Category Archives: Comodo

Comodo IceDragon – A More Secure Firefox?

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

In an age when Internet threats present an ever-evolving, and increasingly sophisticated danger, to a user’s security, privacy, and identity, specialty Internet Browsers like Comodo IceDragon, are becoming much more popular.

Why should this be so – and, what’s the difference between Comodo IceDragon, and regular old Firefox?

First: You’ll notice during the installation process (screen capture shown below), you’ll have the option of choosing Comodo’s secure DNS servers. You may choose to implement this security feature system wide – or, you may choose instead to protect IceDragon only.

There’s not much point in choosing to opt out – since doing so, defeats one of the primary benefits of running with IceDragon.

While the developer points out that you may have potential issues to address, should you choose to run through a VPN – I didn’t experience any problems running through my favorite VPN – TunnelBear – free edition.

Do not be influenced by my choice (as shown below) – choose a setting that reflects your usage pattern.

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FYI: If you’re concerned with DNS security, you do have choices over and above running with a Browser which incorporates a DNS security feature. There are a number of free, beefed-up DNS services – including  Google Public DNS.

Second: Comodo has built into the Browser, it’s Site Inspector – a feature which must be manually launched by clicking on the related Icon, as shown in the following screen capture. My Australian mate Mal C., swears by this feature.

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A quick click (either on a link – or, while on a page), will provide the user with a report as to whether “malicious activity or malware has been detected on the site in question.”

Here’s a shot of a probe on Yahoo.

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So, is this being overplayed – or, is this really an issue?

The very small sample of malicious sites, shown in the following screen shot, should help convince you that it is an issue.

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So, what about my site – how’s it doing?

You’ll note in the screen capture below, that we’re free of malware or malicious activity here. Not surprising, since I use Comodo’s Web Inspector alert as a line of defense to protect this site.

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Third: If you’re a social media site affectionado then, Comodo has you covered with the addition of a social media button. A quick click will launch a log-in page for Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin (user selectable).

On the face of it, this feature may not seem as if it means very much. But, if it helps stop users from logging in using links contained in emails, for example – then, potentially it has substantial value.

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So, how does it look when compared with a “regular” version of Firefox?

Running with IceDragon – no add-ons or customization – yet.

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My regular Firefox with selected add-ons.

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The options menus appears slightly different that that in Firefox – but, the only noteworthy difference I found was, a user has an additional opportunity to turn on/turn off – the DNS feature as described earlier.

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Additional features:

Fully compatible with Firefox plug-ins and extensions – according to Comodo.

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Fast facts:

Fast, easy to use and light on PC resources

Scan web-pages for malware right from the browser

Lightning fast page loads with integrated DNS service

Privacy and performance enhancements over Firefox core

Full compatibility with Firefox plug-ins

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, – 32/64 bit. Tested on Windows 8 for this review.

Download at: Comodo

User Guide: Should you need help with CID, check out the online user guide.

You may be are aware that Comodo initially developed a version of Chromium/Chrome (Comodo Dragon), which has essentially the same features as described in this review of IceDragon.

I reviewed that version in February 2010. It’s worth noting, that substantial improvements have been made in the application since that review. Further information on this browser is available at the developer’s site, here.

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Filed under Browsers, Comodo, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware

Comodo’s Free Site Inspector –Malware and Blacklist Detection For Website Owners

imageComodo recently released SiteInspector, a free service which has been designed to automatically check owner operated websites on a daily basis to ensure the sites remains malware free and, has not been captured by a blacklist. If the worst happens – Comodo will immediately notify the website owner by email, so that corrective action can be taken.

Despite the fact that the free service is restricted to checking 3 pages on a domain, it’s a tool worth considering if you are a webmaster. Any free service that can help web site owners keep the malware hounds at bay – is worth considering.

You certainly don’t want a prospective visitor to see this!

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Signing up for the service is a simple process, as the following screen captures indicate.

Following initial sign up you will receive a receipt notice.

Comodo Site Scanning

While on the SiteInspector screen, click on “Manage Subscriptions” ……..

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to set up both the site you wish to cover, and the form of coverage.

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Any after the fact changes, require a sign in to your account.

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The first report from Comodo – click to expand.

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Fast Facts:

Daily Malware Scanning – SiteInspector scans your website for potential malicious code injection on a daily basis and notifies you if any such event has occurred, so that you can take action against them in a timely fashion, before the injected code starts affecting your visitors’ computers.

Blacklist Monitoring – Comodo SiteInspector checks major blacklists such as Google Safe Browsing, PhishTank, Malwaredomainlist, Malcode, Clean MX every day to make sure your website is not listed. If it is, you will be immediately alerted so that you can take remedial action and remove your site from blacklist, minimizing the downtime.

Immediate notifications means you react faster – Immediately after a problem is discovered, we’ll dispatch an email notification alerting you. Your support technicians don’t have to wait for angry customers to complain that your site contains malicious content

Independent external testing from your customer’s perspective – SiteInspector connects to your website in the same way that a customer would. If it discovers any problems with your website, it is likely your customers will be affected too.

No software downloads. No complicated set up – SiteInspector is a website checking service that runs remotely from secure servers managed by Comodo, so the user is not required to install software on their machine or network. Account management is done via our 100% online interface. All you need to do to take advantage of this great service is sign up, configure your tests and let SiteInspector do the rest.

The Comodo sign up page is here.

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Filed under Blogging Tools, Comodo, Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, Malware Advisories, Web Hosting

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

Comodo Cleaning Essentials – Fast It’s Not – Powerful It Is

imageComodo’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.

image

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.

image

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

image

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

image

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

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

KillSwitch:

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

image

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.

image

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

Planning On A New Christmas Computer? Security Precautions To Consider

imageWe are now officially in the “Holiday Season”, so along with those visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in your head, you just might have visions of a super hot, quad core beast, that you can rip the wrapping off of after Santa has dropped down your chimney.

So if you’ve been good this year, and Santa does drop off that new screaming machine, no doubt you’ll want to put it through its paces right away. But before you test drive this new machine, there are some fundamental precautions you need to take before you connect to the Internet.

Patch your operating system:

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Download and install all available patches, and service packs – if applicable, by connecting to Windows Update. Security Gurus will tell you that 50% of unpatched, and unprotected systems, will be infected with malicious code within 12 minutes of being connected to the Internet. Believe it!

Install a Firewall:

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Windows 7 comes with a vastly improved Firewall – substantially better than in previous versions of the operating system. Still, many techies consider third party applications more effective.

There are a number of free firewalls that are worth considering. The following are three that do the job particularly well. (Choose only one)

Comodo Firewall Pro:

Comodo Firewall (last updated November 11, 2010), protects your system by defeating hackers and restricting unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet. I ran with this application for 18 months during a long term test, and I felt very secure.

PC Tools Firewall Plus 7:

Having tested this application for more than six months I was impressed with its performance. It installed easily, set up quickly, and did not caused any conflicts on my test machine despite my sometimes esoteric running requirements. The default settings are well thought out, and provide excellent protection for less experience users.

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2010:

ZoneAlarm’s default settings are well thought out, and provide excellent protection for less experience users particularly. Experienced users on the other hand, can tinker to their hearts content, customizing and tweaking the application to meet their specific requirements.

Install anti-virus software:

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There is no doubt that an unprotected computer will become infected by viruses and malware within minutes of first being connected to the Internet. There are many free versions of anti-virus software available, and the programs listed below have a well justified reputation. (Choose only one – although Immunet Protect will run successfully as a companion application).

Avira AntiVir Personal:

This anti-virus program offers comprehensive protection with an easy to use interface. In the time that I have been testing Avira I have been impressed with its performance, and I have come to rely on it as my primary anti-virus program on an XP Pro system. I highly recommend this one.

Panda Cloud Antivirus:

I’ve been testing the Beta version of Panda Cloud Antivirus since the end of April 2009, off and on, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with it’s performance, particularly the light use of system resources. This application is definitely not a resource hog, and I found it outstanding at recognizing and blocking malware threats.

Immunet Protect 2:

Immunet Protect is a lightweight cloud based antivirus application, (available in both a free, and a fee version), designed to add a layer of protection while working in partnership with the most popular antimalware solutions. You’ll find Immunet Protect straightforward to install, and easy to run without complication.

Install Anti-spyware and Adware Software:

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It’s not only a virus that can put your computer down for the count, but a multitude of nasties freely floating on the Internet. Listed below are a number of free programs that offer very good protection against malware.

Microsoft Security Essentials:

Microsoft Security Essentials, which incorporates antivirus, antispyware and rootkit protection, all under one roof, was released by Microsoft last year as a free  replacement application for Windows Live OneCare. Microsoft Security Essentials is easy to set up and run, particularly for new users. And, the interface is positively simple offering Quick Scan, Full Scan, or Custom Scan.

Spybot Search and Destroy:

Spybot Search & Destroy can detect and remove a multitude of adware files and modules from your computer. Spybot also can clean program and Web-usage tracks from your system, which is especially useful if you share your computer. Modules chosen for removal can be sent directly to the included file shredder, ensuring complete elimination from your system.

ThreatFire:

ThreatFire blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. Again, this is one of the security applications that forms part of my front line defenses. I have found it to have high success rate at blocking mal-ware based on analysis of behavior. I highly recommend this one!

Additional security protection:

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Web of Trust (WOT):

WOT is a free Internet Browser add-on which tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

SpywareBlaster:

SpywareBlaster prevents ActiveX-based spyware, adware, dialers, and browser hijackers from installing on your system by disabling the CLSIDs (a system used by software applications to identify a file or other item), of spyware ActiveX controls. As well, SpywareBlaster can block spyware/tracking cookies and restrict the actions of spyware/adware/tracking sites in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and other browsers.

WinPatrol:

With WinPatrol, in your system tray, you can monitor system areas that are often changed by malicious programs. You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.

SpyShelter:

SpyShelter is an anti-keylogging, anti-spyware program that protects your data from Keylogging and spy programs: known, unknown, and under-development. It detects and blocks dangerous and malicious programs, to help ensure that your data cannot be stolen by cyber criminals.

Note: Keep in mind however, that even the best layered protection strategy will not make up for lack of experience, and intuitiveness, when surfing the Internet. So, I’ll repeat what I have said here, many times – “knowledge, awareness, and experience are critical ingredients in the escalating battle, against cybercriminals.”

This list is not exhaustive by any means, but it is a good place to start.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Cloud Computing Applications, Comodo, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Firewalls, Freeware, Malware Protection, Microsoft, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Comodo System Cleaner – CCleaner On Steroids

imageJust a few days ago, I posted my usual annual review of CCleaner – in which I made the point, that this free system cleaner is still my “go to” application for simple system cleanup.

But, if you’re looking for a more powerful free solution, then Comodo System Cleaner might just be ideal. This free application will do what CCleaner will do, and a whole lot more – and I do mean, a whole lot more.

I’m a big fan of Comodo’s products, including their free Firewall and AntiVirus software. So, I was expecting big things from Comodo System Cleaner when I first installed it, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, this is now my “go to” application when I need to dig the deep dirt out of a system.

Installation is easy, and preference setup is checkbox simple – as the following selected screen captures indicate. All screen shots are taken from my personal machine – clicking on any graphic will expand it to its original size.

Clean up menu

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Settings menu

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Autoruns menu

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System settings menu – System Tweaks

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Fast facts:

Registry Cleaner – Optimizes and repairs your Windows registry by running an in-depth scan to remove, or repair, unnecessary or corrupted registry keys.

SafeDelete and Registry Protection – Use these features to backup all your files before cleaning. When cleaning is complete, you’ll be able to make sure your PC is in perfect condition before deleting for good.

Disk Cleaner – This utility lets you quickly clear them all, to free up space and improve performance. Also allows you to schedule regular clean up routines.

Privacy Cleaner – Obliterates your digital paper trail and helps protect you from identity theft by cleaning history, cache, cookies and usage records from Internet browsers, Windows locations, and popular software.

System Settings – With over 50 tweaks in the ‘System Settings’ area alone, you can optimize Windows behavior in a more powerful and intuitive way than ever before.

System Information – Detailed and easily accessible ‘dashboard’ summary of all the hardware and software installed on your computer.

Autorun Manager – Fingertip control over exactly which programs and services start with Windows. Helps improve Windows boot up time, stops unwanted programs from hogging system resources and boosts overall system performance and stability.

File Pending Delete – Provides the ability to delete files that are locked and cannot otherwise be deleted when in Windows ‘User Mode’. Specifying a file with the ‘File Pend Delete’ tool will schedule that file to be deleted immediately after the next system restart.

File Wiper – Allows you to permanently remove confidential or sensitive files from your hard drive. When you delete a file in Windows, you are really only removing the reference to that file from the system table. The file itself remains on your drive and could be easily re-opened by data thieves. ‘File Wiper’ ensures that the files you want to delete are comprehensively erased and cannot be recovered.

Free – for both home and business users.

View the video.

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I’m a big fan of “all-in-one” system utilities and I have to admit, I really like this all-in-one free application with its simple and effective user interface. I particularly like the easy access the user interface allows to Windows system settings, which makes tweaking the OS a snap.

As the fast facts point out, this application has a wide range of built in system utilities, which in my view, are perfect for the new, or casual computer user. I should point out however, that the built in registry cleaner, just like all registry cleaners, should be used cautiously.

Overall recommendation: Comodo System Cleaner is definitely worth considering as an addition to any users system utilities toolbox.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 and Server 2003 (all – 32 or 64 bit)

Download at: Comodo

Bonus: What makes this free application even more interesting is; it’s available as a portable program which can easily be run from a USB drive. Great for geeks!

Portable version download at: Download.com

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Cleaning Your Computer, Comodo, Computer Maintenance, downloads, Freeware, Portable Applications, Secure File Deletion, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Windows 7, Windows Update, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Secure Browser – A Sandboxed Firefox 3.6

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

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

Dell, not generally noted for their free software, recently released (through their subsidiary, KACE Networks), Secure Browser, a virtualized version of Firefox 3.6, which according to KACE –

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

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

Fast facts:

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

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

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

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

Contrary to my usual practice, I have not tested this application. Instead, I’m reporting on it’s availability only.

System requirements: Windows 32 bit only.

Download at: KACE

Note: Registration required.

Alternative solutions:

Sandbox your current Browser in Sandboxie.

Run the Chrome Browser which includes a form of sandboxing.

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

Run Ubuntu while surfing the Web.

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.

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Filed under Browsers, Chrome, Comodo, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Google, Internet Safety Tools, Software, System Security, Ubuntu, Virtualization, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Free and Easy Anti-Malware Solutions for Senior Computer Users

image According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 40% of of people 65 and older, have a computer at home. Of this total, approximately  25% of these individuals are connected to the Internet.

I’m sure these numbers are now even higher, since these statistics were taken from the census of 2005. In Canada, where I live, recent statistics indicate older adults are the fastest growing group of computer buyers and internet users. Who knew!

It seems obvious that older adults are now realizing that they don’t have to understand computer technology to send email-mail to friends and family, for example, or shop online, play games, make greeting cards, read book and film reviews, look into family genealogy, or find valuable health information on the Internet.

Here’s a great example of how older adults have jumped on the Internet bandwagon, and use it to great advantage.

imageI just ran into some older friends (in their 70s), who had recently gotten home after wintering in Florida – in Canada, we call these people Snowbirds.

Throughout their time away (5 months, or so), they stayed in touch with their children, and grandchildren, virtually on a daily basis, using the free audio/video communication application, Skype. What a great use of technology!

Just like the rest of us though, Senior users are susceptible to cybercrime, and like the rest of us, need to protect their computers against the ever increasing exposure we all face to Trojans, Spyware, Viruses, Phishing Scams, and Identity Theft, while connected to the Internet.

For those that are members of this newly liberated group of Senior computer users, (who are not aggressive surfers), I’ve compiled a list of free anti-malware applications with simplicity of operation in mind – no manuals to digest, no tricky configuration to undertake; just install, and the applications will essentially do the rest.

Recommended Security Solutions:

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2010

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– The default settings are well thought out, and provide excellent protection for less experience users particularly. This application is as close to “plug and play”, as it gets, and will not get in your face as some other Firewalls tend to do .

Microsoft Security Essentials

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– Easy to set up and run, particularly for new users. The interface is positively simple – offering Quick Scan, Full Scan, or Custom Scan. Provides full real time protection against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

Firefox

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– While Firefox is not technically an anti-malware application per se, with the most effective security add-ons, including NoScript, KeyScrambler, Adblock Plus and BetterPrivacy installed, it effectively acts as one.

WOT

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– Web of Trust, a browser add-on which offers Internet users active preventive protection against Web-based attacks, online scams, identify theft, and unreliable shopping sites.

Winpatrol

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– This program uses a simple yet effective method of fighting all kinds of malicious programs.

ThreatFire

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ThreatFire blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. This is one of the security applications that forms part of my own front line defenses.

Keep in mind, malware itself is only part of the problem. The method used to deliver the malware – social engineering – is the most significant problem currently, for an average user. Social engineering, is a sure winner for the bad guys.

Cyber-criminals are increasingly relying on social engineering to create an opportunity designed to drop malicious code, including rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots on our computers.

Overcoming the instinctive human response to social engineering (and we all have it), to just “click” while surfing the Internet, will prove to be challenging . This instinctive response, will pose one of the biggest risks to your online safety and security.

Well known software developer Comodo Group, has developed a new Internet video series, Really Simple Security, published on a dedicated YouTube channel, that makes it easier than ever for an average user to become much more proactive in their own protection. You’ll find this Internet video series enormously helpful.

Safe surfing!

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Browser add-ons, Comodo, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Firewalls, Freeware, Internet Safety for Seniors, Microsoft, Older Adult Computer Users, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Save Your Dead PC with These Outstanding Free Recovery Tools

Sitting down, pushing the start button on your PC only to have it refuse to boot, will fit right in with anyone’s definition of frustration. It’s almost a personal thing – “why are you doing this to me?” But all is not lost.

Before you consign your dead PC to the garbage dump, or start considering just what kind of boat anchor you might craft, you should know that there are some terrific free tools that can help you recover. These free applications are at the “Top of the Class”, in my view.

I’m not suggesting that you download them all but, if you have some spare CDs – why not? Or, do a little info gathering on the author’s site – then choose those that best meet your specific needs.

If I’ve missed one of your favorites that you feel should be on this list, then let me know with your comments.

Hiren’s Boot CD

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Hiren’s Boot CD is a boot CD containing various diagnostic programs such as partitioning agents, system performance benchmarks, disk cloning and imaging tools, data recovery tools, MBR tools, BIOS tools, and many others for fixing various computer problems. Downloading this application is a bit of a hassle since ownership of some of the utilities on the CD is open to interpretation.

Ultimate Boot CD for Windows

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A terrific recovery CD for repairing, restoring, or diagnosing computer problems, but since it involves hands on “building skills” to compile the necessary tools, it’s not for everyone. Nevertheless, for those who have the skills, this utility is a “must have”.

Trinity Rescue Kit

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Trinity Rescue Kit or TRK is a free live Linux distribution that aims specifically at recovery and repair operations on Windows machines, but is equally usable for Linux recovery issues.

Ubuntu Live CD

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Can’t boot into Windows? Can’t figure out how you’re going to rescue all that data that you can’t reach? Ubuntu Live CD can come to the rescue. Need to connect to the Internet as part of your recovery process? No problem – Ubuntu Live CD makes it easy.

Specialty Recovery Tools:

Comodo Time Machine

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This innovative utility takes snapshots of your PC and archives those snapshots so that if you experience a computer problem (like a malware or virus attack), you simply revert back in time to one of the snapshots you had previously taken. In other words, if you mess up your PC and you have the Comodo Time Machine software installed, you can go back in time to restore your PC to a previous good state.

Kaspersky Rescue Disk

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This rescue CD can scan your boot sector, and your Hard Drives from the outside looking in. Malware doesn’t have a chance to hide if it’s not running. It’s become the first step I now use when I’m dealing with an infected machine.

Avira AntiVir Rescue System

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Avira AntiVir Rescue System is a Linux-based application that allows accessing computers that cannot be booted anymore. Thus it is possible to, repair a damaged system, rescue data, scan the system for virus infections.

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Filed under Backup Tools, Comodo, computer repair, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Hard Drive Tools, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Do We Need to “Fix” the Internet?

Each time that you connect to the Internet you are unfortunately, wandering through a raucous neighborhood which has a reputation for being jam-packed with predators.

These predators are intent on stealing your money and personal information, installing damaging programs on your computer, or misleading you with an online scam.

Cyber-crooks are relentless in their pursuit of your money, and it’s all about the money. In the worst case scenario, your identity and your financial security can be severely compromised.

Recently, Symantec reported that 51% of all the viruses, Trojans and other forms of malware it has ever seen were logged during 2009, and Symantec has been in the security business since before the Internet was launched.

Each day, when I boot up my home machine, Immunet Protect, advises me that it is protecting me against 12 Million threats. Today for example (May 16, 2010, the number is 12,866,263. That number is truly mind blowing.

Note: Later in the day, following a re-boot, I noticed that the protection level had risen to 12,876,095 – 10,000 additional threats had been identified.

Various Internet security companies report having to deal with up to as many as 40,000 new versions of malware daily. Here’s the math; one new malware program every four seconds!

Anti malware developer Comodo, looks at these numbers in a way that we can more easily relate to, in its instructive video – Did you Know? Dangers on the Web.

“Did you know that the amount of new malware discovered daily approximates the number of words a person speaks daily?

Or, the amount of money lost by US Consumers due to malware over the past 2 years would have paid the tuition of over one million US College Students?”

Seen in this way, cybercrime takes on a whole new dimension.

Since additional sophisticated threats are constantly being developed, or are currently being deployed, some observers are of the opinion that the Internet is essentially broken.

If you think this is an exaggeration, check this out and then you decide.

Tainted search engine results: Internet security gurus have known for some time that we cannot rely on Internet search engine output to be untainted, and free of potential harmful exposure to malware.

Cyber-crooks continue to be unrelenting in their chase to infect web search results, seeding malicious websites among the top results returned by these engines.

When a potential victim visits one of these sites, the chances of downloading malicious code onto the computer by exploiting existing vulnerabilities, is extremely high.

Infected legitimate websites: According to security solution provider  Kaspersky, the rate of infected legitimate web sites, in 2006, was one in every 20,000. In 2009, one in every 150 legitimate was infected by malware, according to Kaspersky.

Drive-by downloads: Drive-by downloads are not new; they’ve been lurking around for years it seems, but they’ve become much more common and craftier recently.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, drive-by download, they are essentially programs that automatically download and install on your computer without your knowledge.

This action can occur while visiting an infected web site, opening an infected HTML email, or by clicking on a deceptive popup window. Often, more than one program is downloaded; for example, file sharing with tracking spyware is very common. It’s important to remember that this can take place without warning, or your approval.

Rogue software: A rogue security application (scareware), is an application usually found on free download and adult websites, or it can be installed from rogue security software websites, using Trojans or, manipulating Internet browser security holes.

After the installation of rogue security software the program launches fake or false malware detection warnings. Rogue security applications, and there seems to be an epidemic of them on the Internet currently, are developed to mislead uninformed computer users’ into downloading and paying for the “full” version of this bogus software, based on the false malware positives generated by the application.

Even if the full program fee is paid, rogue software continues to run as a background process incessantly reporting those fake or false malware detection warnings. Over time, this type of software will essentially destroy the victim’s computer operating system, making the machine unusable.

Email scams: Email scams work because the Cyber-crooks responsible use social engineering as the hook; in other words they exploit our curiosity. The fact is, we are all pretty curious creatures and let’s face it, who doesn’t like surprise emails? I think it’s safe to say, we all love to receive good news emails.

It seems that more and more these days, I get phishing emails in my inboxes all designed to trick me into revealing financial information that can be used to steal my money.

If you’re unfamiliar with phishing, it is defined as the act of tricking unsuspecting Internet users into revealing sensitive or private information. In a phishing attack, the attacker creates a set of circumstances where the potential victims are convinced that they are dealing with an authorized party. It relies for its success on the principle that asking a large number of people for this information, will always deceive at least some of those people.

A personal example of how this works is as follows. According to a recent email (similar in form and content to 20+ I receive each month), my online banking privileges with Bank of America had been blocked due to security concerns. This looked like an official email and the enclosed link made it simple to get this problem solved with just a mouse click. What could be easier than that?

Clicking on the link would have redirected me to a spoof page, comparable to the original site, and I would then have begun the process whereby the scammers would have stripped me of all the confidential information I was willing to provide.

My financial and personal details, had I entered them, would then have been harvested by the cyber-crooks behind this fraudulent scheme who would then have used this information to commit identity and financial theft.

These types of attacks against financial institutions, and consumers, are occurring with such frequency that the IC³ (Internet Crime Complaint Center), has called the situation “alarming”, so you need to be extremely vigilant.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the dangers we are exposed to on the Internet. There are many more technical reasons why the Internet is becoming progressively more dangerous which are outside the scope of this article.

So what do you think? Is the Internet broken – do we need to fix it, and if so, how can we do that?

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Filed under Comodo, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Safety, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Phishing, Rogue Software, spam, Symantec, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools, worms