Monthly Archives: November 2010

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 28, 2010

CNET: Security Starter Kit – Refined for 2010, the Security Starter Kit will ensure that your sanity lasts way longer than your resolutions through a collection of must-have programs to protect your Windows computer.

Make a bootable USB installer for Windows XP, Vista, 7 with WinToFlash – Making a bootable USB flash drive for Windows Vista and Windows 7 isn’t all that tricky, but it’s always nice to find an app that simplifies things. Not only does WinToFlash make the process about as easy as it can get, but it can also create Windows XP, Server 2003, and Server 2008 installers.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Best Web Sites for Holiday Bargains – Looking for some help and inspiration with that holiday shopping? Get ready for Cyber Monday and the ensuing madness with a plan of action. Check out these web sites to help guide your way through.

IE9 beta patches bring stability, feedback fixes – The latest beta of Microsoft’s upcoming Internet Explorer 9 browser has two new fixes out that the company says will improve stability, as well as squash a feedback bug some users had been experiencing.

Ubuntu Will Begin Updating Daily – Increased frequency could help the Linux distribution stay on top of software complexity, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth reportedly said.

Top Smartphone Apps to Keep Road Warriors on the Go – Travel delays, snowed-in airports, TSA scans and pat-downs, equipment problems, and more. Unless you have your own private plane, the jet-set life is not a glamorous one anymore. It’s full of inconveniences and time killers. Get the edge on knowing about delays, planning trips, being productive and staying entertained. Don’t leave home without them.

Cloud security is dependent on the law – I am a true believer in the disruptive value of cloud computing, especially the long term drive towards so-called “public cloud” services. As I’ve noted frequently of late, the economics are just too compelling, and the issues around security and the law will eventually be addressed. However, lately there has been some interesting claims of the superiority of public clouds over privately managed forms of IT, including private cloud environments.

How to Completely Erase a Hard Drive – Sometimes simply deleting files isn’t good enough. In this how-to video segment, PC World explains a number of simple techniques for permanently and securely removing sensitive data from old drives before recycling or disposing of them.

Desktop PC Buying Guide: The Specs Explained – We help you identify the key specifications and components you need to consider when shopping for a desktop PC.

Company News:

Android App of the Week: Ulysse Gizmos – If you’re one of the millions who does enjoy spending time away from electricity, chairs, showers and beds, though, then this week’s Android App of the Week is essential. It’s called Ulysse Gizmos, and it’s a neat tool that collects together almost every bit of information that a frequent traveller might need, thanks to the wealth of sensors that are included in the average Android handset. (submitted by Dar)

Star Walk for iPad (interactive astronomy guide) – The near-flawless culmination of hardware and software is probably the biggest contributing factor of the success of iOS devices. The touchscreen, wifi, GPS, camera, accelerometer, Bluetooth and now gyroscope can all be integrated into applications either by 3rd party developers or Apple themselves. Star Walk for iPad proves this all over again. Designed for consumer and professional alike, this virtual planetarium utilizes the accelerometer to create an interesting semi-augmented reality feel. (submitted by Michael F.)

Logitech Z305 – The Logitech Z305 is an unobtrusive solution if you’re sick of the tinny, enclosed sound from your laptop speakers but don’t have room for a five-piece PC speaker set. We recommend this plug-and-play external audio device for its simplicity of operation, low cost, and convenience for use on the run.

Opera Upgrades Mobile Browser for Symbian – JavaScript performance is improved ninefold, and the new version also includes geolocation.

Off Topic (Sort of):

New from WikiLeaks – An upcoming new WikiLeaks release could reach 2.8 million classified documents, the organization says.

‘God is better than football’ – As Harvie’s Alzheimer’s disease worsens, his nursing home is visited by a church group, entertaining him with the song ‘God is better than football, God is better than beer’. Harvie sees in his imagination the residents of the home animated into a choreographic sequence, inspired by Busby Berkeley’s 1930s Hollywood musicals. (submitted by Dar)

Should you wait to buy a tablet? – Is now a good time to buy a tablet computer, or is it worthwhile to wait? CNET Senior Editor Donald Bell surveys the current state of tablets and offers his best guess for the future.

Pirate Bay appeal falls on deaf ears – A Swedish appeals court upholds the copyright convictions of three of the four founders of The Pirate Bay–perhaps the world’s most notorious file-sharing Web site.

Today’s Quote:

To be positive: To be mistaken at the top of one’s voice.”

Abrose Bierce

Today’s Free Downloads:

AVG LinkScanner Free Edition – The most dangerous page on the web may be the one you are about to click on. AVG LinkScanner provides an advanced layer of security against fast-moving, invisible web threats, and hacked web sites. It verifies the safety of web pages you visit, and of links returned from web searches (Google, Yahoo! and MSN), so you know how safe/unsafe a page is at the time you attempt to click on it.

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2 – ZoneAlarm Firewall Free 9.2 has gotten quieter and more effective, and should be considered an excellent tool for replacing the adequate default Windows firewall with a stronger option that includes better outbound protection, antiphishing guards, and ZoneAlarm’s behavioral detection network.

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Sandbox Firefox With Secure Browser Version 5.1

imageI first reported on Secure Browser, a virtualized version of Firefox back in July of this year, and since then there have been a number of upgrades to the application, including 64 bit compatibility.

This is not 1985 when the only thing you had to worry about was what might be on the floppy disks you exchanged with your friends. Today, your Browser is the conduit into your computer – that’s the route by which the majority of malware spreads.

So, controlling malware intrusion, while surfing the Net, through the use of a ‘”virtual” environment rather than operating in a “real” environment, continues to make sense given the level of cyber criminal activity on the Internet.

In the last few months we’ve looked primarily at operating system virtualization – Shadow Defender, Returnil Virtual System, Wondershare Time Freeze, and a number of other similar applications. But, there are alternatives to OS virtualization – specific application virtualization running in a sandbox.

KACE Networks, Secure Browser (last updated Oct 20, 2010), is a virtualized version of Firefox which according to KACE –

Changes or malicious files inadvertently downloaded from the Internet are contained within the secure browser, keeping the underlying OS and computer secure from hostile changes.

Any changes resulting from browser activity may be quickly and easily reset to effectively “undo” such changes and return it to its initially installed state.

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Graphic courtesy of Kace.

Fast facts:

Provides a virtualized and contained Firefox v3.6 Browser with Adobe Reader and Flash plug-ins.

Rapidly reset any changes made during normal use back to their initial state, enabling easy recovery from infections or attacks.

View statistics related to the number of processes detected and blocked.

Set white and black lists to limit access to known good sites, or prevent access to known bad sites to further limit the risk of attack and infection.

Contrary to my usual practice, I have not tested this application. Instead, I’m reporting on it’s availability only. I tend to stick with Ubuntu when surfing the Internet.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP (32-bit and 64-bit systems).

Download at: KACE

Note: Registration required.

Alternative solutions:

Sandbox your current Browser in Sandboxie.

Run the Chrome Browser which includes a form of sandboxing.

Run Comodo Dragon a variation on Chrome with additional privacy controls.

Run Ubuntu while surfing the Web.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Browsers, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Protection, Online Safety, Software, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 27, 2010

The Best Antivirus Software for 2011 – We’ve reviewed 20 of the best (and worst) premium and free antivirus applications so that you can pick the right one for your needs–because, make no mistake: you need AV.

Mac Malware Attacks Prompt Security Vendors to Rush Out Antivirus Tools – Security vendors are saying that attacks on the Mac are now significant enough that Apple users should invest in antivirus software for what was once the “invulnerable” platform. With Koobface variant Boonana fresh in people’s minds, the concept of a virus attacking Macs seems less laughable than it did even two years ago.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Convicted Botnet Author Describes Next Targets – In an interview with CDN, Calce said while everyone is focused on the cloud, his biggest concern is that we’re not even secure with our current infrastructure, and here we are putting our data alone in one bubble.It’s a great concept, but he said security seems to be an afterthought. “It’s hard to patch-up holes when so many bullets have already been fired. I know I’ll never get businesses to agree but we need to slow down technology, and stop reinventing without fixing the predecessor first,” said Calce. “We’re always taking on security as an afterthought. We should redesign the protocols behind the Internet to make it less exploitable.

U.S. seizes sites linked to copyright infringement – Department of Homeland Security launches major crackdown on online copyright infringement, seizing dozens of Web site domains linked to illegal file sharing and counterfeit goods.

Facebook posts cause bank worker to lose layoff payoff? – Bank worker crows on Facebook after hearing her workplace will be liquidated. She thinks she’ll be transferred or paid off. When bosses hear of posts, they fire her instead.

Network security facing dual challenge – Network security systems are under pressure. You might not be experiencing it yet, but you will soon. The dual challenge of dealing with more attacks at higher speeds threatens to undermine the stability of the most important commercial platforms of the 21st century; namely the Internet. What can be done to address these challenges and avert the economic impact of an Internet collapse?

Weaving a Dangerous Web – Another year passes and even more security issues crop up on the Web. In an unsurprising report from Websense Security Labs recently, it seems that the number of malicious websites has multiplied more than two-fold from 2009 and data stealing attacks on the Web are on the rise as well. The most significant findings? The fact that many of the Web’s ‘nice neighborhoods’ are going rogue as well.

Company News:

Introducing the world’s first HDTV powered by Google TV – The world’s first and only HDTV powered by Google TV gives you easy access to more entertainment than ever. Search the entire web, TV listings and apps1 to find exactly what you’re looking for. Watch TV, browse the internet2, or do both at the same time on the same screen.

The Attachmate, Novell Deal – Attachmate Corp. as agreed to buy Novell for $2.2 billion in a deal that includes Novell selling some assets to a consortium led by Microsoft.

Motorola Droid Pro Ready to Invade the Enterprise – Launched to Verizon Wireless stores Nov. 18, Motorola Droid Pro is one of the carrier’s latest stocking stuffers for the holiday season, joining the summer’s Motorola Droid X and Motorola Droid 2 as an Android 2.2-based smartphone with a 1 GHz processor with the complete Google Mobile apps experience. But this Droid isn’t like the others. Droid Pro is markedly different from those media-friendly devices because it’s enterprise-friendly, or tries to be.

Google Cloud Connect: Threat to Microsoft Office? – Google has released Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, which allows users to save their Office documents in Google Docs. Offered as a Web-based alternative, the free software plug-in represents yet another Google foray into cloud productivity. The question is, how much of a threat does it pose to Microsoft, which is also trying to expand its cloud offerings for Office workers?

Off Topic (Sort of):

Thomas Edison’s Oddest Inventions – Thomas Edison is an inventor known for great things. We also know he had a pretty good sense of humor. Some of these er, lesser known contributions from Mr. Edison were ahead of their time; others are just plain twisted.

Such a well behaved herd of sheep you are! TSA thanks you for allowing them to violate your rights and to assault you. If ever there was an indicator of just how apathetic and well trained the American public truly is, it must be this situation with TSA. Like a herd of bedraggled sheep, thousands of you forfeited your 4th and 5th amendment rights and allowed the government to irradiate you and view your virtually naked body, or allowed yourself to be subjected to an enhanced pat-down…nothing short of a sexual encounter. (submitted by Dar)

5 Classic Google Maps Mis-Directions – Whether you’re getting to the one store with the only Turbo-charged Buzz Lightyear or trying to wend you way back to Grandma’s house for the holidays, you may rely on Google Maps. Many people do–and sometimes with comical results. These are some of our favorite and funniest.

Christopher Hitchens 1-0 Tony Blair – Staunch atheist wins over audience in debate with Catholic convert over whether religion is a force for good in the world.

Today’s Quote:

It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”

Abraham Lincoln

Today’s Free Downloads:

Windows 7 Firewall Control – The software protects Windows 7 and Vista applications from undesirable network incoming and outgoing activity and controls applications Internet access.

FixCleaner Slim – FixCleaner is a computer utility designed to remove errors and boost the performance of home PCs. The advanced system cleaner in FixCleaner combines the vital tools you need to regain lost PC performance, remove data clutter, and boost startup speed.

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CCleaner Updated (Again) – Now In Version 3.01

imagePiriform, the people who bring us not only CCleaner, but Defraggler, Speccy, and Recuva, released Version 3.0 of CCleaner on October 28, 2010, and have already updated this version with the release of Version 3.01 (November 25, 2010).

CCleaner users know, that running this venerable utility can help optimize a system by emptying the Recycle Bin, Temporary Setup Files, Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Old Chkdsk Files, Temporary Files, Temporary Offline Files, Offline Files, and more.

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There are a number of improvements in the latest version worth taking note of, including –

Improved application startup time and INI loading speeds.

Removed need to reboot for Index.dat cleaning.

Improved cookie cleaning in Firefox 4.0 Beta 7.

Improved Chromium based browser detection and cleaning.

Added support for Adobe Reader 10 and Acronis True Image.

Improved cleaning for 7-Zip, Adobe Reader 9.0, Microsoft Silverlight Isolated Storage, WinPatrol and Microsoft Management Console.

Added support for local domains in “Cookies to Keep” list.

Improved debugging with log file support using /DEBUG command-line parameter.

Improved detection algorithm for 64-bit and Program Files.

Improved folder drag and drop in Include options.

Fixed bug in Uninstall Tool during cancellation.

Improved drive detection in Drive Wiper screen.

Added support to refresh cleaning rules using F5.

Improved translations.

Minor GUI improvements.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista Win 7 (64 bit compatible).

Download at: FileHippo

CCleaner is also available in a portable version designed for installation on USB thumb drives (including U3 compatible thumb drives).

Download the portable versions here.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Tune Up Utilities, downloads, Freeware, Portable Applications, Secure File Deletion, Software, System Utilities, Tracks Eraser, USB, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 26, 2010

Lifehacker: 50 Free Apps We’re Most Thankful For – Earlier this week we asked you to share the free apps you’re most thankful for, and you came through with thousands of votes for apps covering the desktop, mobile phone, and devices in between. With a little spreadsheet magic and a few choices of our own, we bring you the top 50 free apps we’re all most thankful for.

Free Image Editors for Everyone–Even Experts – You could spend hundreds of dollars on image-editing software. But before you part with your hard-earned money, consider one of these free photo-editing programs. No matter what your level of expertise, one of these eight photo editors will fit your needs and personality–as well as your budget.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Facebook Privacy Toolkit – Sure, you like to share. But maybe not with everyone. And let’s face it, if you post something on the Internet, and that includes Facebook, there’s no guarantee it’ll stay private—other people can pass on what you said (just bask in the glory of Lamebook for proof). But you can still try to maximize your privacy on the leading social network by following these tips.

How to Fix Your Relatives’ Terrible Computer – Drop your bags, fix a drink, and grab the Windows CD—it’s time for the holiday ritual of fixing up your relatives’ computer. Here are some tips and downloads to keep handy while you’re cursing all the auto-starting crapware.

The Kid-Friendly Social Network – If you’re looking for a kid-centered social network that has all the features of a Swiss Army Knife but none of the sharp edges, make Yoursphere your choice.

Try To Be Thankful For Your Security – Security isn’t the happiest topic in the tech business. It’s not like PCs and phones that get more powerful and cheaper all the time or displays that get bigger and more brilliant. It’s mostly a steady stream of bad news or, at best, mitigations of bad situations. But there’s still plenty to be thankful for.

Puncturing the Great Firewall of China – Nimble hackers have stayed one step ahead China’s lumbering internet censorship apparatus. But how much can they really accomplish?

Drive-By Downloads Still Running Wild – The attack landscape has shifted in a lot of important ways in the last few years, but none of the changes has been as significant as the focus on the browser as the target of choice for attackers of all stripes. Browser-based exploits are the top attack vector, and not just for low-level script kiddies killing time. A number of sophisticated attack crews have been using drive-by downloads and other browser attacks as an initial way to compromise a target machine before jumping to other applications or PCs.

Company News:

Intel Touts Possibility of 1,000-Core Processors – An Intel Researcher said this week that the company’s 48-core Single Chip Cloud Computer could easily scale to 1,000 cores or more

Acer and Android Tablet News Fatigue – Lately, the more I hear about Android tablet plans, the less excited I get. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still quite interested in Android tablets in general. But when Acer announced that it’s launching 7- and 10-inch tablets next spring, it might as well have been Asus, LG or Motorola. In my mind, they’re all the same.

SlingPlayer Mobile Hits the iPad: Hands On – Sling Media on Wednesday released SlingPlayer Mobile for iPad, an app that lets Slingbox owners watch and control content on the Apple tablet.

Facebook Allowed to Trademark the Word ‘Face’ – Businesses thinking of including “face” in their name might want to reconsider. Facebook this week was granted a notice of allowance to trademark the word “face.”

Verizon FiOS Speeds Up to 150 Mbps – Touting the fastest mass-market offering in the U.S., Verizon FiOS has launched a broadband product with speeds of 150 Mbps downstream and 35 Mbps upstream.

Off Topic (Sort of):

25 Years of Microsoftian Weirdness – Contrary to popular belief, Windows is far from boring. Dig below the surface, and you’ll discover a stranger side to the world’s most popular operating system. It’s filled with twisted homages, forgotten platforms, and dead ends. In a word, it’s full of oddities.

Pensioner crimewave marks rise of the ‘Saga lout’ – It is being dubbed the “grey crimewave” or the rise of the “Saga lout”: new statistics reveal that ever higher numbers of pensioners are being arrested and ending up in Britain’s jails. (submitted by Dar)

Cracked: 6 Online IQ Tests Created by Complete Morons – For the past year, lunatics have been buying up ad space around the Internet to tell us how stupid we are. Their banners are as ubiquitous as they are crazy– optical illusions, broken English riddles, and fake email notifications that all lead to the same site– OfficialIQquiz.com.

Cracked: 6 Deadly Injuries You Think You’d Survive (Thanks to Movies) – Look, we know movies aren’t real. Hollywood likes to exaggerate reality, probably because reality is so goddamned boring. So the cop can jump off a two-story rooftop, land on his feet and continue the chase. Hey, it can happen! Sure, and it has. The problem is, Hollywood does to body trauma what porn does to pizza delivery: takes it to totally unrealistic — albeit visually satisfying — extremes. And we wind up with a completely stupid idea of what the real experience is like.

Today’s Quote:

You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Sam Levenson

Today’s Free Downloads:

3D Desktop – The 3D Desktop themepack contains a whopping 63 wallpapers that range from colorful abstract images to glorious natural landscapes. If you don’t find something in this themepack that pleases you, then you probably don’t enjoy digital art in any form.

Windows Starter Kit – Getting someone a new PC for the holidays this year? Treat them to an even bigger surprise by loading it up with the best browsers, chat apps, utilities, and more.

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Is DownloadHelper The Perfect Free Video Download App?

imageI’ve almost given up watching Television. As Newton N. Minow observed in 1961, Television “is a vast wasteland”. Minow went on to say “True, you’ll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it”.

I often wonder what his observations on the current state of broadcast TV might be. If TV was a “vast wasteland” in 1961……

In any event, I just can’t bring myself to watch the dreck that passes for entertainment. Instead, I’ve gone to watching what I want to watch, when I want to watch, by either streaming video content, or downloading selected content for later viewing.

While searching for an application to facilitate downloading video content, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of available applications. Google “free video downloader”, and you’ll find over 41 Million references. I think you’ll agree, that’s a mind numbing number.

After testing more than a few free video downloaders, I settled some months back on a Firefox extension, DownloadHelper. With over 77 Million downloads to date, it’s hardly an exaggeration to call this add-on – popular. Not only will this tool download and convert videos, but it can download audio and picture galleries as well.

Once installed, you will find a new application icon has been added to the menu bar – notice the small white arrow pointing to the new icon in this screen capture. Clicking on any graphic will expand it to the original size.

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The preference menu provides a fairly complete set of tweaking capabilities.

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The application will recognize that a webpage has imbedded media (you will noticed the icon revolving), and simply clicking on the icon will allow you to download any media on that page.

The following screen capture illustrates that there are two .flv videos available for download on this National Geographic page.

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In the search for the “perfect” video downloader, I’ve tested literally dozens of applications, and not one can hold a candle to DownloadHelper. Despite some minor issues, this application deserves a 10 out of 10.

DownloadHelper has additional functionality that I have not covered in this short review. If you’re into downloading online video, I highly recommend that you take a close look at this application.

Note: When you first install the extension, your browser is redirected to a welcome page with links to a user manual at http://www.downloadhelper.net/manual.php and a FAQ at http://www.downloadhelper.net/faq.php

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP,  Firefox (all).

Download at: Mozilla

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Connected Devices, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Software, Video Tools, Windows Tips and Tools

Panda Security’s Collective Intelligence Says 20 Million New Strains Of Malware In 2010

imageIt may well be, that malware creators have discovered the same principal that countries involved in the the nuclear arms race have come to know – once you have enough weapons; you have enough.

According to Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs – “so far in 2010, purely new malware has increased by only 50 percent, significantly less than the historical norm. It seems hackers are applying economies of scale, reusing old malicious code, or prioritizing the distribution of existing threats over the creation of new ones.”

Complacency though, is not in the cards , at least not yet, since Corrons went on to say –  “This doesn’t mean that there are fewer threats or that the cyber-crime market is shrinking. On the contrary, it continues to expand, and by the end of 2010 we will have logged more new threats in Collective Intelligence than in 2009.”

The evolution of malware – 2010:

The average number of new threats created daily has risen from 55,000 in 2009 to 63,000 in 2010 to date.

The average lifespan of 54% malware has been reduced to just 24 hours, compared to a lifespan of several months that was more common in previous years.

34% of all active malware threats were created this year.

20 million strains of malware have been created already this year; the same total for the year of 2009.

Many malware variants are created to infect just a few systems before they disappear. As antivirus solutions become able to detect new malware more quickly, hackers modify them or create new ones so as to evade detection.

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Graphic courtesy of PandaLabs.

So, should these statistics hold any relevancy for you? Should you be preoccupied, or overly concerned, with these numbers? The answer, it seems to me, depends on how aware you are of the overall Internet security landscape, and where you fit into the following user groups.

  • Those who know.
  • Those who think they know.
  • Those who don’t know, that they don’t know.

Hopefully, you are in that small group who can confidently say – “I know”.

About PandaLabs:

Since 1990, PandaLabs, the malware research division of Panda Security, has led the industry in detecting, classifying and protecting consumers and businesses against new cyber threats.

At the core of the operation is Collective Intelligence, a proprietary system that provides real-time protection by harnessing Panda’s community of users to automatically detect, analyze, classify and disinfect more than 63,000 new malware samples daily.

The automated classification is complemented by a highly specialized global team of threat analysts, each focused on a specific type of malware, such as viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware and other exploits, to ensure around-the-clock protection.

Learn more about PandaLabs and subscribe to the PandaLabs blog here. Follow Panda on Twitter and Facebook.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Reports, Online Safety, Panda Security, PandaLabs, Windows Tips and Tools