Tag Archives: Open Source

Beat Obama’s Bandits With TrueCrypt Free (Open-Source) Encryption

The so called “War on Terror” has long since lost its luster and should be appropriately reclassified as The War of Terror. The U.S. has been singularly impudent in terrorizing the terrorists but instead, it has managed to terrorize the rest of the world using a system of surveillance schemes that have gone off the board. Chalk one up for Al Qaeda – the only winners in this debacle.

In the meantime, Americans continue to live in fear – trading away freedoms for security in a war that is simple unwinnable. Obama, despite his assurances that he would “fight terrorism while maintaining our civil liberties” has been a principle mover in this assault on democracy.

And, the master of the reversal has more –

Obama, in a 2008 election sound bite, drew a sharp contrast with the Bush administration which he proclaimed, offered Americans “a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.” And for good measure – for stooping “to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime.” It’s a surreal world we live in, is it not?

But why be satisfied with my ramblings? Here’s the video.

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As America continues its slide into Fascism (eagerly joined in the venture by Canada, Australia, the U.K. and countless other self-advertised “democracies”), the justified expectation held by these governments is – you – yes, you – will take no active part in expressing your outrage at the escalating intrusions into your private life. Sadly, the undermining of democracy, or more to the point, democracy as we though we knew it, continues apace.

As a consequence (hardly the only consequence, of course), encryption technology is once again in the spotlight. And no, using encryption does not mean that one has something to hide.

Sophisticated and  aware computer users know, that financial data and other confidential information, can easily be subject to intrusive viewing by those not authorized to do so.

Putting Obama and his bad boys aside, here are some examples of how this might occur:

Internet malware attack: Increasingly, statistics reinforce the fact that financial data continues to be targeted by hackers/information thieves, for the purpose of identity theft.

Contrast that reality with these facts; there is no such thing as a totally secure Internet connected computer. All Internet connected computers are subject to attack and compromise.

Lost or stolen Laptop: How often have we read the following – 200,00 (insert your own number here), bank account numbers, Social Insurance Numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth were on a laptop stolen/lost earlier this week.

In too many of these cases, negligently, the data is unencrypted. Certainly Laptop theft or loss is not restricted to organizations; it can just as easily happen to you.

Lost or stolen USB drive: Since USB flash drives are so portable, you can take a drive virtually anywhere. Just like most items that are portable and that you carry with you, this type of drive can be lost, or stolen.

To reduce or eliminate the security threat of sensitive data exposure then, the most prudent course of action is data encryption. Essentially, data encryption is a secure process for keeping your sensitive and confidential information private. It’s a process by which bits of data are mathematically jumbled with a password-key. The Encryption process makes the data unreadable unless, or until, decrypted.

It happens to us all: Just this past week, I lost not only my house keys (first time ever) – but the USB key attached to the keychain. If you guessed that the drive was encrypted – take a bow.   Smile

TrueCrypt:

TrueCrypt is an outstanding free open source software application for establishing and maintaining an on-the-fly-encrypted volume. On-the-fly encryption simply means that data are automatically encrypted, or decrypted, just before they are loaded or saved – without any user intervention. The program automatically and transparently encrypts in real time.

No data stored on an encrypted volume can be read (decrypted) without the correct password/key file or correct encryption keys. The entire file system is encrypted (i.e., file names, folder names, contents, free space, Meta data, etc.).

Files can be copied to and from a mounted TrueCrypt volume just like they are copied to/from any normal disk (for example, by simple drag-and-drop operations). When you turn off your computer, the volume will be dismounted and files stored in the volume will be inaccessible and encrypted. You may of course, manually dismount the volume.

TrueCrypt offers a number of options – you can store your encrypted data in files, partitions, or on a portable storage device such as a USB flash drive.

Installation is simple and straightforward – no gotchas here. Lots of steps – but easy steps.

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If you choose “Keyfiles”, be sure you understand the ramifications. This is an extra security step which has limited application for a home user. You do not need to select this option.

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And – Win 8’s File Explorer reports that the volume has been setup successfully. If you expand the graphic below (click), you’ll also notice my first TrueCrypt volume on this HD from May 9, 2006.

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Indicative of this application’s popularity is the fact that it is downloaded tens of thousands of times each day, across the Internet.

Fast Facts:

Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk

Encrypts an entire hard disk partition or a storage device such as USB flash drive

Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent

Provides two levels of plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password – Hidden volume – No TrueCrypt volume can be identified (volumes cannot be distinguished from random data)

Encryption algorithms: AES-256, Serpent, and Twofish. Mode of operation: XTS

Ability to encrypt a system partition/drive (i.e. a partition/drive where Windows is installed) with pre-boot authentication (anyone who wants to gain access and use the system, read and write files, etc., needs to enter the correct password each time before the system starts

Pipelined operations increasing read/write speed by up to 100% (Windows)

I’ve been using TrueCrypt for a number of years, and I have developed a lot of confidence in this outstanding application. If you determine that encryption of your sensitive data is a priority, I highly recommend that you give TrueCrypt a try.

How effective is TrueCrypt? If you have any doubts as to how effective TrueCrypt really is, then read this article. FBI hackers fail to crack TrueCrypt:

The FBI has admitted defeat in attempts to break the open source encryption used to secure hard drives seized by Brazilian police during a 2008 investigation.

System Requirements: Win 8, Win 7, Vista, XP, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Download at: TrueCrypt

14 Comments

Filed under downloads, Encryption Software, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Open Source, Software, Utilities

Free Security Software Downloader – Download Multiple Security Apps And Tools In One Go

imageIf you’re into helping your less experienced friends/relatives deal with computer issues, then I think you’ll find that Security Software Downloader (SSDownloader) is a terrific way to help those less experienced users install the freeware security applications that you know, through experience, are a “must have”.

Talk about small!

Security Software Downloader is a tiny open source executable (669KB) – designed specifically as a bulk download manager which focuses on security applications and, security related specialty tools.

A quick walkthrough –

The tab based user interface – Free Antivirus, Security Suites (Trial Versions), Malware Removal, Firewalls, and Other Tools, is uncomplicated and checkbox simple.

In the first screen grab, referencing “Free Antivirus”, I’ve selected three popular applications for download. Notice the languages which are available, as well as the OS “auto detect” feature. According to the developer – changing the language will automatically download your selection/s in the chosen language.

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Total download time – 2:37.

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The default download location is the Desktop. You will however, have a chance to select an alternative location.

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For this test, I’ve bypassed the Trial Versions opportunity. Still, there’s a good selection of well know applications to choose from.

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In this screen capture, you’ll note that I’ve focused on two tools which, I know from experience, can get the job done with a minimum of fuss.

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From the “Other tools” menu, I’ve selected three more applications which have served me well in the past.

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As each download is completed, a system notification area popup, tells the tale – as illustrated below.

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Fast facts:

  • Download the most popular free and paid security software with only one click.
  • Don’t worry about OS or 32bit/64bit, the right version will be automatically downloaded.
  • Stay up to date, the newest versions of the selected software will be downloaded.
  • Choose what you want to download and you will see a notification as soon as your download/s finish.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 (32 bit and 64 bit). Tested on Win 8.

Download at: Sourceforge

For those of us who are geek inclined, SSDownloader (especially given its small footprint), would make a nice addition to a Flash drive toolbox.

Download times will be system specific. In this case, I ran on a 1.7 MB/sec  connection.

10 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Open Source

Open Source BleachBit 0.9.3 – Deletes HTML5 Cookies

imageI considered just giving up – but, I’ll be damned if I will. I take every precaution I can to guard against the invasive parasitic practices of data collectors who are persistent in their attempts to collect “anonymous” data on my personal browsing habits. But, it’s never enough.

Despite my precautions – despite the tools I use in an attempt to respond to the insidious nature of web tracking – I find myself fighting a constant rear guard action. No sooner do I reach a plateau from which I can exert a functional level of control over the “behind closed doors nature” of Internet tracking – than I’m forced to deal with an even more insidious method of personal data collection.

Let’s spin back for a moment, to the time when the so called LSO (Flash Cookie) was introduced as a response to users gaining control over standard HTTP cookies. Control which allowed for the acceptance, the rejection, and the wiping of private data – including wiping cookies.

The Flash Cookie changed all that. By design, a Flash Cookie (Super Cookie)remains active on a system even after the user has cleared cookies and privacy settings. BetterPrivacy – a free Firefox add-on, stepped into the battle to address this issue, and gave users an opportunity to identify, and delete, Super Cookies.

When a Tracking Cookie is not obvious to a casual Internet user and, when that cookie cannot be deleted without the aid of a specialty cleaner, then Internet tracking has been taken to a level that borders on deception. Hell, let’s call it what it really is – crooked, immoral, fraudulent, illegal, ……..

When I first wrote on Super Cookies in September 2009, I made the following comment –

“……….with little resistance being offered by the “sheeple”,  and a failure by regulatory authorities to enact appropriate consumer protection laws, we can expect privacy intrusions , like this, to accelerate.”

It’s hardly surprising then, that we are now faced with the Evercookie (HTML5 Cookies)

From Wikipedia:

An Evercookie is not merely difficult to delete. It actively “resists” deletion by copying itself in different forms on the user’s machine and resurrecting itself if it notices that some of the copies are missing or expired. Specifically, when creating a new cookie, Evercookie uses the following storage mechanisms when available:

  • Standard HTTP cookies
  • Local Shared Objects (Flash cookies)
  • Silverlight Isolated Storage
  • Storing cookies in RGB values of auto-generated, force-cached PNGs using HTML5 Canvas tag to read pixels (cookies) back out
  • Storing cookies in Web history
  • Storing cookies in HTTP ETags
  • Storing cookies in Web cache
  • window.name caching
  • Internet Explorer userData storage
  • HTML5 Session Storage
  • HTML5 Local Storage
  • HTML5 Global Storage
  • HTML5 Database Storage via SQLite

Hold on – there’s more:

The developer is looking to add the following features:

  • Caching in HTTP Authentication
  • Using Java to produce a unique key based on NIC information.

We’re not quite finished.

With this tool it is possible to have persistent identification of a specific computer, and since it is specific to an account on that computer, it links the data to an individual. It is conceivable this tool could be used to track a user and the different cookies associated with that user’s identifying data without the user’s consent. The tool has a great deal of potential to undermine browsing privacy.

I don’t know what your definition of hacking, or illegal access encompasses – but, in my view, the placement of an Evercookie steps over the line into the realm of cybercrime. I suggest to you, that if a government were to penetrate a user system to plant an Evercookie as a matter of course – the outrage would be immediate. But, private enterprise does it – and the “sheeple” happily bow to what they consider the inevitable.

The tracking industry (a multi-Billion dollar industry), has gone too far on this one. I predict the litigation lawyers, and privacy advocates, will run out the big guns in a justifiable attempt to eradicate this spyware.

Personally, I believe that criminal charges should be laid against the executives of those organizations currently using Evercookie. I see no difference between these yahoos, and Russian cybercriminals.

Additional statistics on which web sites are currently using Evercookies can be had by reading an eye opening article by one of my favorite Tech writers Ed Bott – here.

In the meantime, you might consider installing BleachBit – an open source application which will delete Evercookies from your system.

In the following screen capture I have focused on a Firefox cleanup – including wiping HTML5 cookies.

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In this screen capture the focus is on deleting Flash cookies ((Super Cookies).

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Lets take a look at a preview of what’s going to be deleted –

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Choosing the same parameters using CCleaner (a Flash and Firefox cleanup), leads to a considerable difference.

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Fast facts:

BleachBit quickly frees disk space and tirelessly guards your privacy.

Free cache, delete cookies, clear Internet history, shred temporary files, delete logs, and discard junk you didn’t know was there.

Designed for Linux and Windows systems, it wipes clean 90 applications including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Adobe Flash, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari,and more.

Beyond simply deleting files, BleachBit includes advanced features such as shredding files to prevent recovery, wiping free disk space to hide traces of files deleted by other applications, and vacuuming Firefox to make it faster.

Better than free, BleachBit is open source.

System requirements: Window, Linux.

Languages: This application is available in 56 languages.

Download at: SourceForge

BleachBit is a powerful application; I recommend that you spend some time becoming familiar with its operation and capacity, before using for the first time.

You should consider viewing a tutorial video available here.

30 Comments

Filed under downloads, Evercookies, Flash Cookies, Freeware, Open Source, Privacy, Software

NoSleepHD Keeps Your External HD Spinning

imageWe all have those “damn, that drives me crazy” moments with computing, I expect. My particular “damn, that drives me crazy” moment, repeated throughout the day, day in and day out is, waiting for the auxiliary Hard Drives (non-OS drives) on my system, to spin up.

Most Hard Drives feature a firmware auto spin down function, independent of the OS, that shuts down the drive after 10 minutes, or so, of inactivity. A primary Hard Drive, of course, can be controlled by adjusting power options in the OS’s advanced power settings menu. But, not auxiliary Hard Drives.

So, dealing with a repetitive non-responsive time lag of 3/5 seconds while my D, or E drive spins up – short though it may be – is annoying. Particularly, since I need to save my work periodically to drive D, or drive E – and, it’s generally outside the 10 minute spin down window.

I found a small (22 KB) free (open source) application, NoSleepHD, which I hoped might solve this annoyance. Despite the fact, that this small application is designed specifically to keep external Hard Drives from entering sleep mode, I gave it a try. Alas, it was a “no go”. So, I’m on the hunt for a freebie application which will solve the “damn, that drives me crazy” daily refrain.

Still, NoSleepHD is a simple, but nonetheless impressive little application, that writes a blank text file every few minutes (selectable 1 to 15) to an external Hard Drive (which effectively prevents the drive from entering sleep mode), which might come in handy for those who run with external Hard Drives.

Here’s a quick overview:

A simple GUI.

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Click ‘Info’ tab to view drive information.

Monitor multiple drives by selecting, more drives in ‘Configuration’ tab. (Up to 5 External Hard Drives).

Hard drive monitoring can be stopped if necessary. (Which would allow the drive to go to auto-sleep).

Application can sit in the System Tray or simply minimized.

Auto-run at start-up can also be enabled.

System requirements: All versions of Windows.

Download at: Softpedia

4 Comments

Filed under downloads, Freeware, Open Source, Software, System Utilities

I Spy With My Little Eye – But iSpy Open Source Webcam Security Goes One Better

imageI watch you – you watch me. And, we all live together – happily – sort of. We live in a surveillance society, and whether that’s a good thing, or not, is open to much debate. We’ve discussed this issue here a number of times and, the consensus of opinion as expressed by readers is – Thumbs Down! – to surveillance in public spaces.

From a personal perspective, I have to admit to conflicting emotions. As a recipient of a  Neighborhood Watch award (back in the mists of time), I’m a strong supporter of the philosophy that we all share a responsibility to safeguard our personal environment. And, personal Web Cam surveillance, it seems to me, is an acceptable defense against hooligans intent on causing havoc.

I am NOT in favor, however, of broad scale deployment of security cameras by law enforcement based on the theory that doing so reduces crime. Survey after survey concludes that this is an urban myth. Worse yet, voyeuristic surveillance, such as this, is an assault on personal freedom.

But, on to how you can take advantage of a superb free (Open Source) Web Cam surveillance solution that includes a ton of built-in features. iSpy, last updated January 25, 2012, is an open source application which uses your webcam(s) and microphone(s) to detect, and record, motion and sound. And, a lot more besides.

Typical usage – click on graphic to expand.

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Fast facts:

Connect and monitor as many cameras and microphones as you like. Import and export object lists to share with colleagues.

Connect multiple computers in a group and manage over the web.

Install iSpy Server and publish your webcam to other instances of iSpy, over your network and to the web.

Detect, highlight, track and record movement.

Detect loitering.

Customize movement detection areas on your cameras.

Detect and record sound.

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is detected.

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is not detected (monitor machinery or staff activity).

Receive email movement alerts with attached frame grab images from your webcams.

Periodically receive image grabs via email from your webcams.

Connect to any device, even webcams attached to other computers with JPEG, MJPEG, IP Cam, webcam and AVI file support.

Watch live and recorded media over the web (through this website) and also via mobile devices.

Access and control iSpy remotely.

Password protect iSpy and hide it in the System Tray.

Schedule sound and video capturing to start and stop automatically.

Time-lapse record from any camera.

Motion track and count moving objects.

Connect multiple instances of iSpy and iSpy server running on different computers to this website and view all aggregated media online.

Create groups, invite friends and share access to your webcams and microphones.

The following review is based on an older version of  iSpy –  January, 2011. The version currently running on my system.

Setting up iSpy while relatively uncomplicated, was not quite as easy as I would have liked. On the other hand, additional features often lead to more complexity.

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As the following screen captures indicate, you’ll be presented with a smorgasbord of fine tuning choices.

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Languages: English, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Deutsch, Español, Française, Hrvatski, Italiano, Magyar, Nederlands, Русский, Polski, Português and 中文

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7. Microsoft .Net framework will be installed if required. Windows media player 9 VCM codecs – will be installed if required.

Download at: iSpy Connect

iSpy user guide available here.

I’ve tested this application extensively and overall, I’ve been very pleased with its performance. If you’re looking for a free (Open Source), Web Cam surveillance solution, iSpy may be just what you’ve been searching for.

If you don’t need all of the features built into iSpy, (some of the bells and whistles are just that – bells and whistles), I’ve previously reviewed Secure Cam, an open source surveillance application which should meet your basic  surveillance needs.

Rise Cam, an application also covered in that review, is no longer available.

1 Comment

Filed under downloads, Free Surveillance Applications, Freeware, Software

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……

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

SSDownloader – A Free One Stop Security Software Downloader

imageSecurity Software Downloader (SSDownloader) – now in it’s second edition – is a small open source executable (669KB) – designed specifically as a bulk downloader which focuses on security applications and, security related specialty tools.

A quick walkthrough

The tab based user interface (Free Antivirus, Security Suites (Trial Versions), Malware Removal, Firewalls, and Other Tools) is uncomplicated, and checkbox simply.

In the first screen grab, referencing “Free Antivirus”, I’ve selected three popular applications for download. Notice the languages which are available, as well as the OS “auto detect” feature.

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For this test, I’ve bypassed the Trial Versions opportunity. Still, there’s a good selection of well know applications to choose from.

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In this screen capture, I’ve focused on two tools which, I know from experience, can get the job done with a minimum of fuss.

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From the “Other tools” menu, I’ve selected three more applications which have served me well in the past.

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In testing this neat little tool, I choose a total of 10 applications for download –  and, the task was completed in just over 5 minutes.

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As each download is completed, a system notification area popup, tells the tale – as illustrated below.

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Note: The default download location is the Desktop. You will however, have an opportunity to select an alternative location.

Fast facts:

Download the most popular free and paid security software with a single click.

OS auto detection.

The latest version of the selected applications will be downloaded.

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

Download at: Sourceforge

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In my estimation, SSDownloader is a terrific portable tool. For those of us who are geek inclined, SSDownloader (especially given its small footprint), would make a nice addition to a Flash drive toolbox.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Tools, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Malware Protection, Software, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools