Tag Archives: search

Search Google Images More Efficiently With Google Image Ripper

Good friend, and regular reader, Michael F., recently introduced me to a neat little free tool – Google Image Ripper –  an alternative to the conventional Google Image Search.

From the site:

The Google Image Ripper improves on the existing Google image search tool by allowing you to safely and easily search through the results as thumbnails and also as a gallery of full-size images without having to surf to each website.

You have the option to show the link to the website where the image is hosted but don’t have to risk visiting a malicious site just to see it.

A quick walkthrough:

Since I use a lot of graphics in blogging, at the site, I’ve entered the search term “malware”.

image

Results: The screen capture below shows partial results only. The hand icon indicates the image I’ve selected.

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Using the context menu “copy” command generates a 350×270 capture. (original size). Saves a visit to the originating site.

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The same search using Google, requires a click on “Images”.

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A click on “Images” generates the following (a very small representation of the actual results). I’ve selected the same image as shown previously.

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Using the context menu “copy” command generates a 256×197 capture (not the original size).

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Or, a visit to the site (another click) will allow for the viewing of the image in its original size (another click).

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If capturing an image is something you do on a regular basis, then Google Image Ripper can save you a few steps along the way.

If you’ve taken a quick trip with this tool and found it worthwhile – then, I suggest that you save the site to Bookmarks/Favorites for future use.

11 Comments

Filed under downloads, Freeware, Google, Search Engines

Protect Your Privacy – Use Startpage.com To Search The Web Anonymously

imageIf personal privacy makes the short list of your Internet concerns, then take a look at the following search engine – Startpage.com – a search engine provider that promises to safeguard your privacy (not recording your IP address, not salting tracking cookies, not recording your search terms, the links you choose, etc.), while you search the Internet.

Keep in mind, that when you use a free service such as this, you are trusting the developer to adhere to the wording of the Privacy Policy.

The search engine’s home page is not very much different from any typical search engine.

Note: SSL encryption is the default standard.

image

Since we all know that nothing is every really for nothing – it’s appropriate to wonder how this service provider manages to generate revenue. And, according to the developer – inserting relevant sponsored results on the top and the bottom of the results page, makes it possible – “Each time these sponsored results are clicked upon Startpage receives a minimal fee from the advertiser.”

The sample search page screen shot below, shows two relevant “sponsored results” as described by the developer.

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Whereas, the same search string in Google is ad free (see below). Not counting of course, the “normal” Google ads which normally fill the far right hand pane.

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From the site: Startpage offers you Web search results from Google in complete privacy!

When you search with Startpage, we remove all identifying information from your query and submit it anonymously to Google ourselves. We get the results and return them to you in total privacy.

Your IP address is never recorded, your visit is not logged, and no tracking cookies are placed on your browser. When it comes to protecting your privacy, Startpage runs the tightest ship on the Internet. Our outstanding privacy policy and thoughtful engineering give you great search results in total anonymity. Here are some of our key features:

  • Free proxy surfing available.
  • Praised by privacy experts worldwide.
  • Twelve-year company track record.
  • Third-party certified.

If you’re a Firefox users you can easily add Startpage.com  to your Search Engine List.

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The developer has provided an applet (see below), to make this a quick and easy process. Go here.

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If Internet privacy is something you have concerns about then, I recommend that you checkout Startpage.com in depth.  There are a surprising number of additional benefits, including a Proxy Service (designed for additional privacy), not discussed in this article.

Note: Startpage has earned the coveted EuroPriSe “trust mark” for outstanding privacy and data handling practices. It is also certified by Certified Secure and registered with the Dutch Data Protection Authority.

This article is an updated and revised version which was originally posted – September 20, 2011

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12 Comments

Filed under downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Google, Privacy, Search Engines

Startpage.com – Search The Web Anonymously

imageI’m an Internet privacy advocate, and I have a great interest in any tool that will either stop Google, and other data accumulators, from collecting personal information on me, or in any tool which restricts their ability to do so.

If you’re into protecting your privacy, then take a look at the following search engine – Startpage.com – a search engine provider that promises to safeguard your privacy (not recording your IP address, not salting tracking cookies, not recording your search terms, the links you choose, etc.), while you search the Internet.

Keep in mind, that when you use a free service such as this, you are trusting the developer to adhere to the wording of the Privacy Policy.

The search engine’s home page is not very much different from any typical search engine.

image

Since we all know that nothing is every really for nothing – it’s appropriate to wonder how this service provider manages to generate revenue. And, according to the developer – inserting relevant sponsored results on the top and the bottom of the results page, makes it possible – “Each time these sponsored results are clicked upon Startpage receives a minimal fee from the advertiser.”

The sample search page screen shot below, shows two relevant “sponsored results” as described by the developer.

image

Whereas, the same search string in Google is ad free (see below). Not counting of course, the “normal” Google ads which normally fill the far right hand pane.

image

From the site: Startpage offers you Web search results from Google in complete privacy!

When you search with Startpage, we remove all identifying information from your query and submit it anonymously to Google ourselves. We get the results and return them to you in total privacy.

Your IP address is never recorded, your visit is not logged, and no tracking cookies are placed on your browser. When it comes to protecting your privacy, Startpage runs the tightest ship on the Internet. Our outstanding privacy policy and thoughtful engineering give you great search results in total anonymity. Here are some of our key features:

  • Free proxy surfing available.
  • Praised by privacy experts worldwide.
  • Twelve-year company track record.
  • Third-party certified.

If you’re a Firefox users you can easily add Startpage.com  to your Search Engine List.

image

The developer has provided an applet (see below), to make this a quick and easy process. Go here.

image

If Internet privacy is something you have concerns about then, I recommend that you checkout Startpage.com in depth.  There are a surprising number of additional benefits, including a Proxy Service (designed for additional privacy), not discussed in this article.

Note: We may yet see a game changer – the European Union, which seems much more concerned with Internet user privacy than elsewhere, is in the process of drawing up legislation which may allow citizens of EU member states to delete data stored by websites and services.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

18 Comments

Filed under Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Google, Opinion, Privacy, Windows Tips and Tools

Scareware Is Everywhere – As Mac Users Just Found Out

The success cyber criminals have had with the recent Mac scareware attack (MacDefender, which has already morphed into a new variant – MacGuard), emphasizes the following point – given the opportunity, Mac users may be just as likely as Windows users to say “Yes” to an invitation to download a rogue security application.

Considering Apple’s marketing style, which reinforces the myth that Macs are inherently more resistant to malware infections than Windows PCs (bolstered by the cachet that Mac users are somehow smarter than PC users), I suspect that Mac users are in for a rough ride in the coming months. Undoubtedly, Mac users will learn that cyber criminals use of social engineering is not platform specific.

Hopefully, this reality check will put a stop to nonsensical forum comments like the following.

“Well this is why I’m glad to have a Mac just saying”

“If Windows didn’t exist these things wouldn’t happen to people”

Since myths tend to die a slow and painful death however, I somehow doubt it.

Early last year, I posted an article – Say “Yes” on the Internet and Malware’s Gotcha! – which pointed out the potential consequences to those Internet users who instinctively, and unthinkingly, click on “Yes” or “OK”. Given the unprecedented rise in the number of malicious scareware applications in the interim (often, but not exclusively, promoted through poisoned Google search results), that article is worth reposting.

The following is an edited version of that earlier article.

It's not my fault Virtually every computer user, at both the home user level (my friends), and at the corporate level, whom I come into contact with, tends to downplay personal responsibility for a malware infection.

I hear a lot of – “I don’t know what happened”; “it must have been one of the kids”; “all I did was download a free app that told me I was infected”; “no, I never visit porn sites” or, Bart Simpson’s famous line “it wasn’t me”. Sort of like “the dog ate my homework”, response. But we old timers, (sorry, seasoned pros), know the reality is somewhat different, and here’s why.

Cybercriminals overwhelmingly rely on social engineering to create an opportunity designed to drop malicious code, including rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots, on Internet connected computers.

In other words, cybercriminals rely on the user/potential victim saying – “YES”.

Yes to:

Downloading that security app that told you your machine was infected. Thereby, infecting your computer with a rogue security application.

Opening that email attachment despite the fact it has a .exe .vbs, or .lnk.extension, virtually guaranteeing an infection.

Downloading that media player codec to play a  porno clip, which still won’t play, but your computer is now infected.

Clicking on links in instant messaging (IM) that have no context, or are composed of only general text, which will result in your computer becoming part of a botnet.

Downloading executable software from web sites without ensuring that the site is reputable. Software that may contain a Browser Hijacker as part of the payload.

Opening email attachments from people you don’t know. At a minimum, you will now get inundated with Spam mail which will increase the changes of a malware infection.

There are many more opportunities for you to say “yes”, while connected to the Internet, but those listed above are some of the the most common.

The Internet is full of traps for the unwary – that’s a sad fact, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Cyber criminals are winning this game, and unless you learn to say “NO”, it’s only a matter of time until you have to deal with a malware infected machine.

Here’s an example of a rogue security application getting ready to pounce. A progressively more common occurrence on the Internet.

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I can’t say this often enough. Ensure you have adequate knowledge to protect yourself and stay ahead of the cybercrime curve. Make a commitment to acquire the knowledge necessary to ensure your personal safety on the Internet. In a word, become  “educated”.

If you lack this knowledge the answer is simple – you can get it. The Internet is loaded with sites (including this one), dedicated to educating computer users on computer security – including providing application reviews, and links to appropriate security software solutions.

It’s important to be aware however, that security applications alone, will not ensure your safety on the Internet. You really do need to become proactive to your Internet safety and security. And that does mean becoming educated.

Internet users who are aware of significant changes in the Internet security landscape, will react accordingly. Unfortunately, experience has taught me that you can’t fix stupid.

Before you say “yes”

Stop – consider where you’re action might lead

Think – consider the consequences to your security

Click – only after making an educated decision to proceed

Consider this from Robert Brault:

“The ultimate folly is to think that something crucial to your welfare is being taken care of for you”.

I’ll put it more bluntly – If you get a malware infection; it’s virtually certain it’s your fault. You might think – here’s this smug, cynical guy, sitting in his office, pointing undeserved critical fingers. Don’t believe it.

If users followed advice posted here, and advice from other security pros, and high level users, the Internet could be a vastly different experience for many. At the very least, we might have half a chance of dealing more effectively with the cybercriminal element. To this point, we’re losing rather magnificently.

Computer users would be vastly better off if they considered Internet security advice, as a form of inoculation. It’s a relatively painless way to develop immunization. While inoculations can be mildly painful, the alternative can be a very painful experience.

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10 Comments

Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Safety, internet scams, Mac, Malware Alert, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, scareware, Windows Tips and Tools

Emsisoft Free Emergency Malware Removal Kit – USB Ready

This post was originally published July 26, 2010.

I came across the Emsisoft Emergency Kit just in the last few days, which means, I haven’t had a chance to put it through my normal test process.

So, in the interest of keeping regular readers up to date as to what’s new in the free antimalware market, the following information is taken directly from the publisher’s site.

______________________________________________________

The Emsisoft Emergency Kit contains a collection of programs that can be used without a software installation to scan and clean infected computers for malware.

Emsisoft Emergency Kit Scanner:

With the Emsisoft Emergency Kit Scanner you have got the powerful Emsisoft Scanner including graphical user interface. Search the infected PC for Viruses, Trojans, Spyware, Adware, Worms, Dialers, Keyloggers and other malign programs.

Run the Emsisoft Emergency Kit Scanner with a double click on a2emergencykit.exe. Found Malware can be moved to quarantine or finally deleted.

image

Emsisoft Commandline Scanner:

This scanner contains the same functionality as the Emergency Kit Scanner but without a graphical user interface. The commandline tool is made for professional users and can be used perfectly for batch jobs.

To run the Emsisoft Commandline Scanner, do the following actions:

– Open a command prompt window (Run: cmd.exe)
– Switch to the drive of the USB Stick (e.g.: f:) and then to the folder of the executable files (e.g.: cd run)
– Run the scanner by typing: a2cmd.exe

Next you will see a help page describing all available parameters.

Next is an example to scan drive c:\ with enabled Memory, Traces (Registry) and Cookie scan with active Heuristic module and archive support. Found Malware is moved to quarantine.

a2cmd.exe /f=”c:\” /m /t /c /h /a /q=”c:\quarantine\”

Emsisoft HiJackFree:

HiJackFree helps advanced users to detect and remove Malware manually. With HiJackFree you can manage all active processes, services, drivers, autoruns, open ports, hosts file entries and many more. For your full control over your system.

Emsisoft BlitzBlank:

BlitzBlank is a tool for experienced users and all those who must deal with Malware on a daily basis. Malware infections are not always easy to clean up. These days the software pests use clever techniques to protect themselves from being deleted. In more and more cases it is almost impossible to delete a Malware file while Windows is running. BlitzBlank deletes files, Registry entries and drivers at boot time before Windows and all other programs are loaded.

Self made Emergency USB stick:

Expand the content of the Emsisoft Emergency Kit to an USB stick and make your own universal tool to scan and clean infected PCs.

_______________________________________________________

System requirements: Windows XP, 2003/2008 Server, Vista and 7, full functionality on x64.

Download at: Emsisoft

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Computer Tools, downloads, flash drive, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Malware Removal, Portable Applications, Software, USB, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Cybercrime 101 – Advertise On A Search Engine For Success

imageIf you want to enhance your chances of being a successful cyber scam artist/cybercrook, you need to; look the part and act the part, of a successful Internet business organization.

How hard is that? Not hard at all when you consider all you need to do is offer a product that appears genuine, and perhaps most importantly – advertise in readily available and trusted media.

So, if you want to succeed in the $105 BILLION “Internet shadow economy”, advertising your “product” on an Internet search engine, could be a major step in helping you reach your financial goals.

Why an Internet search engine? Well, if one were to poll a group of typical Internet users as to the safety and reliability of search engine results, including the pervasive ads that search engines sprout; there is little doubt that the answer would be positive. In a sense, search engines impart instant legitimacy.

Part of the process of offering a product that appears to be genuine, would include producing and promoting a Web site that instills confidence in those unlucky enough to click on your ad, such as the site pictured below for ErrorSmart.

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But, here’s what 2-Spyware.com has to say about ErrorSmart:

Error Smart is not an anti-spyware as it says but a smart new scam luring online for victims. Usually, ErrorSmart must be downloaded and installed manually from promoting website, but sometimes it is distributed by trojans. Error Smart is presented as reputable security tool, but the facts speak differently.

It compromises the system by disabling firewalls and other security applications. It displays large numbers of fabricated security reports that are partially true because Error Smart is able to download additional computer parasites on the infected computer.

On top of that, Lavasoft’s Ad-aware, sees ErrorSmart as a Rogue application as the following graphic indicates.

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But hold on! Given that search engine results can be manipulated, or worse (see “Search Engine Results – Malware Heaven!” on this site), it’s reasonable to ask the question – why aren’t typical Internet users aware of this situation?

The simple answer is – search engines make little, or no effort, to educate their users in the risks involved in relying on advertisements appearing in their applications. As a consequence, the typical user I come into contact with believes search engine output to be untainted, and free of potential harmful exposure to malware.

A user looking for a review of ErrorSmart, for example, has a reasonably good chance of finding the following review:

ErrorSmart uses the industry’s most advanced error-resolution technology and puts it to work for you. By scanning your hard drive, analyzing the errors and correcting the problems, ErrorSmart can restore your system performance and increase startup speed by up to 70 percent.

Whether it’s incomplete uninstalls, failed installations, driver issues or spyware infections that are affecting your PC, ErrorSmart will rid you of your computer problems in just minutes.

However, the graphic below, illustrates WOT users’ reactions to this article.

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Fact: Consumer confidence in the strength and reliability of search engine results, particularly ads, is seriously misplaced.

ErrorSmart (the site pictured earlier), a “scareware/rogueware” application developed to mislead uninformed computer users’ into downloading and paying for the “full” version of this bogus software, based on the false positives generated by the application, has been “advertised” for months on a number of leading search engines.

If you think this is a one off, or an isolated incident, then you’ll be surprised to learn it’s not. For additional information on this issue see “Search Engine Results – Malware Heaven!”, on this site.

So will search engine providers address the issues described in this article? Sure – but only when consumers who are totally fed up with tainted search engine results finally force them to. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Writing articles like this is not without risk. For example, several years ago I wrote an article on an application – Finally Fast – considered by many to be less than it pretends to be. Google “Finally Fast scam” to see what I mean.

Recently, Ascentive, the developers behind Finally Fast, had their lawyers email me a letter in which they threatened to sue me for posting my unbiased views on their product. Since I live in Canada, where the courts are not sympathetic to lawsuits that are launched to intimidate and harass, this letter had little effect. Actually, I considered their threat a backhanded compliment!

Nevertheless, since Ascentive is well know for aggressive threats to sue – they even sued Google – “ The claimant, Ascentive,  a software producing corporation that, after some bad press, got kicked (“suspended”) out of Google’s organic search results & whose AdWords account got disabled, is now  suing  Google”, I did hand the email to my lawyer.

My lawyers advice to me, in decidedly unlawerly language was – “tell them to kiss your ass”.  He want on to explain that a “libel chill” lawsuit such as this, had little chance of being considered by the courts in this country.

Like most people I don’t react well to threats, so I did consider looking to the Blogger community for support on this and mounting a campaign, with the help of the community, to take up the gauntlet and spotlight Ascentive’s actions.

But, considering the number of hours that such a campaign would require, I took the easy way out and removed the article. However, if my daily workload should ever lighten – I may yet revisit my decision.

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9 Comments

Filed under blogging, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Google, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, scareware, Search Engines, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Emsisoft Emergency Kit – 4 Malware Removal Tools In A Box

I came across the Emsisoft Emergency Kit just in the last few days, which means, I haven’t had a chance to put it through my normal test process.

Unfortunately, it’s not very likely that I’ll have the time to do so, for several more weeks.

So, in the interest of keeping regular readers up to date as to what’s new in the free antimalware market, the following information is taken directly from the publisher’s site.

______________________________________________________

The Emsisoft Emergency Kit contains a collection of programs that can be used without a software installation to scan and clean infected computers for malware.

Emsisoft Emergency Kit Scanner:

With the Emsisoft Emergency Kit Scanner you have got the powerful Emsisoft Scanner including graphical user interface. Search the infected PC for Viruses, Trojans, Spyware, Adware, Worms, Dialers, Keyloggers and other malign programs.

Run the Emsisoft Emergency Kit Scanner with a double click on a2emergencykit.exe. Found Malware can be moved to quarantine or finally deleted.

image

Emsisoft Commandline Scanner:

This scanner contains the same functionality as the Emergency Kit Scanner but without a graphical user interface. The commandline tool is made for professional users and can be used perfectly for batch jobs.

To run the Emsisoft Commandline Scanner, do the following actions:

– Open a command prompt window (Run: cmd.exe)
– Switch to the drive of the USB Stick (e.g.: f:) and then to the folder of the executable files (e.g.: cd run)
– Run the scanner by typing: a2cmd.exe

Next you will see a help page describing all available parameters.

Next is an example to scan drive c:\ with enabled Memory, Traces (Registry) and Cookie scan with active Heuristic module and archive support. Found Malware is moved to quarantine.

a2cmd.exe /f=”c:\” /m /t /c /h /a /q=”c:\quarantine\”

Emsisoft HiJackFree:

HiJackFree helps advanced users to detect and remove Malware manually. With HiJackFree you can manage all active processes, services, drivers, autoruns, open ports, hosts file entries and many more. For your full control over your system.

Emsisoft BlitzBlank:

BlitzBlank is a tool for experienced users and all those who must deal with Malware on a daily basis. Malware infections are not always easy to clean up. These days the software pests use clever techniques to protect themselves from being deleted. In more and more cases it is almost impossible to delete a Malware file while Windows is running. BlitzBlank deletes files, Registry entries and drivers at boot time before Windows and all other programs are loaded.

Self made Emergency USB stick:

Expand the content of the Emsisoft Emergency Kit to an USB stick and make your own universal tool to scan and clean infected PCs.

_______________________________________________________

System requirements: Windows XP, 2003/2008 Server, Vista and 7, full functionality on x64.

Download at: Emsisoft

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

28 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Software, trojans, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP