Tag Archives: free software

Time For Tor? – An Open Source Anonymous Surfing Application

imageOver the years, I’ve posted more than a few articles on anonymous surfing and the applications, generally free, which makes that possible.

I’ve noted, over that time, that the majority of readers of these article have a Middle East IP – particularly Iran. Little wonder, when one considers the human rights violations committed by this regime. Remaining anonymous online in Iran, could literally be the difference between life and death.

A typical email from an Iranian reader:

Dear Bill

I live in Iran – I need to know news about my hometown, but in Iran we are faced with filtering…very hard filtering. It makes me depressed, but one of my friends introduced your website to me and told me you can help me.

If you think that the crazies who rule Iran, and Syria – just 2 of these Middle East dysfunctional societies), where Internet usage is scrutinized on an individual basis – are the only unhinged and delusional nutters Internet users have to deal with – you’re wrong.

The erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to surf the Internet without government oversight, seems to be happening at an ever increasing pace – everywhere.

In a previous article on anonymous Internet surfing tools (October, 2010), I wrote – “Thankfully, I live in a part of the world where Government censorship of my Internet activities is a non-issue; the Canadian government does not restrict my access to any part of the Internet.

I wish I could go on to say, that I live in a part of the world where the Government has NO interest in my Internet activities, But that, unfortunately, would be like wishing on a star – and, equally as effective.

While I have no faith whatsoever, that those in power will continue to use the gathered information in a restricted, and appropriate fashion – it’s not something that I dwell on. After all, there is nothing I can do about it – so, I’m forced to slot it into my comfort zone.

In the past week however, I’ve been ripped out of my comfort zone, as have most other Canadians, who have revolted against legislation proposed by the quasi-fascist Conservative Party of Canada – the current political party in power (a government elected by only 26% of eligible Canadian voters) – led by Stephen Harper, a fundamentalist Christian, and his minion Vic Toews – another fundamentalist Christian .

In 2008, Toews was divorced by his wife of 30 years, after it was discovered that he had fathered a child with a younger woman – who may have been his child’s babysitter. Just one more example of the “moral right” practicing its favorite pastime – hypocrisy.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews faced a fierce online backlash over Bill C-30, which would require internet service providers to turn over client information to law enforcement agencies without a warrant.<br />
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews faced a fierce online backlash over Bill C-30, which would require internet service providers to turn over client information to law enforcement agencies without a warrant. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The proposed legislation would create  a mandatory surveillance regime. Simply put – unfettered government surveillance directed at Canadian Internet users.

The backlash against this perverted legislation was both immediate, and overwhelming. Canadians have made it clear – they will not allow themselves to be figuratively handcuffed. Frankly, I’ve never seen a political backlash remotely like it. The typically mild mannered and polite Canadian is angry, disgusted, and hell-bent on ensuring this abomination of a legislative bill – never sees the light of day.

Still, until Harper and his gang of throwbacks to the Cro-Magnon era, are thrown out on their asses in the next general election, you might consider adding an anonymous surfing application to your toolbox.

The use of anonymous surfing applications is not restricted to breaking through obstructive Internet barriers of course. There are more obvious reasons, you may have for anonymous surfing, including – surfing in internet cafes, public terminals in libraries, or hotel business centers.

In fact, you may want to surf anonymously on any PC where you don’t want to leave traces of your private surfing activities to ensure protection from snooping web sites, annoying advertisers, employers, rogue police services, or curious family members.

One of the most popular anonymous surfing applications  (with good reason), is TOR – a VPN (a virtual private network) that encrypts via an SSH tunnel, in order to safeguard your Internet connection and, protect your anonymity properly.

In this post I won’t review Tor, since I’ve done so a number of times previously. Instead I’ll direct you to the following.

From the site:

What is Tor?

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.

Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the TCP protocol.

Overview 

Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. It also enables software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features. Tor provides the foundation for a range of applications that allow organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.

Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers. Tor’s hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses.

Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they’re in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they’re working with that organization.

Groups such as Indymedia recommend Tor for safeguarding their members’ online privacy and security. Activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recommend Tor as a mechanism for maintaining civil liberties online. Corporations use Tor as a safe way to conduct competitive analysis, and to protect sensitive procurement patterns from eavesdroppers.

Tor is suitable for installation on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, Unix, and Android.

For more information and download, visit the Tor Home Page.

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Filed under Anonymous Surfing, downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Open Source, Personal Perspective, Surveillance

Get Control of Windows Startup – Free StartUp Tuner2

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Many applications on your computer consider themselves to be so important that they trigger an auto-start command on system start up. That means that every time the computer is booted up, these programs are started with Windows, which may not be your intention. As a result, the start sequence becomes considerably longer, and manually shutting down these unwanted applications can be time consuming. 

The Ashampoo StartUp Tuner 2 lists all auto-start entries and allows them to be individually deleted or deactivated. If you deactivate all of the unnecessary entries (be sure they are not necessary), Windows will boot faster; in some cases considerably faster. 

Deactivate services, uninstall software, and delete plug-ins. 

Ashampoo StartUp Tuner 2 can do more than just this though. The tool can list all Windows services by name and it allows you to activate, or deactivate them, with the click of the mouse. 

The application shows all installed Windows programs, but it builds its lists more quickly than the control panel software module. You can then uninstall programs that are no longer required, including program entries that the native Windows uninstaller generally leaves untouched. 

Some Browser Helper Objects (BHOs) are useful, but others simply take up space on the Hard Drive and serve no useful purpose. StartUp Tuner 2 lists all of them, and allows you to delete, or deactivate them, if they are no longer needed. 

StartUp Tuner 2 automatically installs a backup of the changes that you have made, giving you the opportunity to reverse any changes you have made. 

Free registration: 

The Ashampoo StartUp Tuner 2 can be used free for 10 days. After that, free online registration is required. You will receive an activation code which will convert the test version of the program into the full version. 

Compatibility: Windows 2000/XP/Vista

Download at: Downloads.com  

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Filed under Free Full Versions, Freeware, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Top 10 Security Threats – How to Handle Them

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#10 Spam Mail

Electronic junk mail or junk newsgroup postings. Some people define spam even more generally as any unsolicited e-mail. However, if a long-lost brother finds your e-mail address and sends you a message, this could hardly be called spam, even though it’s unsolicited. Real spam is generally e-mail advertising for some product sent to a mailing list or newsgroup.

 

Don’t:

  • click on unsubscribed links
  • publish your work email address on any web site or discussion forum
  • unsubscribe immediately
  • reply to spam
  • buy anything from spammers

Do:

  • use a separate email address to sign up for newsletters, and online posting
  • purchase anti-spam software, which blocks 97 percent to 99 percent of spam

 

#9 Phishing Mail

Phishing is the act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that the legitimate organization already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user’s information.

  • if you think you’ve received a phishing e-mail message, do not respond to it.
  • report suspicious e-mail
  • don’t click links in e-mail messages
  • type addresses directly into your browser or use your personal bookmarks
  • check the security certificate before you enter personal or financial information into a Web Site
  • don’t enter personal or financial information into pop-up windows
  • use the latest products and services to help warn and protect you from online scams
  • update your computer software

 

#8 Wireless Attacks

This form of wireless assault is generally an attack on WEP, the link-layer security protocol for 802.11b wireless networks.

  • to insure you don’t get attacked use your router’s WPA/WEP encryption

 

#7 Hacker Attack

Computers are the perfect playground for hackers. Computers, and computer networks, are vast treasure troves of secret knowledge. The Internet is an immense landscape of undiscovered information. Despite the number of hackers in cyber space the following is generally true.

  • it is very unlikely that your individual computer will be attacked directly.
  • it is critical however, that you have installed and run a full anti-malware suite

Free anti-malware suites:

Avast! 4 Home Edition

This anti virus app is a real fighter, scanning files on demand and on access, including email attachments. Let’s you know when it detects mal-ware through its shield function. An important feature is a boot-time scan option which removes mal-ware that can’t be remove any other way.
http://www.avast.com/

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition

Similarly, this program scans files on access, on demand, and on schedule. Scans email; incoming and outgoing. For those on Vista, your in luck, it’s Vista-ready. I have been using this application since its release and it now forms part of my front line defenses. I recommend this one highly. www.free.grisoft.com

#6 Web Exploits

Microsoft Internet Explorer is the world’s most popular web browser and is installed by default on every Microsoft Windows system. Unpatched or older versions of Internet Explorer contain multiple vulnerabilities that can lead to memory corruption, spoofing and execution of arbitrary scripts or code.

  • it’s important that you keep Automatic Updates on so that your system can be patched as it becomes necessary

 

#5 Adware

Adware is a form of spyware that collects information about the user in order to display advertisements in the user’s Web browser based on the information it collects from the user’s browsing patterns. Adware pops up ads that are at the very least, annoying.

  • up-to-date anti-spyware is the solution

Free Adware solutions:

Ad-Aware 2007

In my view, Ad-Aware 2007 Free is the best free spyware and adware remover available. It does a relatively good job of protecting against known data-mining, Trojans, dialers, malware, browser hijackers and tracking components. The only downside with the free version is real-time protection is not included. www.lavasoftusa.com

#4 Viruses

A computer virus is a computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer without permission or the knowledge of the user. However, the term “virus” is commonly used to refer to many different types of malware programs. The original virus may modify the copies, or the copies may modify themselves.

  • install anti-virus software that can detect and eliminate known viruses after the computer downloads or runs the executable
  • add a non-signature anti-malware program to help with brand-new threats

PC Tools’ ThreatFire 3 blocks malware (including zero-day threats) by analyzing program behavior, and it does a better job than many signature-based products. Add its free protection to your security arsenal. http://www.pctools.com/

#3 Spyware/Trojans

Spyware can be classified as software that covertly gathers user information through the user’s Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes. Spyware applications are typically bundled as a hidden component of freeware or shareware programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. However, it should be noted that the majority of shareware and freeware applications do not come with spyware.

Once installed, the spyware monitors user activity on the Internet and transmits that information in the background to someone else. Spyware can also gather information about e-mail addresses and even passwords and credit card numbers.

A Trojan Horse is a destructive program that masquerades as a benign application. Unlike viruses, Trojan horses do not replicate themselves but they can be just as destructive. One of the most insidious types of Trojan horse is a program that claims to rid your computer of viruses but instead introduces viruses onto your computer.

  • updated anti-spyware applications plus a non-signature anti-malware application should keep out, or remove these threats.

 

#2 Identity Theft

Identity theft is a crime in which criminals impersonate individuals, for financial gain. Today you often need to reveal personal bits of information about yourself, such as social security numbers, a signature, name, address, phone numbers, and even banking and credit card information. If a thief is able to access this personal information, he or she can use it to commit fraud in your name.

With this information the thief could do things such as apply for loans or new credit card accounts. They can then request a billing address change and run up your existing credit card without you knowledge. They can also use counterfeit checks and debit cards, or authorize electronic transfers in your name, to wipe out your bank account.

  • a full-powered security suite should block all computer-related avenues for identity theft

 

#1 Social Engineering

Social engineering is the act of obtaining or attempting to obtain otherwise secure data by conning an individual into revealing secure information. Social engineering is successful because its victims innately want to trust other people and are naturally helpful.

  • the number one threat to your computer’s security is—you!
  • use common sense
  • don’t take programs from strangers
  • don’t go to “iffy” Web sites
  • if your security software pops up a warning, READ IT before you take action

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Safe Surfing, Windows Tips and Tools

HijackFree – Remove Malware With This Free System Analysis Tool

HiJackFree from a-squared is a detailed system analysis tool, designed for advanced users, to detect and remove all types of HiJackers, Spyware, Adware, Trojans and Worms.

Regardless of the anti-spyware protection you’ve got on your PC, it’s not enough. Spyware is notorious for being able to slip through the cracks of anti-malware software, so it’s critically important that you have more than one anti-malware tool on your PC. HiJackFree is ideal for this purpose. For advanced users it’s a powerful layer of additional protection to add to your main anti-spyware programs.

It doesn’t offer “live” protection but instead, it allows you to examine your system, to see if it’s been infected, and then kill the malware. It’s a powerful tool with far more features than this article covers.

Some key features of a squared HiJackFree:

  • Analyze the system configuration using live online analysis
  • Manage all types of AutoRuns on your system
  • Control all Explorer and Browser plug-ins (BHOs, Toolbars, etc.)
  • Manage all running Processes and their associated modules
  • Control all Services, even those Windows doesn’t display
  • View open ports and the associated listening processes
  • View all DNS entries in the hosts file
  • Manage installed Layered Service Providers

The Online Analysis is a very powerful feature that allows you to quickly see which AutoRuns, processes, add-ons or open ports are harmful. You can click the “Refresh Online Data” button to get the online analysis directly at the program, or you can also click the “Online Analysis” button, to see a combined analysis web page. A new browser window opens with a detail analysis of your system configuration. The report is stored so you can forward the web address of the report to specialists if required.

A-squared HiJackFree is free for private use only.

Download here: http://www.hijackfree.com/en/

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Software, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools