I’ve maintained for years, that I treat my Windows machines as if they have already been compromised – a position that has left me open to some criticism. I’ll take the criticism – I’d rather be safe than sorry.
If you’re a regular reader of Tech Thoughts Daily Net News column then, you’re probably aware that the following items from last week (below the break), are not in the least unusual. In fact, notification of security breaches, or unpatched vulnerabilities that are weeks or months old, are now commonplace.
A legitimate question is – how likely were you to have been affected by any of the unpatched flaws – as noted below – or, the scores of similar long-standing vulnerabilities published in Tech Thoughts Daily Net News over the last few years?
I’ll grant you that “not very likely”, is a reasonable assumption. Still, the question remains – how do you know that you’re not already compromised by a yet to be disclosed vulnerability? Something to think about.
Eight-month WordPress flaw responsible for Yahoo mail breach: Bitdefender – A cross-site scripting flaw that saw some Yahoo email users lose control of their accounts has now been traced back to a WordPress installation that was not patched for at least eight months.
Serious security holes fixed in Opera – but Mac App Store users left at risk again – It should go without saying that if you use Opera, you should update to version 12.13 as soon as possible. But… what if you didn’t get your copy of Opera from the official website? What if, instead, you acquired your version of Opera for Mac from Apple’s Mac App Store?
Symantec denies blame after Chinese govt hacks The New York Times – After one of the world’s most famous newspapers points the finger at Symantec for failing to protect its network against a four-month long Chinese cyberattack, the security firm returns fire –
“Turning on only the signature-based anti-virus components of endpoint solutions alone are not enough in a world that is changing daily from attacks and threats. We encourage customers to be very aggressive in deploying solutions that offer a combined approach to security.”
I found Symantec’s response more than interesting. This is the first time that I can recall, that a major security vendor has gone on record and suggested that their product, as a stand alone solution, should not be expected to identify and contain each and every conceivable threat.
I couldn’t agree more and, I have made that point consistently, for years.
Initially, I had no intention of writing such a long introduction to a simple review – but, my continuing disappointment in the computer technology industry as a whole, whose overall response to an epidemic of criminal activity, runs along the same lines as that old time movie – Jaws – in which one of the plot lines revolves around keeping people in the water (despite the evident danger from a Great White shark) since to do otherwise, would be bad for business, got the better of me. Perhaps not the best analogy – but, it works for me.
I have a sign on the wall above my desk that reads – Bullshit in = Bullshit out. I can’t think of a more fitting epitaph for the current state of affairs in an industry rife with misinformation, misdirection, hype, and sheer outrageous bullshit.
I’m not a gloom and doom guy – but, market forces are such, that a little crystal ball gazing has convinced me that the status quo is as stable as the Rock of Gibraltar. In other words, if you want to be safe on the Internet, then accept the fact that you’re on your own.
It’s Banking Day at the Ranch and a Linux Live CD is in the Saddle!
While connected to the Internet, just like you, I face exposure to Trojans, spyware, viruses, phishing scams, identity theft, scam artists, schemers and cyber crooks lurking in the shadows, just waiting to make me a victim. Even so, the odds of me picking up a malware infection, or being scammed, are fairly low. Am I just lucky, or is it more than that?
To some extent I might be lucky – but, it takes much more than luck to stay safe on the Internet. For me – it really boils down to prevention. Preventing cybercriminals from getting a foothold by being vigilant and adhering scrupulously to fundamental security precautions, including –
A fully patched operating system.
A robust firewall.
Automatically updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
Increased Internet Browser protection through selected add-ons.
Encryption where necessary.
and, most importantly never forgetting to – Stop. Think. Click.
Despite all those security precautions though, there’s one connected activity that still concerns me – online banking. Regardless of the fact that I choose my Internet banking provider based partially on it’s low profile, I’m not entirely relying on this low profile as a guarantee that cybercriminals will not target my provider.
The inescapable fact remains; I am my own best protection while conducting financial transactions on the Internet. Frankly, I’m not convinced that financial institutions are where they need to be when it comes to protecting their online customers.
Despite my best efforts, it’s possible that malicious code may be installed on my computer – ready to pounce on my banking user account names, and passwords. Which is why, I have long made it a practice to conduct my financial affairs on the Internet via a self-booting Linux Live CD. Since a Linux Live CD is read-only media, the environment (running entirely in RAM), should be more secure than Windows.
I’m not suggestion that Linux systems are impervious to malware (I know better than to make that claim) – but, since the majority of malware is Windows specific, banking online through a Linux Live CD should offer a more secure environment.
If you can click a mouse – then, you’re good to go. It’s that easy. Today’s Linux distros are not your Granny’s Linux.
I’m not suggesting that you replace your Windows operating system and jump with both feet into Linux. That’s impractical. What is not impractical however is – running with Linux on those occasions when you do your Internet banking.
Recommended Linux Live CDs:
Puppy Linux – A complete operating system with suite of GUI apps, only about 70 – 140MB, and boots directly off the CD. I should point out that Puppy is my personal favorite.
Damn Small Linux – Damn Small Linux is a very versatile 50MB mini desktop oriented Linux distribution.
Fedora – Fedora is a fast, stable, and powerful operating system for everyday use built by a worldwide community of friends. It’s completely free to use, study, and share.
Ubuntu – Fast, secure and easy-to-use.
Lightweight Portable Security (LPS) – A Linux distro from the US Department of Defense. Lightweight Portable Security (LPS) creates a secure end node from trusted media on almost any Intel-based computer (PC or Mac). LPS boots a thin Linux operating system from a CD or USB flash stick without mounting a local hard drive.