Category Archives: Anti-Malware Tools

ExploitShield Browser Edition – FREE

Cybercriminals design malware to exploit vulnerable systems without user interaction being required – on the one hand, and craft attacks that take advantage of unaware computer users, in which user interaction is required – on the other hand.

The second part, of this two part attack approach, can only be defeated if the computer user is aware of current Internet threats. So, knowledge and experience, are critical ingredients in the never ending, and escalating battle, against cybercriminals.

In order to defeat attacks which rely on exploiting vulnerable systems, the preferred method to do so, is the implementation of a layered security approach. Employing layered security should (I emphasize should), ensure the swift detection of malware, before any damage occurs on the targeted system.

Let’s talk real world:

Given existing technology, no single security application is capable of providing adequate computer system protection. Gaps exist in protection capabilities in even the most sophisticated security applications.

Layering (or stacking) security applications, offers the best chance of remaining infection free, by closing these gaps. Keep in mind however, that even the best layered protection strategy will not make up for the lack of experience, and intuitiveness, of many computer users.

So, stopping the bad guys from gaining a foothold has to be a primary objective of that layered defense strategy that I mentioned earlier. And, part of that strategy includes raising barriers at the doorway to the system – the Internet browser.

ExploitShield (brought to my attention some time ago by good friend Michael Fisher), a free Internet browser security application which is currently in Beta, seems well suited to helping raise those barriers.

From the site:

ExploitShield protects users where traditional security measures fail. It consists of an innovative patent-pending application shielding technology that prevents malicious exploits from compromising computers through software vulnerabilities.

ExploitShield Browser Edition is free for home users and non-profit organizations. It includes all protections needed to prevent drive-by download targeted attacks originating from commercial exploit kits and other web-based exploits.

These type of attacks are used as common infection vectors for financial malware, ransomware, rogue antivirus and other types of nastiest not commonly detected by traditional blacklisting antivirus and security products.

Where’s the proof?

Since I’m just now getting back into application testing, following six months or so of 60+ hours a week assignments, I’ve relied (in this case) on the expert opinion of others (including Neil J. Rubenking), as to the effectiveness of ExploitShield. My apologies for that.

Installation is a breeze and, on application launch, a simple and uncomplicated interface is presented.

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Clicking on the “Shields” tab will provide you with a list of applications protected by ExploitShield – as shown below.

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Once loaded, ExploitShield will run as a background process (shown in the screen capture below – necessary since it provides active protection for the applications shown in the screenshot above.

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As a reminder that ExploitShield is up and running, a new Icon – the “Z”, as shown in the following screen shot ,will appear in the system tray.

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System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. ExploitShield runs as both 32 bit and native bit.

From the developer: This beta 0.8.1 expires March 31, 2013. Check back to download a new version once expired.

Download at: ZeroVulnerabilityLabs

It may be a new year – but, the state of Internet security is as it ever was – pathetic. The Internet is a world that is full of cybercriminals, scam and fraud artists, and worse. A world that reeks of tainted search engine results, malware infected legitimate websites, drive-by downloads and bogus security software.

Please be guided by the following: Stop – Think – Click. The bad guys really are out to get you.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Browsers, Don't Get Hacked, downloads

Android Malware – Take the Security of Your Device Seriously

Guest writer Megan Berry has some timely advice on how you can avoid avoid malware on Android smartphones and tablets.

imageRule #1 of Android security: don’t download apps from websites other than Google Play for fear that you unwittingly infect your smartphone or tablet with malware. Well, not surprisingly, cybercriminals found a way to invalidate rule #1.

A security researcher at Symantec recently discovered two apps infected with malware in the app store that were quickly removed. But not before tens of thousands of users downloaded them.

This scenario is particularly troubling for companies with BYOD programs that permit Android devices to connect to their network. How do companies protect corporate assets without taking away employees’ ability to use their favorite mobile devices on the job? Especially since it seems that cybercriminals are always one step ahead of security experts.

Whether you use an Android device at home, on the job, or both, the growing threat of Android malware means it is more important than ever to take the security of your device seriously.

How to avoid malware on Android smartphones and tablets

Nothing you can do will guarantee you will never be infected with malware, but there are things you can do to minimize the risk.

· Before downloading an app, do a quick web search to check up on the developer and the app itself. Look for red flags in the search results, such as negative user reviews or complaints, that indicate you need to dig deeper before tapping that “Accept & download” button. Hint: You can visit the developer’s webpage from the app listing.

· Some malicious apps try to hide behind a legitimate brand name. Make sure the name of the developer jives with the title of the app.

· Read the app’s user reviews. Red flags will show up here, too.

· Examine the permissions of the app: are they in line with the app’s intended use? For example, does a news app really need to access your contacts or send text messages?

· IT managers should insist that employees install an Android anti-virus app. Or, better yet, insist that users turn their devices over to IT before they’re allowed to connect to the network for the first time. This way IT can install anti-virus software it has evaluated, configure it properly and enforce its use.

Android anti-virus apps: worth it or not?

The effectiveness of Android anti-virus apps is debatable, though. In a recent study, only a handful of Android anti-virus apps were found to detect most types of threats. The March 2012 study by AV-Test.org rated 23 out of 41 apps effective, or 56%. Of those 23, only 10 detected greater than 90% of known malware types.

Still, the authors of the study say any of the anti-virus apps that were found to detect greater than 65% of known malware types provide adequate protection.

Unpatched system software: Your device’s Achilles’ heel

Even though you’re careful about what apps you install and you run an anti-virus program, your device may still be vulnerable because of unpatched system software.

According to security vendor Duo Security, the speed at which wireless carriers supply updates to their users varies. Therefore, it’s possible for devices to go unprotected for long periods of time. The fragmentation of the Android platform complicates the task of rolling out updates, not to mention the fact that companies have little incentive to fix existing flaws when new devices with the latest system software are already on the shelves.

This is of particular concern for companies that allow their employees to connect their personal Android devices to the company network. It should also be of concern to employees, who may be liable if their device infects their employer’s network – many corporate bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies place the responsibility for keeping devices malware-free squarely on the shoulders of the user.

Duo Security’s new app, X-ray, scans Android devices to discover unpatched flaws in system software. If the app finds a problem, the user can go to Settings>About Phone>System Updates to download the latest version. If an official update isn’t available via System Updates, Duo Security encourages users to contact their carrier for more information, or at the very least, exercise extreme caution when downloading apps.

Individual users can download and install the app from the X-Ray for Android website. Organizations can get an enterprise-level version by emailing the company.

Lesson learned

The lesson here is that unfortunately, it’s no longer safe to assume that just because an app is available from a reputable source, it’s malware-free. And, educating yourself and your users, combined with tried-and-true anti-virus software, is still the best protection against the quickly evolving threat that Android malware presents.

About the Author: Senior writer for IT Manager Daily, Megan covers the latest technology news and trends impacting business.

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Filed under Android, Anti-Malware Tools, Guest Writers, Malware Protection

A Must Have Security Application – Secunia PSI 3.0 Final Release

imageI’ve long made it a practice to treat my Windows machines as if they have already been compromised. No, that’s not paranoia – that’s 30+ years of practical hands on computing experience.

If there’s one thing that experience has taught me it’s this – I don’t know what I don’t know. More particularly – I don’t know if any/some/all of the applications (including the operating system), I run on these machines have critical security vulnerabilities that I’m unaware of. And, yet to be discovered critical security vulnerabilities have been, and continue to be, a constant.

A recent example:

The Flame virus went undetected for two years by every online security firm.

Just today:

Chrome 20 fixes 20 security vulnerabilities

Winamp 5.63 fixes four critical security vulnerabilities

Old advice (beating a dead horse advice) –

“Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched, and up to date. Taking this simply step, reduces the likelihood that malware will become an issue a user will have to deal with – significantly. Cybercriminals use vulnerabilities in applications as entry points and gateways to compromise computers which can give access to confidential data such as passwords, online profiles, and bank details. Attacks exploiting vulnerable programs and plug-ins are often not blocked by traditional anti-virus applications.”

Sounds like good, practical advice – and it is. But as those of us involved in computer security know; this is advice that is not always followed. Some hold the view (including me), that it is rarely followed.

One particular application that I have reviewed and recommended a number of times – that assists users in keeping a system fully patched is – Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) – which constantly monitors a system for insecure software installations.

Secunia is justifiably proud of the fact that there are currently 5 Million users running this free protection application – but, from a personal perspective, I’m shocked at this low number. It should be 500 Million users! What is wrong with people that they fail to understand the advantages of ensuring that their system/applications are patched and up to date?

There’s less reason now, than ever, to disregard the critical advice offered above. Today, Secunia launched version 3 of its free Personal Software Inspector (PSI), with a host of new features.

PSI 3 with its dramatically simplified user interface and intuitive preferences, takes the burden out of updating and patching – and, most importantly, helps users safeguard their computer, and data, against cybercriminals.

The new version makes patching software more comprehensive, automatic, and easier than ever. How simple is that?

How simple is it? The following screen captures illustrate.

On program launch a simple click on “Please run a scan” gets things moving.

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A full scan takes no more than a few minutes.

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In this test, PSI picked up one application that needed updating. You might think that VLC (VideoLAN), would be relatively safe from being manipulated by cyber criminals. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.

In July of last year VLC, when downloaded from other than the developer’s website, came bundled with malware. A reminder as to why it’s so important to download from the developer’s site, or a recognized download service.

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PSI automatically, and in the background, downloaded (from the official site) and installed the most recent version of VLC – raising the machine’s score from 98% to 100%.

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Fast facts:

Simple User Interface – Dramatically simplified user interface displays the key information that users need to know: scan results, the security status of installed software, and when these programs are up-to-date.

Automatic Patching – With the Secunia PSI 3.0, users receive automatic updates for all software supported by the application. Previously Secunia only provided automatic updates for vendors that made automatic updates available.

Localization – The Secunia PSI 3.0 can be installed in any one of five languages including French, Spanish, German, Danish and English.

Program Ignore Rules – Users have the ability to ignore updates to a particular program by creating ignore rules. This can, for example, be relevant if a user has an application that depends on an older version of another program or plug-in. Users may reverse this selection at any time. Users also have the ability to view the file location and version number of an installed program.

History – Reports about the updates installed and scans conducted can be accessed at any time through the history feature.

Share – A new share link allows users to post a link on Facebook or Twitter feeds, making it easy for friends to try out the Secunia PSI 3.0.

Settings – The settings menu allows users to select whether or not to install updates automatically, and which drives are to be scanned.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista SP 1 or later, XP – SP 3 (32 bit and 64 bit).

Available languages:

DanishEnglishFrenchGermanSpanish

Download at: Secunia

Secunia PSI 3.0, by installing the latest security updates that a vendor of an application has released, offers a real solution which helps users avoid becoming a victim of a hacker exploiting vulnerabilities in installed software. Installing this free application should be a no-brainer.

For all the critical “yeah, but” experts who troll the Internet – it’s undoubtedly true that no security application is perfect. However, used properly, PSI 3 adds another layer of effective security.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Secunia, System Utilities

Free Sucuri SiteCheck – Find Out If Your Site Has Been Hacked

imageI recently posted a piece – Webmasters Struggle With Hacked Sites – A Commtouch, StopBadware Report – which read in part: “Recent statistics indicate (surprise, surprise) – cybercriminals are increasing their targeting of websites for identity theft, virus distribution, and spamming.

And, according to a newly released survey (Compromised Websites: An Owner’s Perspective), from Commtouch and StopBadware – in which webmasters were queried on their fight against hacking – almost half of the survey participants (who had been hacked), had no idea until they received a warning from their own computer’s protection technology.”

Since I use WordPress as my blogging platform, I rely on the security apparatus WordPress has in place to protect me from the various cyber criminal attack schemes currently in play. Still, I would be more than a little naive if I didn’t  consider the possibility that WordPress’ site security is vulnerable to hacking.

If a security developer’s web site can be hacked – and, many have been in the last year – including Panda Security in just the past few days*, it lends credence to the suggestion that any site can be hacked.

*Late Tuesday night, at least 35 public facing websites belonging to Panda Security were hacked and defaced by the LulzSec and Anonymous hacking groups. The defacement also posted multiple usernames and passwords associated with Panda Security employees.

Frankly, it absolutely infuriates me when I consider that the 4 years plus that I’ve put into writing and maintaining this Blog could, in little more than a moment, be destroyed by a single act of a cyber criminal. In my weaker moments, I have visions of lining these creeps up against the wall and being done with them.

But, the reality is much different, of course. So, it’s incumbent upon me to ensure that visitors to this site are protected (imperfect as that might be), from the nasties which cybercriminals can load onto a site.

There’s no foolproof solution but, one measure which I employ frequently is taking advantage of a free service offered by Sucuri Security – which, quickly scans for the most common threats as illustrated in the following screen capture.

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Additionally, all links within the site are scanned. The following screen shot shows a small representation of the hundreds of links which were scanned.

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If you’re a blogger or a site owner, I suggest that you take advantage of this free service so that you can check if your site has been compromised. It’s one more tool in the fight against the increasing threats posed by cyber criminal gangs.

Scan your website free.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, blogging, Cyber Crime, Don't Get Hacked, Online Malware Scanners

Comodo Cleaning Essentials – An Aggressive On-Demand Malware Scanner

imageThis past week, Neil J. Rubenking, PC Magazine’s lead analyst for security, in his article – The Best Free Antivirus for 2012 – included Comodo Cleaning Essentials.  Earlier this year, I took this freebie application for a test run and wrote up my impressions. Curiously, this post had both Twitter and Facebook referrals but, limited response from regular readers.

Comodo Cleaning Essentials is a tough application when used in the fight against malware, and in the event you missed this post, I’ve republished it here.

Comodo Cleaning Essentials

Comodo’s recently released portable Comodo Cleaning Essentials (freeware), is an interesting breed of applications within applications – an aggressive on-demand malware scanner (the core application), combined with several system tools – a variation of Windows Task Manager (Killswitch), and an Autorun Analyzer.

Users who are familiar with Sysinternals Process Explorer will have little difficulty getting down to work with Comodo’s Autorun Analyzer. Or, for that matter, Killswitch – an impressive Windows Task Manager replacement.

For now, I’ll focus on the on-demand malware scanner. All graphics in the following review can be expanded to their original size.

Simple, straightforward, and easy to understand GUIs are the standard – and, Comodo Cleaning Essentials meets that standard.

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For my initial test run, I did not hold back in terms of the volume of information the application had to deal with – as illustrated in the following graphic. I should add – I set the selectable heuristics at “low level”. Users may choose to bump up  this setting.

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Updating of the database is an automatic process, as illustrated.

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Following application launch, my first reaction was – Get It Done! Thirty six minutes in, and memory scanning had not yet been completed. SLOW!

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Three hours plus. Yawn – I’M WAITING!!!!!!!!

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Waiting still – at the four hour plus mark. At this point I exited the application (2 Million objects scanned), since drive E: is malware free. As well, the 49 threats found by the scanner were all false positives – not a bad thing necessarily. More on this to follow.

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Comodo Cleaning Essentials is no slouch at eating up the clock cycles – as illustrated in the following screen shot.

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I jumped ahead here a little bit here, and ran a comparable scan with Microsoft Security Essentials which, as you can see in the following graphic, is not a system resource hog.

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MSE test run – using the same test parameters.

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The MSE scan completed in just under three hours. Keep in mind however – MSE is not portable, and is designed to act as a first line of defense against malware penetration.

Comodo Cleaning Essentials on the other hand, has been crafted as a “real world – everything is messed up” solution. Especially valuable in circumstances where malware has blocked access to onboard AVs.

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The false positive issue.

No doubt, warnings and cautions generated by antimalware scanners, can often be a major frustration – time consuming and just a pain in the butt. On the other hand, scanning a HD which has been overrun by malware, demands the use of an aggressive tool – and, Comodo Cleaning Essentials certainly qualifies as “aggressive”. Simply put – you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Autorun Analyzer:

As mentioned earlier, this component is a Process Explorer takeoff – with a number of worthwhile additional features.

The following screen capture (showing all entries), indicates 3 possible unsafe entries which, on investigation proved to be benign. Still, better safe than sorry. So, I take no issue with warnings which prove to be a “false alarm”. I’m all in favor of a “give me the bad news philosophy” – I’ll determine the relevancy of the information provided.

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KillSwitch:

As a Windows Task Manager Replacement, KillSwitch has it in spades. The following screen shots illustrate just a few of the enhancements.

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Over the years, I’ve happily been able to convince more than a few readers to occasionally spot check their network connections, using stand alone applications such as CurrPorts.  KillSwitch includes this capability – a very good move in my estimation.

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Finally (at least for this report), KillSwitch includes a “Quick Repair” tool which, in the right circumstance, could be invaluable. Sorry, for this review I couldn’t find any items on this test platform to repair.   Smile

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Fast facts: 

Classifies the threat level of all objects and processes currently loaded into memory and highlights those that are not trusted

Allows the admin to terminate, delete or suspend every untrusted item with a single click.

On-demand malware scanner quickly finds viruses, rootkits and hidden services

Extremely efficient malware removal routines thoroughly disinfect virus stricken endpoints

Detailed statistics and graphs allow admins to analyze and fine tune system activity to almost infinite levels of detail

Leverages Comodo’s huge whitelist database to accurately identify the trust status of every running process with minimal false positives

Integration with Comodo cloud scanning technology delivers instant behavioral analysis of unknown processes

Powerful system tools provide control over even the most obscure system settings

Simple interface for admins to manage trusted vendors list

Comprehensive event logs provide detailed overview of system activity on endpoint machines

Quick repair feature allows fast restoration of important Windows settings

Can replace the standard Windows Task Manager if required

Another indispensable addition to admin’s security toolkit to complement software such as Comodo Internet Security

Lightweight – requires no installation and can be run right from a USB stick

System Requirements: Windows 7 – 32 and 64 bit, Windows Vista – 32 and 64 bit, Windows XP – 32 and 64 bit

Download at: Comodo

I’m not suggesting that Comodo Cleaning Essentials is the perfect tool (if you find such a tool, please let me know   Smile  ), but, if you’re on the hunt for a lightweight, standalone security application – that doesn’t require installation – Comodo Cleaning Essentials deserves a close look.

A caveat: This application is not designed to be used by anyone other than highly knowledgeable, and well experienced users.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Comodo, downloads, Freeware, Malware Removal, System Utilities, Windows Task Manager Replacement

Rescue Your PC With Free Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10

imageMuch of today’s malware is expert at hiding or camouflaging itself – making it both hard to detect, and obviously more difficult to remove. But, if you can get to malware before it has a chance to run live within the installed operating system – you have a real chance of detecting and eradicating the varmint.

This is where a Rescue Disk (Live CD), which I like to think of as the “SWAT Team” of antimalware solutions – comes into play. More often than not, a Live CD can help you kill malware DEAD!

It’s important to know though, not all antimalware Live CDs are in fact, “Rescue Disks”. And, not all “Rescue Disks” are in fact – antimalware Live CDs.

Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10, by far and away my antimalware tool of choice,  combines the best of both genres. Not only is is superb at identifying and removing malware but, with it’s onboard tool kit it, definitely qualifies as a Rescue Disk.

Note: Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10, is designed to scan, and disinfect, both 32 bit and 64 bit machines. As well, Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 can be run from a USB device.

The following is a quick walkthrough using Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 in both malware scanning and “tool kit” capacities.

Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 is available for download as an ISO file only, which means – you must burn the ISO image file to a CD/DVD, and then boot the application from your CD/DVD drive. If you’re unsure as to how to setup your machine to boot from your CD/DVD drive, PC Support at About.com has an easy to follow tutorial – How To Boot From a CD, DVD, or BD Disc.

If you don’t know how to burn an ISO image, you’ll find instructions below.

At boot-up, Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 runs through a fairly large number of routines so be patient until the main menu screen appears.

From the menu screen, run the update task which will update the anti-virus databases. Following which, you can then go to “Scan your computer” or….

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

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…….. you can choose to configure the scan settings to your specific requirements.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

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As the application is scanning, you will be reminded of both the percentage of objects scanned and, an estimated time to completion.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

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The bonus features bolted on to Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 include:

Konqueror Web Browser

The Konqueror web browser integrated into Kaspersky Rescue Disk can view websites and save the pages you have visited. You can view all visited pages after exiting Kaspersky Rescue Disk. By default, the Kaspersky Lab website is displayed in the browser.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

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Integrated File Manager and Registry Editor

The Integrated file manager will allow you to access the Hard Drive/s. As a last resort (if it comes to that),  you will be able to save your important files (any file for that matter), using this tool.

As well, using the Registry Editor, you will be able to view and change settings in your system registry,

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

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Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 is an extremely powerful tool, with many more capabilities than I’ve been able to cover in this short review. I’m more than a little surprised that it can be downloaded at no cost. A serious computer user would do well to have this application ready to go when faced with one of those –  O No!!, moments.

To read a blow-by-blow description of Kaspersky Rescue Disk vs. Malware, checkout guest writer Mark Schneider’s – A Lesson In Malware Removal Using Kaspersky Rescue Disk, here on this site.

System requirements: Windows XP (Service Pack 2 or higher), Vista, Windows 7  (32/64 bit support for all).

Download the ISO image file at: Kaspersky

If you’re unsure as to how to burn an ISO image file to a CD/DVD in order to create a bootable disk, here’s an easy method. In this illustration I’m using a freeware application CDBurner XP.

1)  Activate  CDBurner XP.

2)  Insert a blank CD/DVD into the CD/DVD drive.

3)  Click on “Burn ISO image”, which will open the write screen.

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4)  Select kav_rescue_10.iso which will reside in the location in which you saved the file.

5)  Click on “Burn disc”

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6)  Sit back and relax until the job is complete (2/3 minutes).

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, CD/DVD Recovery Tools, downloads, Freeware, Kaspersky, System Recovery Tools

Download Free Norton Identity Safe Beta – Simple, Secure, Password Management For Windows, iOS, And Android

imageFair or not, I look upon weak password control – which leads to a catastrophe – as a self-inflicted injury. According to Norton research – 45 % of us re-use the same, easy to remember password, across multiple sites. Which, virtually assures, that should a hacker gain access to such a password – the door is now open for illegal access to all accounts. A catastrophe waiting in the wings.

I understand the dilemma. Complicated, in other words, safe passwords are often hard to remember, whereas easy passwords, in other words, unsafe passwords, are generally easy to remember. And, a single password is surely easier to remember than a series of passwords, simple or not.

What a troublesome problem!

Good news:

Today, Norton will release Norton Identity Safe Beta – the free public beta of a service which will allow you to secure and synchronize logins, passwords, credit cards, and other web form information across PCs, iOS and Android devices – using the cloud.

As an added bonus, Norton Safe Search is included.  Safe Search bumps up a user’s confidence level since a user can easily see (from search results), if a website is safe before visiting the site.

Norton Identity Safe setup walkthrough.

Consider very carefully as to whether “Remember Password” is appropriate in your situation.

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Pay close attention to the password requirements.

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Almost finished.

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On completion, a web page will open with the following. From what I can see in this early test – since the application seems to rely on the Toolbar for access – you must accept. In Firefox, for example the Toolbar can be controlled through Tools – Add-ons.

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Not quite finished. It’s time to check your inbox – confirm your email address. Click on the link………

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and – finished!

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Norton Identity Safe Home:

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Norton Identity Safe Fast facts:

Simplified password management – Eliminates the hassle of remembering multiple logins and passwords, as users only need to remember one master password for quick, secure access to their favorite sites.

Streamlined user experience – Shows users their logins with thumbnail images, allowing them to log in to a desired site by clicking on the image, or for mobile and tablet users, by simply touching the screen.

Share Via – Allows users to safely share online content by sending URLs through email and social networking plugins, directly from Norton Identity Safe beta.

Automatic login synchronization across devices – Enables users to store a password on one device, and easily log in from another device – wherever they go.

Supported browsers:

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Download at: Norton Identity Safe

Note: Norton Identity Safe Mobile Edition beta application, must be installed on mobile devices to access Norton Identity Safe.  The mobile applications complement the PC client, which must be downloaded and installed prior to installing the mobile applications.

Note:  If you have Norton Internet Security or Norton 360, you already have Norton Identity Safe installed.

Norton let me know of the pending release of Identity Safe Beta, yesterday. So, you’ll understand, this is not a review – but rather, a heads-up.

If you choose to download Identity Safe, I would be most interested in your personal observations as to functionality and value.

Helpful hints – here are some guidelines on choosing a strong password:

Make sure your password contains a minimum of 8 characters.

Use upper and lower case, punctuation marks and numbers.

Use a pass phrase (a sentence), if possible. For example, I use an 18 alpha character pass phrase (upper and lower case), supplemented with 4 numeric characters on this site. And, only on this site.

Since brute force dictionary attacks are common, do not use single word passwords that are words in a dictionary.

Use a different password for each sign-in site.

If you have difficulty in devising a strong password/s, take a look at Random.org’s – Random Password Generator – a very cool free password tool.

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Filed under Android, Anti-Malware Tools, Beta Software, Cloud Computing Applications, Connected Devices, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Norton

If You’re A BitTorrent User – Guard Against Malware With BitDefender’s Free Virus Guard

imageIf you’re into downloading open license movies, music, games and applications, then there’s a good chance you’re into the enormously popular BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing application.

Just to be clear – I am not a fan of public, peer to peer file sharing – here’s why: Peer to peer file sharing carries with it a high risk that the user will not get what he thinks he will. And, may pick up something nobody wants to pick up.

So is this a serious risk? You bet – take a look at the following from the BitTorrent Beginner’s Guide –  How do I know that someone isn’t sending out viruses on BitTorrent?

In short, you don’t. You should treat something downloaded with BitTorrent just like any file downloaded from the internet – that is, if you don’t trust the source of the file, then you should use caution when opening it.

BitTorrent guarantees that the content you download is not altered from when the torrent was originally created, but if the source files used to create the torrent were already infected, this will provide no protection!

What’s a user to do then, who enjoys file sharing through BitTorrent, and wants to reduce the risk of being burned by cybercriminals who lurk on public file sharing networks? BitDefender’s Virus Guard, might provide part of the answer.

BitDefender’s free Virus Guard, which is now part of BitTorrent’s App Studio, is available to BitTorrent’s 80 million users.  Virus Guard quickly scans torrents before they’re launched, and flags any potential threats it finds; effectively giving users an opportunity to delete torrents before they can do any harm.

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Here’s a screen capture of the BitTorrent application with BitDefender’s Virus Guard installed. Click on the graphic to expand to original size – 1260 x 745.

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BitDefender’s Virus Guard Fast Facts:

Scan from within BitTorrent — avoid wasting resources on a full disk scan.

Check all torrent downloads (including ZIP, RAR, and TAR archives) to eliminate potential threats before they occur.

Protect against viruses and other malware using industry-leading technology.

Keep all your torrent downloads safe and clean.

BitDefender provides industry-leading protection based on two proactive threat detection technologies.

Virus definition library updated continuously to protect you from the latest threats.

Download Virus Guard at: BitTorrent’s App Studio (you will have to scroll down the page).

Old advice, but more important than ever:

Trade-offs and risks you should consider if you’re a fan of Peer to Peer file sharing.

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, 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. 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. If 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.

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.

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.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, BitDefender, Don't Get Hacked

BitDefender Security Scan – TWO Thumbs Down!

imageDon’t get me wrong – I like BitDefender – as you’ll see in an article I’ll post later today.  BitDefender has been in the AV marketplace since 2001 and, according to company literature, now has a base of “400 million home and corporate users across the globe.”

In addition to its award winning line of both home and enterprise grade security applications, BitDefender is well known in the security community as a provider of a host of free applications designed to address both general, and specific,  malware infections. Overall, it’s been my experience that these freebie offerings generally make the grade.

You can imagine my surprise then, when I recently took BitDefender’s freebie Security Scan – described by the company as “a free tool which provides information on the speed, stability and security issues which may affect a Windows machine” – only to have this application drop a load of nonsense on my head.

At first glance, BitDefender Security Scan looked promising – as you can see from the first two screen captures.

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But, where the rubber meets the road – accuracy and reliability – it proved to be a dismal failure.  Microsoft Security Essentials “not functioning?” PC Tools Firewall Plus “disabled?”

What?

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Once past the heart palpitation stage, it was on to the System Configuration utility so that I could double-check Startup config. As you can see in the following screen capture, both applications are scheduled to launch on boot.

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Still, best to have a look at boot services – no problem there.

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Nevertheless, neither of these checks are necessarily conclusive. So, lets take a look at what Windows Task Manager reports. You’ll notice, in the following graphic – processes for both applications are locked, loaded, and running.

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Still not enough – so, it became necessary to run a scan with Microsoft Security Essentials, while at the same time cross referencing Windows Task Manager to ensure this application was eating up both CPU cycles, and system memory – as shown in the previous screen shot.

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As expected, MSE reported a “clean machine.” Since Sunday (the day I tested this app), is the day I set aside to scrub and clean this test machine – using a variety of applications – including Linux driven boot AVs. Given that I had completed my normal Sunday sweep prior to the test, I had little doubt that this machine was malware free. A malware infection of course, being a primary cause of security application shutdown.

As I said earlier, BitDefender’s freebie offerings generally make the grade. This application however, is not one of them. Avoid this application.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, BitDefender, Freeware

Give Malware The Old Heave Ho! – Trap It With Sandboxie!

imageWouldn’t it be terrific if, following a mistake which led to malware making its way on to your computer, you could wave a magic wand, utter the words – “get thee gone” – and, quick as you like – no more malware infection?

Luckily, you can do just that. You don’t have to be a magician – you don’t have to deliver a magic enchantment – but, you do need to be running a sandbox based isolation application.

And that, brings me to Sandboxie – the King of isolation applications in Geek territory. Rather than geek you into the land of nod – today’s review is what I like to refer to as a “soft review”.

Simply put, Sandboxie, when active, creates a virtual environment (of a sort), on a computer by redirecting all system and application changes, to an unused location on a Hard Drive. These changes can be permanently saved to disk or, completely discarded.

A case in point for isolating web surfing:

While surfing the Net, an inexperienced user mistakenly accepts an invitation to install a scareware application but realizes, after the fact, that this is a scam. Operating in a “real” environment, the damage, unfortunately, would already have been done.

Operating in an isolated environment with Sandboxie active; the system changes made by this parasite could be completely discarded – since the attack occurred in a – “I’m not really here” environment .

An obvious part of reviewing an application is, providing a technical breakdown of just how an application gets the job done – or, in some cases how/why an application doesn’t quite get it done.

It’s not often that I get caught between the proverbial “rock and a hard place” in terms of illustrating an applications aptitude in getting the task accomplished. In this case however, Ronen Tzur, Sandboxie’s developer, has taken the expression – a picture is worth a thousand words – and definitely run with it. Well done Ronen!

From the site: Introducing Sandboxie

Sandboxie runs your programs in an isolated space which prevents them from making permanent changes to other programs and data in your computer.

The red arrows indicate changes flowing from a running program into your computer. The box labeled Hard disk (no sandbox) shows changes by a program running normally.

The box labeled Hard disk (with sandbox) shows changes by a program running under Sandboxie. The animation illustrates that Sandboxie is able to intercept the changes and isolate them within a sandbox, depicted as a yellow rectangle. It also illustrates that grouping the changes together makes it easy to delete all of them at once.

Fast facts:

Secure Web Browsing: Running your Web browser under the protection of Sandboxie means that all malicious software downloaded by the browser is trapped in the sandbox and can be discarded trivially.

Enhanced Privacy: Browsing history, cookies, and cached temporary files collected while Web browsing stay in the sandbox and don’t leak into Windows.

Secure E-mail: Viruses and other malicious software that might be hiding in your email can’t break out of the sandbox and can’t infect your real system.

Windows Stays Lean: Prevent wear-and-tear in Windows by installing software into an isolated sandbox.

The developer has provided a clear and concise Getting Started tutorial – which includes:

How to to use Sandboxie to run your applications

How the changes are trapped in the sandbox

How to recover important files and documents out of the sandbox

How to delete the sandbox

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

Available languages: English, Albanian, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Macedonian, Polish, Portuguese (Brasil and Portugal), Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Ukrainian.

Download at: Sandboxie

A Caveat: You may run with Sandboxie free of charge – but, once past the initial 30 days, you will be reminded that a lifetime licensed version is available for € 29 ($38 USD at today’s conversion rate).

My good buddy from Portugal, José – a super geek – is of the opinion that Sandboxie is in a class of its own. I couldn’t agree more José.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Cyber Criminals, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Malware Protection, Virtualization