Monthly Archives: January 2011

Valentine’s Day = Cyber Crooks And Malware Love

Love in Your Inbox – Malware on Your Computer

imageIt’s only a few weeks until Valentine’s day, so it’s not to early to get ready for the deluge of  “I love you”, “Wish you were mine”, and of course the proverbial “Happy Valentine’s Day” emails.

Hopefully, you will have a Happy Valentine’s Day, but you won’t if you fall victim to the burst of spam that is aimed at lovers, at this time of year, every year. Much of it designed to drop malware on unsuspecting users machines.

Like clockwork, spammers and cyber crooks ramp up the volume of spam emails aimed at unsuspecting users, just prior to this day, culturally set aside as a “celebration of love”.

In previous years, starting just about this time, we saw abnormally high rates of this type of spam, and since cyber crooks are “opportunity driven”, we can expect much more of this type of cybercriminal activity this year.

Maybe you’re a very cool person who’s significant other is always sending you neat little packages in your email. Things like MP3 files, screensavers, cartoons, YouTube videos and the like. You get them so often, that you just automatically click on the email attachment without even thinking. If you are this type of person, here’s a word of advice – start thinking.

The hook, as it always is in this type of socially engineered email scam, is based on exploiting our emotions. The fact is, we are all pretty curious creatures and let’s face it, who doesn’t like surprises. I think it’s safe to say, we all find it difficult, if not irresistible, to peek at love notes received via email.

The unfortunate truth is, these spam emails often contain links that deliver advertisements, or worse redirect the victim to an unsafe site where malware can be installed on the victim’s computer.

Last year at this time, a friend, who is an astute and aware computer user, fell for one of these carefully crafted teasing emails. On opening the email, he was taken to a site which had pictures of hearts and puppies, and was then asked to choose which one was for him.


Fortunately, common sense prevailed and he backed out of this site. If he had clicked on this site, he would have begun the process of infecting his machine with a Trojan, which can connect to remote command and control sites.

Unfortunately, being smart is often NOT enough to protect yourself. Experienced users are on guard year round for these, and other types of scam/spam email.

You know what to do, right?

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 site designed to download malware onto your computer.

Cyber crooks have moved on from using just emails as a malware delivery vehicle. So, be on the lookout for fraudulent Valentine’s Day greetings in:

Instant Messenger applications.



Chat forums, etc.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, email scams, FaceBook, Instant Messenger Safety Tips, Internet Security Alerts, Online Safety, spam, Twitter, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 31, 2011

Two Easy Mouse-Click Shortcuts You Need to Learn – Regular Hassle-Free PC readers know of my fondness for keyboard shortcuts. But let’s not overlook the mouse, which is just as capable of saving you precious seconds while you work.

The state of the internet: Summing up 2010 – A graphical representation of the Internet in 2010. Take a look at how email, social media, websites and blogs changed over the last year. (submitted by Michael F.)

Netflix Rates Broadband Providers by Bandwidth – Have you wondered how your Internet Service Provider stacks up against the competition when it comes to delivering streaming video to your home?

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Microsoft Windows MHTML XSS vulnerability – A vulnerability has been reported in Microsoft Windows, which can be exploited by malicious people to conduct cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, according to Secunia.

New Firefox Feature Blocks Behavioral Ads – The feature will allow users to configure their Firefox browser to tell websites and advertisers that they would like to opt-out of any advertising based on their behavior, Alex Fowler [cq] wrote in his blog post. The user’s preference is communicated to websites and third party ad servers using a new “Do Not Track HTTP header”, which is sent with every click or page view in Firefox.

EFF exposes extensive FBI violations – Of the nearly 800 violations reported to the IOB, over one-third involved FBI violation of rules governing internal oversight of intelligence investigations: nearly one-third involved FBI abuse, misuse, or careless use of the Bureau’s National Security Letter authority; and almost one-fifth involved an FBI violation of the Constitution, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or other laws governing criminal investigations or intelligence gathering activities.

Get Internet Access When Your Government Shuts It Down – Does your government have an Internet kill-switch? Read our guide to Guerrilla Networking and be prepared for when the lines get cut.

Company News:


WikiLeaks’ ISP to Anonymize All Traffic to Circumvent Data Retention Law – In advance of the Swedish government implementing a law that would require all telecommunication providers to store customer data, WikiLeaks’ ISP Bahnhof said it will anonymize all customer traffic by default.

Samsung May Be Apple’s First Real Mobile Competitor: Analysts – While Apple revolutionized the mobile industry, Samsung chugged away in the background. Now it’s poised to become Apple’s first real competitor.

Off Topic (Sort of):


Vegas Casinos Face New Threat: Database Hackers – Crooks going after casinos’ valuable player rewards databases, experts worry casinos ill-equipped to secure them

5 Scientific Reasons The Dark Side Will Always Win – The Rebels got lucky. Han, Luke, Leia, that Nib-Nub guy who flew with Lando, all of them should have been death-starred hard in the face by the Empire — and not just because of the Empire’s superior numbers and technology. Darth Vader and his underlings planned every last subtle detail, right down to the color of the spaceships and Vader’s own robot voice, according to what science says works.

5 Terrifying Online Trends (Invented By the News Media) – It’s easy to forget that there is a whole world of middle-aged and elderly people out there who have at best a basic understanding of what the Internet even is. If you’re selling news, you’ll find out pretty fast that there is much more profit in keeping people scared of whatever they’re already scared of. It works very well, whether it’s communists or gang members or heavy metal devil-worship music.

Today’s Quote:


The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.”

Frank Lloyd Wright

Today’s Free Downloads:


Windows Live Writer – Windows Live Writer 11 fills a product niche I didn’t know existed: Offline blog post production tool. The program is in essence a light word processor and design app you can use to write the contents of blog posts and make them pretty. Live Writer 11 comes bundled in the free Windows Live Essentials suite (though you can install Live Writer 11 by itself, skipping the seven other bundled apps and browser toolbar, if you want).

DVDStyler – DVDStyler accepts any unprotected video file format under the sun. Simply drag and drop or browse for your AVI, MP4, WMV (or whatever) unprotected videos, and put them where you want on the DVD. I liked how straightforward DVDStyler is to use. Set each video file as its own Title (like an episode on a TV on DVD disc), or set each one up as a Chapter within a single Title (like how a movie on DVD is divided into chapters).

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Download Free LiberKey Version 5 – Now With Up To 306 Portable Applications

image Previously, I’ve reviewed a number of applications which will allow you to selectively install a compilation of freeware applications, including – Ninite, and ZeuAPP. There are slight difference between these two applications, but the overall objective of each application is the same; to save the user time.

LiberKey (which I’ve also reviewed previously – version 4.1), is a compilation of freeware, and open source  portable applications, which is offered in three flavors that can be installed on, and run from, a USB drive. Additionally, the application can just as easily be installed, and run, from a Hard Drive. In fact, for this updated test and review, that’s exactly what I choose to do.

Available applications cover a huge area of interest including Audio, Video, Graphics, Internet, Games, Security, Education, System, and more.

LiberKey Basic 5: 12 Applications, Installed size: 141.58 MB

LiberKey Standard 5: 89 Applications, Installed size: 535.54 MB

LiberKey Ultimate 5: 164 Applications, Installed size: 701.47 MB

As an bonus, more applications can be added at a later date using LiberKey’s catalogue. Additionally, you have an option of building your own LiberKey platform.

There have been major changes since I first reviewed LiberKey. This time out, on launching the application, you will find that you are presented with a blank  LiberKey menu applet.


You will then have the opportunity to select the most appropriate suite for your needs. Checkout the developer’s site to view a listing of included applications.


I choose the Ultimate edition adding (164 applications), which took approximately 40 minutes to download and install (in a single seamless process), to my Hard Drive. Lots of time – but lots of applications!



Following installation, you’ll notice that the Menu has been populated.


Fast facts:


Ready to use.

Portable applications.

Automatic online updates.

You can synchronize the display of the online catalog with your LiberKey.

This can help you to locate applications that could interest you.

The portable application launcher is user friendly, and no learning curve is involved, as the following screen capture indicates. In this example, simply clicking on HD Tune, launched HD Tune – Hard Disk Utility.


With so many applications to choose from, finding the right tool for the job could be a bit of a hassle. But the developers have anticipated this, and provided a pop out description of each application – making it easy to put your finger on just the right tool.


System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Win 7

Download at:

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Open Source, Portable Applications, Software, System Utilities, Utilities

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 30, 2011

CNET: Security Starter Kit – Windows Security Starter Kit collects all the essential security programs you need to have to stay safe while you surf, including antivirus programs, malware removers, encryption apps, and add-ons for safe browsing.

CNET – Utilities Starter Kit – Windows Utilities Starter Kit is where you’ll find a great collection of freeware tools to keep your hard drive defragged and to clean up your Registry. There’s also archive utilities, notepad replacements, task managers, and other essential extras.

Egyptians Find New Routes to the Web – Residents turn to landline telephones, fax machines, and even ham radio to keep information flowing in and out of the country.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to Buy the Best PC – When buying a desktop computer you still need to make some choices when it comes to CPUs, memory, hard drive capacity, and graphics technology. The good news is your money will go a long way.

What makes cybercrime laws so difficult to enforce – Deb Shinder discusses both the difficulty of enforcing cybercrime laws and of tracking down cybercriminals in the first place.

Small Business Network Management Review: Spiceworks 5 – The last time we looked at Spiceworks, we were impressed by the small business network management tool’s capabilities, especially given its cost—a big, fat nothing — provided you’re willing to deal with a few ads. Our earlier impressions haven’t changed much with the latest offering, Spiceworks 5.0, which improves on its predecessor by delivering a slicker interface, quicker performance and an expanded repertoire of features.

Why Takedowns Don’t Reduce Online Crime – The last year has seen a string of takedowns of botnet command-and-control servers, malware drop zones, spam operations and other pieces of the crimeware infrastructure, each of which made a dent in one way or another. But the question of whether the takedowns have had any lasting effect on the overall level of crime and fraud online is a more complicated one.

Former WikiLeaks Staffers Launch ‘OpenLeaks’ Competitor Site – OpenLeaks, a whistle-blowing site founded by several former WikiLeaks staffers, has formally launched. Like WikiLeaks, the site will accept leaked documents, but unlike its controversial counterpart, OpenLeaks said it will not publish the information, only make it available to interested media organizations, NGOs, labor unions, and human rights groups.

Company News:


Hulu considers turning itself into an online cable operator – While Netflix is thriving as it turns itself into more and more into a paid online streaming service, Hulu is struggling internally to figure out what direction it will take, according to the Wall Street Journal. One idea being given serious consideration: turn Hulu into a “virtual cable operator.”

Apple Outranks Dell in Units Sold – Strong consumer sales of Apple’s iPad boosted Apple’s position in the global market to third in terms of number of machines sold, edging out Dell which fell to fourth place and Lenovo which fell to fifth, according to research firm Canalys.

Google Preparing To Launch Online Coupon Service – Google Offers will work very similarly to Groupon and LivingSocial, with business members identifying items or services to be discounted and Google preparing the ad and offering it to consumers at the website. If enough buy in, the deal goes through.

Back to Apple’s Garage – If you want to get your feet wet in music studio production, or just to start learning to play an instrument, it would be hard to find a better place to start than with Apple’s GarageBand ’11.

Off Topic (Sort of):


The Fun Theory – This site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better. (submitted by Michael F.)

Thomas Edison’s (Mostly Correct) Predictions of 2011 Tech – Thomas Edison wasn’t just the inventor of the light bulb and countless other important modern-day technologies, he was also a visionary. Witness his remarkable predictions for the year 2011, made way back in 1911. Wow, that guy was smart.

Common Drugs Deplete Nutrients – The growing fusion of natural medicines with nutrition and allopathic medicine has spawned a new area of specialization called drug/nutrient depletion. Current estimates are that 62 to 68 percent of North Americans take “alternative” medicines and therapies (including herbs, botanicals, vitamins, minerals and homeopathy). (submitted by Dar)

Working from Home: Technology to Keep You Productive – School has been canceled, the roads are dangerously slippery and you still have to prepare for that big meeting. What do you do when you are snowed in but still need to be productive? Thanks to a host of new web-based and other technologies, it’s easier than ever to collaborate and communicate with your team at work, regardless of where each member is at the moment.

Today’s Quote:


I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.”

Dave Barry

Today’s Free Downloads:


DVDFab Passkey Lite – DVDFab Passkey is a Windows-based driver that works on-the-fly to unprotect encrypted movie DVDs and Blu-ray discs. For DVD, it removes all DVD copy protections. For Blu-ray, it removes all known AACS and BD+ copy protections, Region Code, BD-Live and UOPs.

TweakPrefetch – TweakPrefetch is an easy to use application that is designed to manage you system’s fetching. It allows the user to set separate parameters for Prefetch and Superfetch.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

1 Comment

Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 29, 2011

Free Microsoft programs worth checking out – If you know where to look, you can find a variety of useful software – free from Microsoft.

Shrink a hard drive volume in Windows 7 – Use the Disk Management Tool in Windows 7 to shrink a hard disk volume so you can add a new partition.

How Egypt Turned Off the Internet – Yesterday something unprecedented happened: Egypt turned off the internet. A nation of 80,000,000 instantly disconnected. So how’d they do it?

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Who’s watching you? Online fears revealed – Despite lingering concerns about the U.S. economic recovery, Americans worry more about having their online privacy violated (25%) than declaring bankruptcy (23%) or losing their job (22%). Research by Opera Software in the United States, Japan and Russia examines what people worry about online.

Screenshots: New features from LibreOffice 3.3 – The Document Foundations debuts its first full, stable (and free) release of the next generation of OpenOffice – LibreOffice 3.3.

SourceForge Site Compromised By Attackers – The recent rash of attacks against free and open source software projects continued this week with an attack that targeted SourceForge, the popular repository for open source projects. The attack compromised a number of separate systems, including the site’s CVS system.

Worrying increase in surveillance across Europe – A landmark EU-wide study of national privacy safeguards shows a decline in privacy protection across Europe and a steep increase in state surveillance over the lives of individuals. The study includes a rating for EU member states and accession candidate countries. This rating pits Britain and Ireland fighting over the bottom of the privacy league.

Spammers take advantage of the Facebook API bug? – It seems that high-profile accounts and Facebook pages might not be the only ones messed with by individuals taking advantage of the bug found in Facebook’s API.

Company News:


RSA Offers Authentication Manager Express – EMC’s security division has designed this risk-based on-demand authentication system to provide secure access to VPNs and online portals. The technology is aimed at the SMB market and is available through RSA’s channel partners and distributors.

Has Larry Page doomed Google? – Silicon Valley’s most successful 1-trick pony, Internet advertising firm Google, has a new CEO. If his track record is any guide, Larry Page has just doomed Google to a slow and painful death.

IE9 Release Candidate to be unveiled February 10 – Microsoft just sent out invitations to an event in San Francisco on February 10. According to the e-mail, the Internet Explorer team will “share some important news.”

Off Topic (Sort of):


How to wrestle with a home network and win – I sometimes wonder how the average consumer avoids going crazy when confronted with modern home networks. Things can get especially ugly when you add consumer-grade networking hardware and buggy firmware into the mix.

Take off those earbuds and pay attention – or face a fine? – By now, you’ve surely heard about the video of the woman who walked right into a shopping mall fountain because she was texting instead of paying attention to her surroundings.

A look inside the original Macintosh (photos) – Twenty-seven years ago this week, Apple unveiled its 128K wonder that changed personal computing.

Today’s Quote:


When ideas fail, words come in very handy.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Today’s Free Downloads:


Weather – Weather is an extension for Google Chrome. The Weather extension will automatically geolocate you, and display the closest city weather forecast. A browser icon indicates the daily forecast and temperature.

FlashCookiesView – Flash cookies, aka “super cookies,” can be used to track your browsing just like normal browser cookies. But Flash cookies will stick around even if you delete your regular browser cookies, and they can’t normally be viewed. The FlashCookiesView tool shines a light on these out-of-the-way files. The super cookies, known technically as local shared objects or LSOs, do have legit uses, such as saving your preferences for watching Flash videos on a particular site.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 28, 2011

Antivirus 2011: Digital Defenders – So which paid antivirus program should you pick? That’s where we come in. PCWorld teamed up with AV-Test (, a respected security-software testing lab based in Germany. Together, we looked at 13 paid antivirus products from a number of leading security companies. We provide links here to full reviews of all 13, plus summaries of the reviews’ key points.

Make the Windows Key a good habit in Windows 7 – In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, Greg Shultz tells you about his favorite Windows Key shortcuts and shows you how to make them habit forming.

Multiple vulnerabilities in Symantec products – Multiple vulnerabilities have been reported in Symantec products, which can be exploited by malicious people to cause a Denial of Service and compromise a vulnerable system, according to Secunia.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Lifehacker: Why Should I Care About HTTPS on Facebook (or Other Web Sites)? – HTTPS is a significantly more secure version of HTTP, which is the protocol you generally use to load up your webpages (whether you’re aware of it or not). HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, so HTTPS stands for the same thing but with Secure on the end of it. This is because, as Wikipedia will tell you , HTTPS is “a combination of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol with the SSL/TLS protocol to provide encrypted communication and secure identification of a network web server.”

Facebook adds secure browsing and social authentication – The “social CAPTCHA” method of authentication that Facebook developed to prevent the Tunisian government to access the accounts of the people whose login credentials they have stolen will become a standard fixture, confirmed Facebook’s Alex Rice.

A FREE Guide to MSConfig in Windows XP / Vista and 7 – This useful troubleshooting tool for windows is available for all to use, yet many do not know it even exists. In this quick guide I explore the various option available. (submitted by Dar)

Company News:


Netflix Hits 20M Subscribers – Netflix has surpassed the 20 million subscriber mark, up from 16.9 million in October, the company announced Wednesday.

External Storage Drive Review: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex – If you believe that you should go big or go home, then GoFlex is the external storage drive for you. We put the monster drive to the test.

First Look: Google Cloud Print Online Printing Utility – Unlike Apple’s AirPrint which works over Wi-Fi networks and requires special printer drivers, the only catch with Cloud Print is that you have to install Google’s Chrome browser on the computers with printers you want to use.It works over the Net.

AMD Rolls Out a New Catalyst – AMD has just released its Catalyst 11.1 video drivers for both Windows and Linux platforms, as well as the Catalyst 11.1 hotfix driver.

LinkedIn files for IPO – The business networking company has been widely rumored to want to go public; in its SEC filing it discloses that it’s only mildly profitable but growing fast.

Off Topic (Sort of):


The Fast, Fun Guide to Three Microsoft Kinect Hacks – We round up the three simplest ways to show off what Microsoft’s 3D motion-sensing camera can really do–from creating depth-sensing video to making your own motion-controlled games.

5 men busted in relation to Anonymous DDoS attacks – Five men believed to have taken part in recent Anonymous’ DDoS attacks have been arrested this morning during a series of raids coordinated by the Metropolitan Police Service’s Police Central e-Crime Unit.

Virtual Meeting Manners: Seven Sins of Video Conferencing – Video conferencing, web meetings and other telepresence technology is transforming the way companies do business. But just like in-person meetings, there are cultural mores that should be followed. Here’s a list of the top pet peeves among IT decision makers and SMB leadership about participant behavior during video conferences.

Today’s Quote:


Dig where the gold is…unless you just need some exercise.”

John M. Capozzi

Today’s Free Downloads:


Eraser – Eraser is a secure data removal tool for Windows. It completely removes sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns.

Soluto – Frustrated by how long it takes for Windows to fully load after you’ve logged in? So is just about every other Windows user on the planet. Now you can do something about it. The free Soluto, currently in free beta, does a very nice job of helping you cut that time–in ways that no other program does.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

1 Comment

Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Spam Falls To ONLY 33.5 BILLION Spam Emails Daily – January 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report

imageIf you haven’t gotten an email lately for a “performance” enhancer like Cialis, or Viagra here’s why –

According to Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence Report for January, 2011, pharmaceutical spam recently dropped to 59.1% of all spam – down from it’s all time high of 85% of all spam, back in May 2010. Still, that’s small comfort when you consider that spam currently accounts for 75.7 percent of all email traffic. What a waste of the Internet’s finite resources.

The report points out that “the decline is the result of both a halt in the spam-sending activities of three botnets – Rustock, Lethic and Xarvester – and also unrest among pharmaceutical spam-sending gangs following the closure of pharmaceutical spam affiliate, Spamit”.

This respite however, is likely to be short lived. MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst, Paul Wood pointed out ‘”there are likely other factors at work, such as consolidation and restructuring of pharmaceutical spam operations ……….  we expect to see more pharmaceutical spam in 2011 as new pharmaceutical spam brands emerge and botnets compete for their business.”

A snapshot of the threat landscape over the last month:

Spam: In January 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was 78.6 percent (1 in 1.3 emails), a decrease of 3.1 percentage points since December.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 364.8 emails (0.274 percent) in January, a decrease of .03 percentage points since December. In January, 65.1 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, a decrease of 2.5 percentage points since December.

Endpoint Threats: Threats against endpoint devices such as laptops, PCs and servers may penetrate an organization in a number of ways, including drive-by attacks from compromised websites, Trojan horses and worms that spread by copying themselves to removable drives. Analysis of the most frequently blocked malware for the last month revealed that the Sality.AE virus was the most prevalent. Sality.AE spreads by infecting executable files and attempts to download potentially malicious files from the Internet.

Phishing: In January, phishing activity was 1 in 409.7 emails (0.244 percent), an increase of 0.004 percentage points since December.

Web security: Analysis of web security activity shows that 44.1 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in January, an increase of 7.9 percentage points since December. Additionally, 21.8 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in January, a decrease of 3.1 percentage points since last month. MessageLabs Intelligence also identified an average of 2,751 new websites per day harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs such as spyware and adware, a decrease of 21.5 percent since December.

Reading this type of report (or at least the highlights), is certainly educational, and can be a major step in expanding that sense of threat awareness that active Internet users’ require.

The full MLI Report is available here in PDF.

Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world. Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

1 Comment

Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Email, email scams, Internet Security Alerts, MessageLabs, Reports, spam, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools

A Recipe for Success: Six Ingredients for Maximizing Windows XP Mode Performance

Guest writer Tibor Schiemann, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of software developer TuneUp, (the TuneUp Utilities 2011 folks), walks you through Windows 7 XP Mode – what you’ll need, and how to maximize performance while running Windows XP virtualized.

imagePart of Windows 7, Windows XP Mode (also known as “Virtual Windows”) is designed to make the transition from Windows XP as smooth as possible. It runs a full copy of the former Microsoft operating system in the background, so that Windows 7 users can install and run applications that are not compatible with Microsoft’s latest operating system. However, there are some performance issues users can run into when using Windows XP Mode.

Prepping for Virtual Windows on Your PC

To run older applications under Windows XP Mode, you’ll first need Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate; it doesn’t matter if it’s the 32-bit or 64-bit architecture.

Then, in terms of hardware, I recommend using at least a Core 2 Duo 2 GHz processor and having 2 GB (or more) of main memory and 20 GB of free hard disk space for Windows XP Mode. Simulating Windows XP takes up a lot of resources because you are basically running two operating systems at the same time—your Windows 7 and the virtualized XP.

One bit of advice though—it is best to go with a processor that has a hardware virtualization feature, which allows Windows XP Mode to run nearly as fast as the true operating system. Without hardware virtualization, you will likely notice slower performance when working with older programs. To find out if your PC already supports this feature, download the Microsoft Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool.

Before getting started, you’ll need a few additional downloads. These include one for Windows XP Mode itself and another for the software for simulating Windows XP inside your Windows 7 system. For users without hardware virtualization on their PCs, an update is also required.

Fine-Tuning Windows XP Mode’s Performance

In its default setting, Windows XP Mode is not tuned for optimum performance, and not all of the important features are necessarily enabled. There are many resource-draining elements because these are needed for the “real” operating system but not for the virtualized one. Here are the six most essential steps for maximizing Windows XP Mode’s performance and functionality.

  1. Share an Internet connection. Running your older Windows XP application might require a working Internet connection. To see if Windows XP Mode is connected, launch Internet Explorer. If the browser’s default website does not appear, click on “Tools” in the Windows XP Mode window and then “Settings”. Go to “Networking” and select your network adapter rather than the default setting. Hit “OK”, wait and try it again.
  1. Use Windows Update to install the latest software settings. Once your virtual computer is connected to the Internet, download the latest updates by clicking on “Start” and going to “All Programs/Windows Update.” Install all of the pre-requisite updates, and once you’re finished, select all of the “High Priority” updates using the “Custom” view. Then, go to the optional software category and install the updates that are necessary for Windows XP Mode machine.
  1. Disable sounds. To do this, go to “Start” and then “Control Panel”, and click on “Sounds, Speech and Audio Devices”. Hit “Change the sound scheme”, select “No sounds”, and then click on “No” and on “OK”.
  1. Use Turbo Mode. This TuneUp Utilities feature is perfectly suited to a virtual environment. With one click, it disables many Windows XP Mode features that aren’t necessary and only consume memory as well as processor resources, such as automatic defragmentation, maintenance tasks and synchronization features. This stuff is important for actual Windows XP PCs but not for running older programs.
  1. Install your old programs. Insert the CD or DVD with your Windows XP program, go to “My Computer” and install it like normal. If it’s a program you downloaded, you’ll need to access the hard disk drive on your “real” computer. To do this, go to “My Computer” and look at the “Other” category. These physical drives are easily accessible for sharing files between your “real” PC and “Virtual Windows”. (Note: In some cases, running a setup installer from one of these shared drives might end up in an error message. If you encounter this, copy the file from your Windows 7 PC to the Windows XP Mode desktop and run it from there.)
  1. Run your old programs. Finished installing all of the legacy applications? Log off from Windows XP Mode and hit the “X” to close the virtual machine. All of the programs you installed will be available in your Windows 7 start menu. Moving forward, as soon as you launch one of these Windows XP Mode applications, “Virtual Windows” will run in the background—but the actual program feature will, in fact, appear as a regular program window under Windows 7.

With these Windows XP Mode tweaks, you’ll be able to squeeze as much performance and functionality as possible out of your virtualized machine.

For more background information on Windows XP Mode, a step-by-step guide on setting it up and common “Virtual Windows” FAQs, visit the TuneUp Blog about Windows.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under 64 Bit Software, Geek Software and Tools, Operating Systems, TuneUp Utilities, Virtualization, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows XP

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 27, 2011

Do-Not-Track in Chrome and Firefox: Different Approaches, Same Fatal Flaw – Google and Mozilla want to give you more browser privacy controls, but they’re not fixing the real problem.

Slideshow: Take ownership of files and folders in Windows – By default, the creator of a file of folder in Microsoft Windows 7 is the owner of that file or folder. As owner, that user can allow or deny access to non-administrator users. However, there are times when an administrator, or a user with administrator privileges and/or Take Ownership permission, will want to take ownership of a file or folder.

Is Facebook ‘Sponsored Stories’ turning its users into spammers? – Facebook has made it clear with “Sponsored Stories” that no content must go unadvertised.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Fake antivirus ads appear on ICQ – A Kaspersky researcher has discovered a fake antivirus warning linked to ads on ICQ, the instant-messaging program that is popular in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Windows 7 and SSDs: Setup secrets and tune-up tweaks – Solid-state drives are wicked fast. SSDs start and shut down fast, and they perform read operations (especially random reads) at speeds that blow the doors off conventional hard drives. In the first installment of this series, I gathered the numbers to show just how much faster you can expect an SSD to perform in the real world.

First LibreOffice Release arrives – LibreOffice 3.3, the first version of the OpenOffice fork, is now available for your office work pleasure.

Are you in danger of Phone call hacking? – OK, so you’re not a member of the Royal family, but are your mobile phone calls still in danger of being intercepted? Yes, yes you are.

Top Crimeware Hosting Provider Taken Offline – VolgaHost, a hosting provider notorious in the security community for hosting botnet command-and-control servers and other services related to online crime has been taken offline, and a number of servers involved in the Zeus crimeware operation are offline, as a result.

Company News:


Sony PSP ‘Next Generation Portable’ Looks Stunning, Plays PS3 Games – Sony’s PlayStation Portable 2 exists, and no, it’s not called a PSP2. Well not yet, anyway. Sony’s codenamed it NGP, as in “Next Generation Portable.” Generic, sure, but pretty darned accurate, considering the crazy feature bonanza the company somehow crammed into this thing.

Google Buys SayNow to Boost Google Voice – Google confirmed Jan. 25 that it has acquired SayNow, a signal that the company wants to bring social applications into its Google Voice phone management platform.

Intel Developing Zero-Day-Proof Security System – Justin Rattner told Computerworld on Tuesday that scientists at Intel are working on security technology that will stop all zero-day attacks. And, while he would give few details about it, he said he hopes the new technology will be ready to be released this year.

Off Topic (Sort of):


Hardware, Software Advances Help Protect Operating Systems from Attack – The idea of detecting attacks and re-setting a system to a safe state is a well-known technique for restoring a system’s normal functions after a failure, but this is the first time researchers have developed a system that also incorporates the security fault isolation component. This critical component prevents the OS from succumbing to the same attack repeatedly. (submitted by Michael F.)

More troops lost to suicide – For the second year in a row, the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reasons are complicated and the accounting uncertain — for instance, should returning soldiers who take their own lives after being mustered out be included? But the suicide rate is a further indication of the stress that military personnel live under after nearly a decade of war. (submitted by Dar)

ISPs Are the New Secret Police, Says Report – A new report released Wednesday says that more and more European Union member states are delegating online policing to Internet service providers.

Govt May Soon Force Banks to Impose New Online Authentication Steps – The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) could soon release new guidelines for banks to use when authenticating users to online banking transactions. The new guidelines will clarify the FFIEC’s existing guidelines on the subject and more explicitly inform banks about what they need to do to bolster online authentication

Today’s Quote:


The only people who can change the world are people who want to. And not everybody does.”

Hugh Macleod

Today’s Free Downloads:


Microsoft Security Essentials 2.0 – Whenever we roundup security software products, I get email asking why we omitted Microsoft Security Essential. Well, stop emailing me. We have tested Microsoft’s free security package and find it to be a pretty decent option, definitely better than nothing. Even so, there are other free products that offer a little more protection for the same free price.

FilerFrog – Working with files in Windows can be a cumbersome proposition, and we’ve seen a variety of different programs that aim to simplify this process. But we can’t say we’ve ever seen anything quite like FilerFrog (32-bit). This utility adds an incredibly helpful set of functions to the Windows context menu, making it easier than ever to organize and maintain your files.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

1 Comment

Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Use Free Anonymous Phone Number For Online Safety


Privacy is a major issue for most people who use the Internet; particularly those who use web based listing service such as eBay, Craigslist, and online dating services. Not surprisingly, to interact with these services, participants need to provide a contact phone number.

Not all participants feel comfortable in providing their home, business, or cell phone numbers to unknown parties that can conceivably place them at risk. So how can you address this challenge, if you fit into this category?

Luckily there are a number of free services that offer solutions to this problem. The new kid on the block is – currently in Beta. provides a connection service, by way of a URL, which you can post – instead of your actual phone number.

Those with access to this unique URL can call you – with acting as an intermediary which effectively protects your real phone number, as well as the phone number of the caller.

In testing, the process went smoothly and the step by step instructions were clear and very easy to follow.

First, I entered my phone number. The number in the following graphic is a “dummy” number. I did, in fact, enter my real number. After which, I pushed the “Create Link” button.


Verifying my number (as per the instructions), prompted a call from the service …….


It was a simple matter to enter the required verification code from my handset.


Finally, I’ve got my link.


Clicking on the link you have provided the recipient (which I did), will open the following self explanatory screen.


In testing, the call completed flawlessly.

Babble 2

Fast facts:

Easy – Get a free disposable link for your phone number. Post it to Facebook, Twitter, forums, dating sites, anywhere you want!

Private – When the link is clicked, will connect your call. Your number always remains private. Don’t want to talk now? Reject the call!

Customizable – Keep the link as long as you want. Done with the link? Revoke it. Log in, or call 415-325-2003 for our automated system.

If you’re looking for a free, safe solution, as an alternative to posting your phone number anywhere on the Internet, should appeal to you.

Note: Calls are limited to 10 minutes, and to U.S. and Canadian numbers during the beta.

Connect with, here.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Beta Software, Cloud Computing, Connected Devices, FaceBook, Free Anonymous Phone Numbers, Interconnectivity, Internet Dating Safety Tips, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Privacy, Windows Tips and Tools