Tag Archives: internet

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.

12 Comments

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

Canada’s Proposed Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – Open Season For Police To Spy On Canadians Online

imageIn 2005, Canada’s current Prime Minister Steven Harper made the comment – “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m done with it.”   He was right – the values that have defined Canada are gradually being replaced by values more appropriate to those of a quasi-fascist state. To those of my generation, Canada is indeed, becoming unrecognizable.

Canadians, much like their American cousins, post 9/11; continue to be coerced by government’s trump card – the war on terrorism. As a result, Canadians blindly continue to accept the invasion of their personal lives and, infringements on their right to privacy.

In a statement reminiscent of George Bush’s – “you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists”, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, in an overreaching attempt to squash dissent on the recently introduced Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – let loose with an outrageous slogan meant to vilify opponents – “stand with us or with the child pornographers”.

In other words, anyone who dares to oppose the Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – which, will allow carte blanche government spying on Canadians’ Internet activities – without judicial oversight – is supportive of child pornography.

Those of us who disagree with the need for this legislation which would, in effect, place Canada in the same company as China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria – who subject their citizens to Internet surveillance – run the risk of being classified as criminals, perverts, and low life’s. As  Cicero, the Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, orator, and political theorist reportedly said – “When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.”

This attack on reasonable and responsible discourse is hardly surprising, coming from a government intent on stripping away, layer by layer, the fundamental freedoms fought for, and won, by generations of Canadians.

To the historically challenged, and those that are less technology savvy, an intrusion into the sacrosanct ground of personal privacy – to protect children – may appear to be both reasonable, and prudent. After all, society’s protection of children must be part of the driving philosophy of any mature civilization.

But the curtailment of personal liberty – ostensibly for the common good – as this legislation supposedly is – has a rather unpleasant history. A history worth considering.

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“The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”

–  Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf)

More appropriate perhaps –

“Necessity is the plea of every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.”

–  William Pitt (British Prime Minister, 1783)

Equally as appropriate –

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.

The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated. But those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.”

–  C.S. Lewis

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Just one of the many corrosive  provisions included in this legislation, would require Internet service providers to hand over subscriber data to the Police –  without a warrant. The familiar argument often pushed forward by supporters of this type of regressive legislation – if you have nothing to hide….. – simply doesn’t hold water.

Resistance to this legislation is not about being law abiding, it’s not about protecting children from the .0000001 %.

It is about not having every aspect of one’s life subject to close examination.

It is about not allowing Big Brother to spy on one’s Internet activities.

It is about a disturbing tendency of this particular government’s interest in knowing – and controlling – the Internet activities of Canadian citizens.

Thankfully, privacy and consumer advocates – including Federal, Provincial, and Territorial privacy commissioners – have taken a hard line and, have been speaking out against this proposed thugary. Even so, given the unyielding positions previously taken by this current regressive government – the consensus of opinion seems to indicate; this nonsense will pass into law. Ensuring that Canadians, will get a taste of what was once East German life under the Stasi (The Ministry for State Security).

The sad part of this whole exercise in repression is – it’s pointless as a control against child pornographers. Since the minds behind this abomination appear to be barely computer literate, they seem to be unaware of the following –

VPN applications (Secure Virtual Private Network Connection), commonly used in repressive countries such as Iran, China, and so on – which allow untraceable encrypted data (preventing disclosure of private information), are readily available for download on the Internet. Once connected to a VPN, an ISP no longer has the ability to follow.

I suspect that child pornographers are generally computer literate and, are well aware of the practical methods that can be used to avoid detection. VPN applications are just one such method.

The unpleasant reality is simple – unfettered government surveillance directed at Canadian Internet users.

If you are a Canadian, and you believe that it’s time to fight back against unreasonable control of your rights to access the Internet without censorship, and surveillance, you might consider joining OpenMedia.ca, which describes itself as “a grassroots organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open and affordable Internet.”

Finally, let me say – I considered long and hard as to whether I should post my opinion on this issue. The number of comments on the Net (and, in more than one national newspaper), in which personal fear of this government’s response to criticism was mentioned, weighed on my mind.

I find it stunning, that I’m living in a time in which some Canadians are fearful of their own government. The unfortunate reality is – they may have ample justification for those feelings.

20 Comments

Filed under Opinion, Point of View

Think BEFORE You Click! – How Hard Is That?

imageHARD, apparently.

I recently repeated a small experiment (for the third year in a row), with a group of “average computer user” friends, (12 this time around), and I was disappointed to see (once again), that the conditioned response issue to “just click” while surfing the web, was still there.

Still, I’m always hopeful that reinforcing the point that clicking haphazardly, without considering the consequences – the installation of malicious code that can cause identity theft and the theft of passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal information – would have had some impact. Apparently not.

But, I haven’t given up. I’m prepared to hammer them repeatedly until such time as I can make some progress. In the meantime, I expect that curiously browsing the web blissfully unaware of the considerable malware dangers, will continue to be the modus operandi for my friends.

They’re not alone in their “clicking haphazardly” bad habits. Many of us have learned to satisfy our curiosity simply by a mouse click here, and a mouse click there. Arguable, we have developed a conditioned response (without involving conscious thought), to – “just click”.

It can be argued, that our “just click” mindset poses the biggest risk to our online safety and security. In fact, security experts argue, that a significant number of malware infections could be avoided if users stopped “just clicking haphazardly”, or opening the types of files that are clearly dangerous. However, this type of dangerous behavior continues despite the warnings.

Most visitors to this site are above average users (I’m assuming that you are too), so, I have a challenge for you.

Take every appropriate opportunity to inform your friends, your relatives, and associates, that “just clicking haphazardly” without considering the consequences, can lead to the installation of malicious code that can cause identity theft and the theft of passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal information.

Help them realize that “just clicking”, can expose them to:

  • Trojan horse programs
  • Back door and remote administration programs
  • Denial of service attacks
  • Being an intermediary for another attack
  • Mobile code (Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX)
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Email spoofing
  • Email-borne viruses
  • Packet sniffing

They’ll be glad that you took an interest in their online safety. And, best of all, by doing this, you will have helped raise the level of security for all of us.

A point to ponder:

Since it’s proven to be difficult to get “buy-in” on this – “think before you click safety strategy” – I generally ask the question – do you buy lottery tickets? Not surprisingly, the answer is often – yes. The obvious next question is – why?

The answers generally run along these lines – I could win; somebody has to win;……. It doesn’t take much effort to point out that the odds of a malware infection caused by poor Internet surfing habits are ENORMOUSLY higher than winning the lottery and, that there’s a virtual certainty that poor habits will lead to a malware infection.

The last question I ask before I walk away shaking my head is – if you believe you have a chance of winning the lottery – despite the odds – why do you have a problem believing that you’re in danger on the Internet because of your behavior, despite the available stats that prove otherwise?

18 Comments

Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Online Safety, Spyware - Adware Protection

Way To Go WOT! – Now Protecting 30 Million Users

imageThe Internet is one kickass place – survey after survey continue to show that cybercriminals are picking off unaware/undereducated users, as if they were shooting fish in a barrel.

It’s hardly surprising then, that an enormous industry (no, not big, not large – but, enormous) has developed, based on the principal that technology can act as a counterfoil  to the most nefarious cyber criminal schemes. Criminal schemes which are, after all, technology driven.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if this has been an effective solution.

No matter the side you come down on regarding this complex issue, dancing around naked (so to speak ) on the Internet – that is, without adequate Browser protection, is akin to fumbling and stumbling through the toughest neighborhood in your area – after dark.

Internet security starts with the Web Browser (it does not end there – but, one step at a time), and WOT (Web of Trust, which passed the 30 million user mark yesterday – January 9, 2011), substantially reduces the risk exposure that comes with wandering through the increasingly risky neighborhood that the Internet has become.

Based on the way that I surf the Web, there’s no contest as to which of the 17 add-ons I have installed on Firefox, is most important to my piece of mind. The hands down winner – the single most important add-on for my style of surfing is WOT (Web of Trust).

Sure, that’s a pretty bold statement – but, since I frequently hear from readers who, after installing WOT on their computer systems, feel reassured that they are safer than ever before, and who express a renewed sense of confidence, and  a new level of enthusiasm, while surfing the Internet, I’ll go with it.

If you’re not yet a WOT user, read the following in-depth review – you may reconsider.

What is WOT?

WOT, one of the most downloaded Firefox Add-ons at the Mozilla add-on site, (also compatible with Internet Explorer and Chrome), is a free Internet Browser resource which  investigates web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams – helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

For example, here’s a Google search in which WOT indicates which sites are safe. Notice the unsafe (red) sites, in the Google ads!

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Take a look at what happens if, in fact, you do end up on an unsafe web site. WOT’s dropdown warning curtain blocks access to the site until you determine otherwise.

WOT - new

WOT operates in a unique fashion in order to offer active protection to the Internet user community. It stands out from the crowd of similar applications, by soliciting the opinions of users/members whose views on web site safety are incorporated into the overall site safety rating. According to WOT, the user community now has reputation data on over 35 million sites worldwide.

The shared information on a site’s reputation includes trustworthiness, vendor reliability, privacy, and child safety. As well, in order to achieve maximum security coverage, WOT uses thousands of trusted sources including phishing site listings, to keep users protected against rapidly spreading threats.

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WOT integrates seamlessly with search engine results from popular search engines including Google, Yahoo, MSN and other popular sites, and provides impressive protection against Internet predators.

WOT recently added the top three web-based email services – Google Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, to its free security protection. You can now feel more confident and secure, since WOT checks links embedded in your email, and warns you of dangerous web sites so that you can avoid spyware, spam, phishing, identity theft and other Internet scams; before you click on dangerous embedded links.

How WOT works:

The Browser add-on icon, displays a color rating for each site you visit, indicating whether a site is safe to use, should be used with caution, or avoided entirely.

Using traffic light colors, (green, yellow, and red), WOT leaves you in no doubt as to the safety rating of a web site. An impressive feature of WOT is the dropdown transparent warning curtain, shown earlier, triggered on visiting a dangerous site.

Recognizing that up to ten percent of Internet users are at a disadvantage however, due to colorblindness, and cannot rely on an Internet safety system based on color coding, the Web of Trust development team recently released an adaptive version of WOT. This version incorporates equivalent alternative information, through assistive or adaptive technology, for colorblind users.

This colorblind accessible application provides the same critical benefits to those individuals who have to contend with visual impairments, as it has to those of us who have come to rely on WOT as a major defense against the pervasive hazards we encounter on the Internet.

Quick facts – WOT checks the following on each web site visited:

Trustworthiness

Vendor reliability

Privacy

Child Safety

More quick facts:

Ratings for over 30 million websites

The WOT browser add-on is light and updates automatically

WOT rating icons appear beside search results in Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Gmail, etc.

Settings can be customized to better protect your family

WOT Security Scorecard shows rating details and user comments

Works with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome

Interface supports English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish and Finnish.

System requirements: Windows (all), Mac OS X, Linux

Download at: MyWot

Surf more securely by installing this browser add-on which will provide you with an in-depth site analysis based on real world results. Keep in mind however, that you are your own best protection. Stop · Think · Click.

11 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Browser Plug-ins, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools

Free LiberKey Version 5.5 – A Computer Toolbox On A Stick

image LiberKey (which I’ve reviewed previously – version 4.1 – March 2010), is a compilation of freeware, and open source  portable applications, offered in three flavors that can be installed on, and run from, a USB drive.

Additionally, the application can just as easily be installed, and run, from a Hard Drive. In fact, for this updated test and review, that’s exactly what I choose to do – installing LiberKey to my F: drive. You might consider a similar solution – an install to a Flash drive and a further install to your HD.

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

Basic suite: 13 Applications, Installed size: 120.51 MB

Standard suite: 83 Applications, Installed size: 561.61 MB

Ultimate suite:  144 Applications, Installed size: 711.47 MB

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

There have been major changes since I first reviewed LiberKey. This time out, on launching the application, you will find that you are presented with a blank  LiberKey menu applet. I’m not convinced that this

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You will then have the opportunity to select the most appropriate suite for your needs as per the following screen capture. I’m not convinced that this process is instinctive, but……

image

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I choose the Ultimate edition adding (144 applications), which took approximately  11 minutes to download and install (in a single seamless process), to my Hard Drive. The same install to a Flash Drive, ate up roughly 30 minutes.

image

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

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The portable application launcher is user friendly, and no learning curve is involved, as the following screen capture indicates. In this example, simply clicking on FastStone Image Viewer, brought up the application.

image

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

image

Fast facts:

Free.

Ready to use.

Portable applications.

Automatic online updates.

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

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

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

Download at: LiberKey.com

The developers have put up a short install demo video you might find worthwhile viewing.

6 Comments

Filed under Application Launchers, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

The Tech Savvy Generation Myth Hurts All Of Us

imageTime to beat that dead horse again. Out of habit mainly, since statistically, it’s a total waste of time for me (and others, of course) to continue to advance the position that “education” should offer significant benefits in the fight against cybercrime. Users, it seems, remain unconvinced.

Unfortunately, there’s a huge imbalance in the fight against cybercrime. On the one side we have highly motivated, and technically astute, albeit despicable human beings – intent on causing harm. On the other side – you, me, and the rest – many of whom can be classed as stupidly arrogant in assessing their own technical capabilities. Tough talk? Not nearly tough enough from where I sit.

The Ponemon Institute and PC Tools, in a recent study/survey, marked this real gap between perceptions users have in their own abilities to stay safe on the Net, versus the reality. In a few words (my words, not theirs), too many computer users are dead stupid in assessing their own capabilities.

Hardly news though, is it? We’ve discussed this issue here, over and over. Which is why, I had a bit of a chuckle when I read Richard Clooke’s  (Richard is a highly competent online security expert at PC Tools, whom I’ve corresponded with occasionally) comment imbedded in the report –

“The longer term concern is that while many of us think that we are too savvy for online scams, the research demonstrates otherwise,” said Richard Clooke, online security expert at PC Tools. “Unless consumer behavior is addressed through education, the incidence of cyber criminals seeking to cash in on consumer trust and naivety online is likely to increase exponentially.”

Sadly, I’ll take issue with Richard’s last statement – good luck with the education thing. I have yet to see any improvement in “Internet Street Smarts” where education played a role – nor do I expect to. Why would there be, when the harmful myth of the “Tech Savvy Generation” continues to be taken at face value by so many.

Some time back, I wrote an article on this issue which has proven to be very popular with educational institutions, when used as a resource. If you missed this article, you’ll find it below:

Part Of The Tech Savvy Generation? How Tech Savvy Are You Really?

You’re part of a computer literate and technically competent generation – you know, the “tech savvy generation” we hear so much about.

So, when it comes to wandering through the risky Internet neighborhood that’s arguably full of predators, you tend not to worry.

You’re convinced, that since you’re a member of this tech savvy generation, when you surf the Internet, you can handle the dangers and pitfalls that wait for the typical unsuspecting user, (the user who’s not part of your tech savvy generation).

This unsophisticated non-tech savvy group are much more likely than you, to be pounced on by the multitude of scam artists, schemers and cyber crooks lurking in the shadows, just waiting for victims. Right?

It’s entirely possible of course, that you are computer literate, and technically competent. On the other hand, simply because you are a member of that generation who have grown up with computers, does not make you tech savvy. I hate to burst your bubble, but the concept of a “tech savvy generation” is a myth.

I understand why you may have bought into this myth. People love myths. It seems that we will buy into any myth provided it agrees with, or reinforces, our already held misconceptions.

Myths of course, get their status precisely because they do reinforce our beliefs, properly held or not. This myth (masterfully propagated by the media), continues to pose serious security risks for those who believe it.

Since I’m involved in Internet and system security, I have many opportunities to deal with the “tech savvy generation”, and overall, I find them no more competent than average/typical computer users.

Unfortunately, I find that not only does the tech savvy generation not know “what they don’t know”, they don’t want to hear about it because developing knowledge is hard, and it requires time and effort. Better to just hang on to the myth.

I’ll admit, that anecdotal evidence, while interesting, does not always tell the tale. On the other hand, gather enough anecdotal evidence and one may have enough data to propose a theory, that can withstand probing and prodding.

As a tech/geek/writer, I am in touch with loads of other techs/geeks/writers from around the world, on a fairly consistent basis. One undisputed reality that we all agree on is, the lack of knowledge exhibited by typical computer users, and that members of the tech savvy generation, are no more than typical computer users.

So, if you’re a member of the so called tech savvy generation, you need to consider these realities:

Cyber criminals count on your believing the myth. It makes their job just that much easier.

There’s a major lack of knowledge and skill relating to computers/connected devices, and security, in the tech savvy generation. You really are, just an average computer user.

Common sense tips:

Stop believing the myth.

Start being proactive when it comes to your computer and connected device’s security; part of that is making sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances you will fall victim to cyber crime.

Recommended reading: Principles of Security: Keeping it Simple – by guest writer Mark Schneider, and – An Anti-malware Test – Common Sense Wins.

Comments Off on The Tech Savvy Generation Myth Hurts All Of Us

Filed under Bill's Rants, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, Opinion, PC Tools, Safe Surfing

Pssst – Let’s Talk About, Uh…. Porn

imageI’ll talk to you about porn. Your friends probably won’t – other than to deny that they watch it – or, perhaps to decry its prevalence on the Internet. If you want to see your friends scramble for cover –  if you want to see some terrific open field running  – ask them specifically, if they watch porn on the Internet.

Yes, I know, they don’t. But, someone’s watching. Run a Google search for “porn” and you might be surprised to see that there are considerably more than One Billion search results.

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Click graphic to expand.

Despite its popularity and huge profitability – the pornography industry has revenues larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined – that’s right, the combined revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix …. – it’s still seen, by many (at least publicly), as a back room activity.

Although porn has almost reached a level of respectability (I’ll focus on the almost), or perhaps because of it there are those who would rather see porn back in the gutter, and dark alleys, where they think it belongs.

But not Kyle Richards. Richards is a 21 year old Michigan jail inmate who believes he’s being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment because he can’t access pornography. Alleging that denying his request for erotic material subjects him to a “poor standard of living” and “sexual and sensory deprivation”, he’s suing.

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Macomb County Jail; Getty

Rather than referring to Kyle as an idiot, which he undoubtedly is – I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt (at least I’ll pretend I am). Could it be that he’s a porn expert – that he knows pornography has always been a force to be reckoned with. From prehistoric rock paintings depicting sex, through to the Greeks, Romans, the Renaissance period ( in which it flourished), and on to the mass production of pornography in the early 20th century. Yeah, sure!

Purveyors of pornography have always been quick to adapt to new technologies – especially mass production opportunities. No surprise then, to see the distributers of sexually explicit material almost immediately adopted the Internet as the preferred method of  mass distribution –  a technology which allows uncontrolled (by moralists, governments, and others), and anonymous access to explicit sexual content. Not a bad business model!

As an Internet security blogger, I have a certain level of concern with respect to pornographic Websites. Just to be clear – I’m not a member of the Morality Police, and I hold no religious, or political views, on the availability of pornography on the Internet; except of course, pornography which is clearly illegal, or morally reprehensible.

Instead, my main concern is focused on the primary/secondary use, that many of these sites are designed for – as a vehicle for the distribution of potentially harmful malware applications that can be surreptitiously dropped onto unwitting visitors computers.

With that in mind, over the years I’ve written a number of articles dealing with this issue  including – Dangerous Porn Sites – Tips on How to Avoid Them, Porn Surfing – Put a Software Condom on Your Computer!, Kate Middleton Nude – As If!, and Nude Pics Of Your Wife/Girlfriend Attached – Click Here.

I’ve no idea why precisely, but lately (the last 2/3 months), these articles have been getting an unusually high number of hits – generally from search engine referrals. Whatever the reason, it’s a good thing. Hopefully, it’s an indication that surfers are beginning to recognize at least one of the many potentially unsafe activities on the Internet. Hopefully!

A selection of  those search engine referrals  – most are multiples of 30/40 or more (sex, porn, nude, dangerous, safe ….), to this site on a typical day. Some of them are just a little strange – I think. But then, who am I to judge what’s strange?  

porn eskimo, safe porn sites, dangerous porn, dangerous porn sites, most dangerous porn sites, dangers of porn surfing, safe sites for porn, safe porn sites, are pornography websites safe, how can i protect my computer from porn, safest porn sites, porn sites safe, how many porn sites are dangerous, safe porn sites to visit, sex in malware, porn sites without malware, what is a safe porn site, visiting porn sites, pornsites, you porno, how common is illegal pornography, safe porn site recommendation, how to avoid seeing porn, what porn website are safe, porn eskimo (have to admit this one made me LMAO), cam 4 porno gratissurfing (no idea what this one means), 18 teens sex, upskirts webcams, sex with horse by girls, girls sex with horse, the free earlybird wake up local free sex web on one on one cam, nude photo revealing kate middleton, kate middletonnud, kate middletonnude, wife nude pics, share your wife nude pics, i saw your wife nude

I’ll admit that this post rambles a bit – but, I just had to reference the Kyle Richards (I need my porn) story, somehow. More and more often, I find myself shaking my head at just how eerily crazy this world really is.  Smile

This article was originally posted July 5, 2011.

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Crime And Punishment Up Close And Personal – Proceedings of the Old Bailey 1674-1913

The following is an edited and revised version of an article which was originally posted on October 18, 2010 – under the title “Crime And Punishment In The Internet Age”.

imageI’m a bit of an amateur historian, and I find accounts of daily life in bygone days fascinating – most particularly, aspects of crime and punishment. If you’re wondering why crime and punishment, it’s simply this – hidden in this type of accounting, one can generally find the unvarnished historical truth of social conditions of the time.

Naturally enough, I’m a big fan of  The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913, web site – “A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court.”

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This is quite an amazing site, and each transcript lays out, by and large, not only the techniques employed to apprehend criminals (from the 1600’s through to the early 1900’s), but an accounting of the trial testimony, and the punishment handed down on conviction.

For a bit of perspective on the past, checkout the Old Bailey site using your own family name. You never know – you might just find a forgotten relative. Smile

Additional resources available:

London Lives, 1690-1800

What was it like to live in the first million person city in modern Western Europe? Crime, poverty, and illness; apprenticeship, work, politics and money; how people voted, lived and died; all this and more can be found in these documents.

Ordinary’s Accounts

Biographies of Executed Criminals, 1676-1772

The website includes the texts of all known surviving Ordinary of Newgate’s Accounts. These richly detailed narratives of the lives and deaths of convicts executed at Tyburn were published between 1676 and 1772.

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For those of you who embrace the phrase “once it’s on the Internet, it’s out there forever”, you might be surprised to see, that in fact – once “it’s” been noted virtually anywhere, (even as far back as 17th century England), it’s out there forever.

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Flash Cookies – Spyware By Any Other Name

imageI first wrote on the issue of Flash cookies back in September 2009, and since then, I’ve watched as these obnoxious web trackers and privacy invaders multiply like a virus. Based on the number of questions I continue to get on the Flash cookie issue, it’s apparent – confusion reigns when it comes to this underhanded privacy threat.

One of the better forum comments I’ve seen referencing Flash cookies:

“I think many people may not realize how serious it is. In many ways, I see it as the virtual equivalent of dumpster diving or taping together a shredded document. It is deliberately ignoring a data owners deletion of data by an entity that has no business doing so.”

This practice of  web sites dropping Flash cookies onto your computer, which occurs without your knowledge or permission, is akin to hacking – according to some in the security community. Frankly, I agree.

Continuing developments in tracking technologies, and a complete disregard for fundamental privacy rights, should be a major topic of conversation in the security community – until such time as the issue has been resolved in favor of consumers.

In the meantime, we’re on our own. It’s up to us, as individual consumers, to take the appropriate steps to safeguard our privacy (as best we can), while interacting with the Internet.

Here’s what we’re up against – and, this is just one small example.

From Disinformation.com

McDonald’s, CBS, Mazda, Microsoft Sued For Tracking Internet Users’ Histories

In a complaint filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Sonal Bose alleges that McDonald’s and the other companies “acted in concert with Interclick,” to mine users’ Web surfing history for marketing purposes. “Defendants circumvented the privacy and security controls of consumers who, like plaintiff, had configured their browsers to prevent third-party advertisers from monitoring their online activities,” Bose alleges.

The lawsuit alleges that the companies violated the federal computer fraud law, wiretap law and other statutes. She is seeking class-action status. This lawsuit comes several weeks after Bose sued Interclick for allegedly using history-sniffing technology and Flash cookies to track her online activity.

History-sniffing technology exploits a vulnerability in browsers to discover the Web sites users previously visited. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego recently brought the technique to light when they published a paper explaining the technique and naming 46 Web sites where history-sniffing technology was being deployed. In at least some cases, ad company Interclick reportedly used the technology without the publishers’ knowledge.

Bose also says in her complaint that she believes that the defendants used Flash cookies for tracking purposes. Flash cookies are stored in a different place in the browser than HTTP cookies, and therefore, require additional effort to delete.

Flash cookie quick facts:

They never expire

Can store up to 100 KB of information compared to a text cookie’s 4 KB.

Internet browsers are not aware of those cookies.

LSO’s usually cannot be removed by browsers.

Using Flash they can access and store highly specific personal and technical information (system, user name, files,…).

Can send the stored information to the appropriate server, without user’s permission.

Flash applications do not need to be visible.

There is no easy way to tell which flash-cookie sites are tracking you.

Shared folders allow cross-browser tracking – LSO’s work in every flash-enabled application

No user-friendly way to manage LSO’s, in fact it’s incredible cumbersome.

Many domains and tracking companies make extensive use of flash-cookies.

If you value your privacy, then without a doubt you need to control these highly invasive objects, and if you are a Firefox user there is a solution – BetterPrivacy – a free Firefox add-on.

From the BetterPrivacy page:

“Better Privacy serves to protect against not delectable, long-term cookies, a new generation of ‘Super-Cookie’, which silently conquered the internet.

This new cookie generation offers unlimited user tracking to industry and market research. Concerning privacy Flash- and DOM Storage objects are most critical.

This add-on was made to make users aware of those hidden, never expiring objects and to offer an easy way to get rid of them – since browsers are unable to do that for you”.

In the following screen capture (click to expand to original), you’ll notice BetterPrivacy has deleted a cumulative total of 6188 Super Cookies.

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The Options and Help tab (shown in the following screen shot), will allow you to choose specific deletion methods. You should consider selecting “Disable Ping Tracking”, which will prohibit sites from following you as you surf the Net.

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Download at: Mozilla

For a more detailed breakdown on flash cookies, and the danger they represent to personal privacy, checkout The Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Google Chrome users can take advantage of the Click&Clean Extension (works with Firefox as well).

The following screen capture of Click&Clean’s Options menu, illustrates the application’s ability to deal with Flash cookies.

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Fast facts:

Delete your browsing history
Clear records from your download history
Remove cookies and Empty cache
Delete temporary files
Remove Flash Local Shared Objects (LSO)
Delete private data when Firefox closes
Automatically close all windows/tabs
Clean up your hard drives and Free up more disk space – including secure file deletion
Launch external applications, like CCleaner, Wise Disk Cleaner etc. on Windows – or Janitor, BleachBit, etc. on Linux

Download the Firefox version at: Mozilla

Download the Chrome version at: The Chrome Web store

You can read a full review of this application – Clean Up With Click&Clean Firefox and Chrome Extension, on this site.

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Homework Help – 12 Web Sites That Lend A Hand

Need Homework Help? – Turn To These Terrific Web Sites.

imageParents, it seems, are less equipped than ever to jump in and help out with homework assignments. Statistics from the Canadian Council on Learning seem to indicate – two out of three parents feel incapable of helping their children with homework, or after school assignments.

As a parent what do you do; who do you turn to? As a student, since it’s unlikely you can turn to a parent; what do you do?

According to a Pew Internet and American Life Project study, you both turn to the Internet. The study’s research revealed that the Internet has become an increasingly important feature of the learning environment for teenagers, and is used as an essential study aid outside the classroom.

Students and parents report that the Internet is vital to completing school projects, and has effectively replaced the library for a large number of online students. As many as 71% of students surveyed, report using the Internet as their primary source for researching, and completing major projects.

If you’re a student or, the parent of a student, consider bookmarking the following web sites which will provide comprehensive and reliable educational information that can be used to research school projects, and homework assignments.

Discovery Education

Discovery Education offers free student resources that bring learning to life both inside and outside the classroom. We invite you to take a look at our interactive games, videos, contests, virtual labs and activities designed to help you dive deeper into a topic —and have fun too!

Refdesk 

Since 1995, Refdesk.com, has served as a one-click springboard to many of the Web’s top dictionaries, encyclopedias, calculators, atlases, news headlines, and search engines. The site also includes a handy “homework helper” section that provides help in all subjects for students in every grade.

ipl2 (Internet Public Library)

ipl2 is a public service organization and a learning/teaching environment. To date, thousands of students and volunteer library and information science professionals have been involved in answering reference questions for our Ask an ipl2 Librarian service, and in designing, building, creating and maintaining the ipl2’s collections.

HowStuffWorks

Have you ever wanted to know why an earthquake occurs? How CD burners work? What the sun is made of? These questions and a large number of others related to computers/electronics, automobiles, science, entertainment, and people, are all answered at this award-winning Web site. Simply type a query into the search window or peruse the topics by category. Extras include free newsletters, surveys, and printable versions of all answers.

Novelguide.com

The Web’s answer to those black- and yellow-striped Cliff Notes is Novelguide, a reliable and free source for literary analysis of classic and contemporary books. The site offers character profiles, metaphor and theme analysis, and author biographies.

CliffsNotes

Use these free CliffsNotes literature notes to help with your homework and tests. Browse the list to find the study guide you need.

Math.com

This site provides help in mathematics-related subjects, including basic grade-school math, calculus, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and statistics. Practice exercises are automatically graded, and this free site also features a glossary, calculators, homework tips, math games, and lesson plans for teachers.

Shmoop (Official Honoree of Webby Awards – 2010) is a new learning and teaching resource, lovingly made by Silicon Valley professionals and academics from Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard and other top universities. It is an online study guide for books, literature, essays, poems, US history, and quotes.

Wolfram Mathworld

With more than 12,600 entries this is one of the most extensive mathematics resources on the Internet.

Free Translation

Perfect for language studies, this handy Web site automatically converts text from one language to another. Just type and paste up to 1,800 words into the search window and then select the desired language.

No Fear Shakespeare

No Fear Shakespeare puts Shakespeare’s language side-by-side with a facing-page translation into modern English—the kind of English people actually speak today.

Science Made Simple

Science classes aren’t as easy for some to grasp as for others. At Science Made Simple, students of all ages can get detailed answers to many of science’s questions, read current news articles related to science, get ideas for school projects, and take advantage of unit conversion tables.

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Filed under Education, Homework Help Sites, Interconnectivity, Living Life, Online Learning, Parenting Help, Recommended Web Sites, Student Help, Timesaving Tips