenting Help, Peer to Peer, Privacy, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools

Domestic Violence – Hi-Tech Spousal Abuse

The U.S. Office on Violence against Women (OVW) defines domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse.

This article is gender neutral; clearly both men and women can be victims of domestic violence and abusive behavior.

Most of us would agree that new technology is, in most cases, unbiased. It is how we implement technology that establishes its value, and impacts any ethical questions that surrounds its use. It is clear that virtually all technologies, if used improperly, can be used to cause damage.

Over the past year I have reviewed several computer monitoring and keylogger products which I must admit, I had not considered could be misused as an aid in spousal abuse until it was brought to my attention. I suppose I shouldn’t have been quite as surprised as I was; after all many of these products are advertised as a method to detect a cheating spouse.

Curious about this, I Googled “cheating spouse” and I was surprised to see over 900,000 hits. More surprising was the number of hits on “keyloggers for cheating spouse”; over 95,000.

Probing further, I discovered that this type of technology is now pervasive in spousal abuse. According to Anna Stepanov, manager of the Anti-Spyware program at McAfee Avert Labs, “Using spyware for surveillance in cases of domestic abuse is a serious matter.”

Stepanov, who is also the author of a report entitled Spyware: A Morphing Campaign, which describes current spyware trends that includes domestic abuse states, “Monitoring a victim’s online, cell phone, or general computing activity is of more value than ever in controlling or hurting a victim.”

Cindy Southworth, technology director at the National Network to End Domestic Violence commenting on this issue has stated “With spyware, if the victim is thinking about leaving, all that is captured. If the victim looks for plane tickets, shelters, a new apartment, it all shows up in the computer logs.”

Since spyware is now an issue in domestic abuse the agency cautions those in an abusive relationship not to use their home computer for these kinds of tasks.

All of this has now been compounded by the news that the misuse of GPS technology by abusive individuals is now rampant. GPS can be used to track a victim by transmitting coordinates that result in the generation of a web page that maps the victim’s location.

The U.S. National Network to End Domestic Violence suggests the following to computer users, to reduce the impact of this type of abuse.

Internet Safety Tips for Abused Women

If you are in danger, please try to use a safer computer that someone abusive does not have direct or remote hacking access to.

If you think your activities are being monitored, they probably are. Abusive people are often controlling and want to know your every move. You don’t need to be a computer programmer or have special skills to monitor someone’s computer and Internet activities – anyone can do it and there are many ways to monitor with programs like Spyware, keystroke loggers and hacking tools.

It is not possible to delete or clear all the “footprints” of your computer or online activities. If you are being monitored, it may be dangerous to change your computer behaviors such as suddenly deleting your entire Internet history if that is not your regular habit.

If you think you may be monitored on your home computer, be careful how you use your computer since an abuser might become suspicious. You may want to keep using the monitored computer for normal activities, such as looking up the weather or recipes. Use a safer computer to research an escape plan, look for new jobs or apartments, bus tickets, or ask for help.

Email and Instant/Text Messaging (IM) are not safe or confidential ways to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. If possible, please call a hotline instead. If you use email or IM, please use a safer computer and an account your abuser does not know about.

Computers can store a lot of private information about what you look at via the Internet, the emails and instant messages you send, internet-based phone and IP-TTY calls you make, web-based purchases and banking, and many other activities. It might be safer to use a computer in a public library, at a community technology center (CTC), at a trusted friend’s house, or an Internet Café.

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Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Domestic Violence, Email, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Living Life, Online Safety, Personal Perspective, Safe Surfing, Spousal Abuse, Surveillance, Windows Tips and Tools

Ultimate Homework Help Web Sites for Students/Parents

If you’re a student, who do you turn to for help with your homework? Back in the day (my day – seems like the Dark Ages, looking back), I could always turn to my parents who always seemed ready to help and, better yet, almost always seemed to have the answers, or at least partial answers.

As a last resort – and for me, it always seemed like the last resort, there was the Library.

So have times changed? You bet. Recent statistics from the Canadian Council on Learning seem to indicate that two out of three parents today feel incapable of helping their children with homework, or after school assignments.

As a parent what do you do; who do you turn to?

As a student since it’s unlikely you can turn to a parent; what do you do?

According to a recent Pew Internet and American Life Project study, you both turn to the Internet. The study’s research revealed that the Internet has become an increasingly important feature of the learning environment for teenagers and is used as an essential study aid outside the classroom.

Students and parents report that the Internet is vital to completing school projects, and has effectively replaced the library for a large number of online students. As many as 71% of students surveyed report using the Internet as their primary source for researching, and completing major projects.

If you’re a student, or the parent of a student, bookmark the following web sites which will provide comprehensive and reliable educational information that can be used to research school projects, and homework assignments.

MSN Encarta

The free MSN Encarta site features more than 4,500 articles pooled from Microsoft Encarta and comes with dictionaries, maps, fast facts, interactive quizzes, handy homework tools, and more.

Refdesk

Since 1995, Refdesk.com, has served as a one-click springboard to many of the Web’s top dictionaries, encyclopedias, calculators, atlases, news headlines, and search engines. The site also includes a handy “homework helper” section that provides help in all subjects for students in every grade.

HowStuffWorks

Have you ever wanted to know why an earthquake occurs? How CD burners work? What the sun is made of? These questions and a large number of others related to computers/electronics, automobiles, science, entertainment, and people, are all answered at this award-winning Web site. Simply type a query into the search window or peruse the topics by category. Extras include free newsletters, surveys, and printable versions of all answers.

Novelguide.com

The Web’s answer to those black- and yellow-striped Cliff Notes is Novelguide.com, a reliable and free source for literary analysis of classic and contemporary books. The site offers character profiles, metaphor and theme analysis, and author biographies.

Math.com

This site provides help in mathematics-related subjects, including basic grade-school math, calculus, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and statistics. Practice exercises are automatically graded, and this free site also features a glossary, calculators, homework tips, math games, and lesson plans for teachers.

Wolfram Mathworld

With more than 12,600 entries this is one of the most extensive mathematics resources on the Internet.

Free Translation

Perfect for language studies, this handy Web site automatically converts text from one language to another. Just type and paste up to 1,800 words into the search window and then select the desired language. Alternatively, you can cut and paste a Web URL to convert the entire site.

No Fear Shakespeare

No Fear Shakespeare puts Shakespeare’s language side-by-side with a facing-page translation into modern English—the kind of English people actually speak today.

Science Made Simple

Science classes aren’t as easy for some to grasp as for others. At Science Made Simple, students of all ages can get detailed answers to many of science’s questions, read current news articles related to science, get ideas for school projects, and take advantage of unit conversion tables.

Added by my friend TechPaul of Aplus Computer Aid, Menlo Park, California.

If I may add? Wiley Publishing has made the collection of Cliff Notes available free online– and made the site an excellent test-prep resource.
http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/

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Filed under Homework Help Sites, Interconnectivity, Parenting Help, Student Help, Timesaving Tips, Windows Tips and Tools

The PC Doc Pro Horror Picture Show – WOT Demolishes the Lie!

What to do….what to do? You’ve gone ahead and completed a clean install of Windows Vista Ultimate; then installed PC Doc Pro to scan your new installation only to have it advise you that you have 572 problems! Worse, 31 of these problems, according to PC Doc Pro, are severe.

So was this result fantasy, or reality? Oh, it’s reality alright. It’s the reality of a rogue application that generates false positives.

Regular readers of this Blog are aware that I have focused recently on rogue security software. Rogue computer applications unfortunately come in all flavors; not just in the security field.

Simply put, rogue applications have been developed to mislead uninformed computer users’ into downloading and paying for the “full” version of bogus software, based on the false positives generated by the application.

Without question, PC Doc Pro is a rogue application extraordinaire. The product fixes 50 problems (false positives that it generates), for free, but to “fix” the rest of these false positives, you need to buy a 30-day license that costs $29.95.

Deborah Salmi, Marketing Executive at Web of Trust, a socially conscious company that takes its protective responsibilities to the greater Internet community very seriously, recently advised me that the company had encountered this exact situation, as described above, while testing the effectiveness of PC Doc Pro.

Curious, I did my own testing and investigation of this application, and essentially duplicated the results obtained by WOT. While I found the results disturbing, (I obviously don’t like to be lied to or have my money stolen), equally as disturbing was the realization that this crap program is available for download on Download.com, a site that I have never hesitated to recommend as a safe and ethical download site.

The developers and distributors of this bogus software are, using any definition, cyber-crooks. So the question is; how do these bas**rds get away with it?

One of the regular commentators on this Blog summed it up eloquently when he said, “The Internet has equalized the playing field internationally for the bad guys, but it has not equalized the playing field for law enforcement”. It would be difficult to disagree with this observation.

WOT as part of their corporate commitment to assist Internet users in safely surfing the jungle the Internet has now become, has just begun to develop a series of videos depicting what can happen to your computer if you visit a risky website, such as PcDocPro.com or download and install rogue software.

It’s important for your system security and frankly, your wallet, that you be aware of the dangers that applications like PC Doc Pro present, so be sure to check out the first of WOT’s videos at http://www.mywot.com/en/online-threats/fraudulentsite.

For a complete review of WOT’s Internet browser add-on, take a look at “Safer Surfing With WOT – Find Out How!” on this site.

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Filed under Firefox Add-ons, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Safety, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, Software, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

And Now for a Little Shameless Self Promotion

This Blog is routinely in the top 40,000 to 100,000 of all the web sites (out of approximately 320 Million), on the Internet, as per Alexa, the Amazon owned premier Internet web site rating service. As well, some 13,000+ other web sites link to this site to acquire article content for their own readers.

Thanks, to all of you who have helped make this site the success it has become.

What users’ say regarding articles on this Blog:

The best antivirus out there is your awareness, so this is an outstanding Blog.

Thanks, definitely going to use these.

I have to say — I really like a community like this — there’s not a lot of people that I know personally that understand (or are as excited about), the technical aspects of things as well as the people here. (On this Blog).

Bill — you are to be commended for having such an extensive site — not just in the breadth of subjects covered, but in the depth of the articles.

Wow. You’ve been a great help. Thanks for the post.

Good post, it’s very useful for me.

Oh, Thanks! A really amazing Blog.

Good article by an author who knows what he writes about.

Great article. It is written very distinctly. To the author, thank you.

Thank you, Bill Mullins.

A very interesting post. I really enjoyed reading it.

What an awesome Blog this is, thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Mullins for this wonderfully helpful article on such an important subject.

Thank you (again) Mr. Mullins, this tool had escaped my notice.

I appreciate these ideas.

Mr. Mullins, thank you for posting this excellent advisory.

Perfect! Right on! Yes!

This article SHOULD be read before anyone is allowed their Internet Surfer’s License.

I love the site.

Love your Blog, Bill.

You have a great Blog out there, very useful for newbies like me, thanks.

If you’re a regular reader of this Blog, thank you. If you’re not, and you’re just passing by, a thank you to you as well; think about Book Marking this site, since in the coming weeks, some exciting changes will be occurring, including extensive video coverage of new, free outstanding software offerings, and of course video coverage of all the latest malware threats that impact all of us as we roam the Internet.

For those of you who think you knew me in Utah, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, London, England; Dublin, Ireland; or 100 other places, thanks for inquiring but I’m a Canadian through and through.

Thanks for visiting.

Bill Mullins

2 Comments

Filed under Personal Perspective, Web Development

Free Process Quick Link 2 – Improve Windows Task Manager

Windows Task Manager is a bit of a tease. Sure it provides you with some usable information, but it falls far short of providing you with the information that you really need. It is most commonly used to display information on all processes running on your computer, as well as advising you of the CPU and memory usage stats for a giving process. Additional selective information on running applications, performance, local area connection, and on users is also available.

Most importantly, from within Task Manger you have the option of selectively killing processes. But how do you determine which processes are safe to kill based on the limited information Task Manager provides?

If you’re a skilled computer user, it’s probable you’re aware of every process running in the background, the application or service that is responsible for launching it, and the function it performs. Better yet, you probably have the know-how to selectively kill processes to optimize memory use and trim your machine for maximum performance.

But what if you’re a novice or casual computer user? Where can you get the information on running processes so that you can make an accurate assessment on whether to kill a process or not?

Fortunately, there are a number of free tools available that will help any computer user, novice or not, to determine which process/processes can be safely shut down.

One such free tool is ProcessQuickLink 2a small application (413 KB), from Uniblue Systems, the company which provides the indispensable process listing database ProcessLibrary.com, to the computing community free.

After downloading and installing ProcessQuickLink 2, the latest process information will be available to you directly through Windows Task Manager. Simply click on the Icon next to the process you are querying, which will now be visible in Task Manager’s process tab, and the ProcessLibrary.com website will be accessed where the essential information on the selected process can be viewed. The information provided is extensive enough to allow you to make an educated decision on the process.

If you’ve always wondered just what all those processes running in the background on your computer are up to, this cool little application will give you all the information you need.

Quick facts:

Instant one click access to process descriptions and advice through the Task Manager

Quickly and easily search 9000+ entries in processlibrary.com database

New process descriptions are added on a weekly basis

System Requirements:

Windows 2000 / 2003 / XP / Vista

Internet connection and an Internet browser

Download at: Uniblue Systems

4 Comments

Filed under Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Software, System Process Scanners, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools