Tag Archives: simple

ExploitShield Browser Edition – FREE

Cybercriminals design malware to exploit vulnerable systems without user interaction being required – on the one hand, and craft attacks that take advantage of unaware computer users, in which user interaction is required – on the other hand.

The second part, of this two part attack approach, can only be defeated if the computer user is aware of current Internet threats. So, knowledge and experience, are critical ingredients in the never ending, and escalating battle, against cybercriminals.

In order to defeat attacks which rely on exploiting vulnerable systems, the preferred method to do so, is the implementation of a layered security approach. Employing layered security should (I emphasize should), ensure the swift detection of malware, before any damage occurs on the targeted system.

Let’s talk real world:

Given existing technology, no single security application is capable of providing adequate computer system protection. Gaps exist in protection capabilities in even the most sophisticated security applications.

Layering (or stacking) security applications, offers the best chance of remaining infection free, by closing these gaps. Keep in mind however, that even the best layered protection strategy will not make up for the lack of experience, and intuitiveness, of many computer users.

So, stopping the bad guys from gaining a foothold has to be a primary objective of that layered defense strategy that I mentioned earlier. And, part of that strategy includes raising barriers at the doorway to the system – the Internet browser.

ExploitShield (brought to my attention some time ago by good friend Michael Fisher), a free Internet browser security application which is currently in Beta, seems well suited to helping raise those barriers.

From the site:

ExploitShield protects users where traditional security measures fail. It consists of an innovative patent-pending application shielding technology that prevents malicious exploits from compromising computers through software vulnerabilities.

ExploitShield Browser Edition is free for home users and non-profit organizations. It includes all protections needed to prevent drive-by download targeted attacks originating from commercial exploit kits and other web-based exploits.

These type of attacks are used as common infection vectors for financial malware, ransomware, rogue antivirus and other types of nastiest not commonly detected by traditional blacklisting antivirus and security products.

Where’s the proof?

Since I’m just now getting back into application testing, following six months or so of 60+ hours a week assignments, I’ve relied (in this case) on the expert opinion of others (including Neil J. Rubenking), as to the effectiveness of ExploitShield. My apologies for that.

Installation is a breeze and, on application launch, a simple and uncomplicated interface is presented.

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Clicking on the “Shields” tab will provide you with a list of applications protected by ExploitShield – as shown below.

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Once loaded, ExploitShield will run as a background process (shown in the screen capture below – necessary since it provides active protection for the applications shown in the screenshot above.

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As a reminder that ExploitShield is up and running, a new Icon – the “Z”, as shown in the following screen shot ,will appear in the system tray.

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System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. ExploitShield runs as both 32 bit and native bit.

From the developer: This beta 0.8.1 expires March 31, 2013. Check back to download a new version once expired.

Download at: ZeroVulnerabilityLabs

It may be a new year – but, the state of Internet security is as it ever was – pathetic. The Internet is a world that is full of cybercriminals, scam and fraud artists, and worse. A world that reeks of tainted search engine results, malware infected legitimate websites, drive-by downloads and bogus security software.

Please be guided by the following: Stop – Think – Click. The bad guys really are out to get you.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Browsers, Don't Get Hacked, downloads

TuneTune – YouTube To MP3 Converter Browser Add-on

imageSt. Patrick’s Day is over for another year – and, thank goodness for that. Along with New Years Eve, St. Paddy’s Day, it seems to me, brings out the worst in the non-drinking drinkers who load-up well past their capacity to handle the juice of the barley. As an Irishman (of some renown   Smile ), I do celebrate St. Patrick’s Day – but, in comfort – at home – with good friends – and, a boatload of Guinness.

Traditional Irish music, along with good craic (conversation), plays an essential role in properly celebrating Ireland’s patron saint. So, this year, as in previous years, I turned to YouTube audio ripping to augment my collection of  traditional Irish music (no, not Danny Boy, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, or the like).

Ripping music from YouTube videos is a quarrelsome question. There are those who consider anything downloaded for personal use to be legal. There are those who consider downloading anything that is copyrighted to be illegal – under any circumstances.

The YouTube audio ripping situation presents a different set of legal issues though, it seems to me. I’m not sure I see the difference between saving a YouTube video to disk (which loads of people do), for later playback – and, simply ripping the audio portion for later playback.

There are any number of ways to extract audio from YouTube videos, but many are cumbersome and time consuming. There is a solution thought, that’s neither cumbersome, or  time consuming – TuneTune, a freeware YouTube to MP3 converter. Once this browser add-on is configured, it’s one click simple – more or less.

Following installation, the add-on will append an icon to the toolbar or status bar. This icon will go from gray to color (as shown in the following screen captures), when you’re visiting a YouTube page.

Non YouTube page:

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YouTube page:

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Clicking on the icon will convert the video from YouTube, to MP3, in one click.

Additional choices are available in the options menu – as shown below.

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Here’s a quick walkthrough which will illustrate how quick and convenient this browser add-0n is.

First up – a visit to a YouTube page hosting the Neil Diamond tune – “Hello Again.”

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Since I obviously have the add-on installed, you’ll notice the TuneTune icon displayed (in the screen capture above), directly on the YouTube page. A simple click on the icon begins the conversion process – as shown below. BTW, pasting the YouTube link is not necessary.

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Following the file conversion, users have the opportunity to customize the converted file, in a limited way – as shown below.

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The following screen shot shows the converted file in the directory which I created specifically for this test.

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Elapsed time (clicking on the icon to file download completion) – under 15 seconds. That’s fast!

Supported browsers:

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TuneTune is available in multiple languages. The current language is changeable by clicking on your language of choice in the footer.

Visit the author’s site – here (TuneTune.net).

8 Comments

Filed under Audio Software, Browser add-ons, downloads, Freeware, Software, YouTube

The Windows Club Latest Freebie – Ultimate Windows Customizer

imageRegular readers here will know, that I’m a big fan of the The Windows Club a great bunch of guys who have written and released some terrific free applications including Right-Click Extender (an absolute favorite of mine), Ultimate Windows Tweaker and FixWin Utility – all of which I have reviewed here, and recommended, in the last year.

The Windows Club’s latest release, Ultimate Windows Customizer (brought to you by my good buddy TeX, who gave me a heads-up this week), provides a full range of customizations designed specifically for your Windows 7 installation.

Ultimate Windows Customizer provides customization options in these areas –

Explorer

Context Menus

Libraries

Logon Screen

Start Orb

Taskbar

Miscellaneous

Extra Settings

Windows Media Player

Following installation, the application opens to a simple “click here” interface. Clicking on any of the following screen shots will expand the graphic to its original.

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The following two screen captures illustrate just a few of the customizations which can easily be pulled off using Ultimate Windows Customizer.

Context Menus

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Settings and Extras

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Fast facts:

Very simple and easy to use. No manual Hacks. No need to manually edit the Windows Registry and Windows System files.

Tested over and over for compatibility between various customizations.

70+ major features with literally tons of sub-features.

Built in Update Feature to be easily notified of new updates.

Backs up all System Files and Registry Settings that UWC deals with and does not modify these.

Error Log for easy display.

Easy uninstallation via the Control Panel.

Creates System Restore Point before any customizations are done.

System Requirements: Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit).

Download at: The Windows Club

As with all Windows Club applications to date, Ultimate Windows Customizer is a terrific application. One which can add a little sparkle, and increased convenience, to any Win 7 installation.

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Windows 7

Is Linux Only For Techies?

Currently, I’m running a dual boot system – Windows 8 Developer and Ubuntu Linux – so much for the rumor that Microsoft has locked out dual booting Linux on Windows 8.

In fact, I’ve been running dual boot systems for years – various flavors of Windows, and Linux. I wouldn’t, for example, do my online banking in any OS other than Linux. So, I’m comfortable with the idea that I can offer my opinion on how “hard” or how “easy” it is, to run with Linux.

I like to think that my opinion is an “educated” opinion. An opinion based on long term usage and direct observation. So, it definitely burns my ass when I read fluff from Windows bloggers who pass judgment on Linux and who, without the benefit of personal knowledge, go into a “let’s trash Linux” mode.

In 30+ years of real world computing,  I have met only a handful of techies who have an accurate understanding of how a typical user computes – how a typical user experiences computing. An understanding based on – here’s that terrible word again – observation.

Instead, the “I just know” phrase, as to how a typical user computes, is often offered in place of evidence based opinion. A follow up query such as “OK, but HOW do you know?”, invariably leads to a shake of the head and an “I just know that’s all” rapid response.

This throwaway response puts me in mind of the years I spent in management consulting, when a “how would your customers rate your service delivery” query for example, would invariably be met with a “Oh hey – terrific, terrific”, comeback.

We’ll skip ahead to  the inevitable “How do you know?”, and I’m sure you can guess the answer – “we just know”. More often than not, a series of customer centric focus groups would reveal that a company had a massively misplaced perception of how customers really viewed service delivery. I refer to this only to illustrate the point that perception does not always line up with reality – despite the often quoted “perception is reality”.

One particular “I just know” statement, I hear repeatedly from fellow techies is – Linux is only for techies. But, is it? Nor from where I sit it’s not. I suspect that this fallacy is based on (amongst a host of misperceptions), the mistaken view that Linux is primarily a command line driven operating system. Something it decidedly is not.

Sure, if a user is a command line fanatic in Windows (as a DOS 1 veteran, I understand the attraction), then that preference can easily be carried over into Linux. But, that’s not how a typical user interacts with an operating system – not in Windows and not in Linux.

Ubuntu Linux for example, is built around an intuitive point and click user interface which is similar in layout, and function, to Windows – including Windows XP. Certainly more instinctive, and vastly more functional, than the new Windows 8 Metro GUI shown below.

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To be fair – the classic Windows Desktop is accessible through the Metro GUI in Windows 8. Here’s a screenshot of my classic Desktop running in Windows 8.

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Contrast the Windows Desktop shown above, with the following OLD Linux Desktop layout (March 2007). Point and click simple – similar in layout and functionality to the previously shown Windows Desktop.

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Here are a couple of Ubuntu Desktops I currently run. Simple, functional, and efficient.

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Alternative Linux Desktops are readily available, so that a transition to a Linux based operating system can be more or less, a seamless move for an average user. Admittedly, there are some issues new Linux users will encounter in making a change from Windows. But, these are essentially “where do I click” issues – not issues that require techie based skills.

A number of alternative Desktops are shown below.

Enlightenment

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Fluxbox

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KDE

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There’s no doubt Windows and Linux are not the same operating system under the hood. But, average users don’t look under the hood of an OS – not in Windows – not in Linux.

Average users simple want to point and click, and Linux based operating systems, by and large, allow them to do just that. To propose otherwise is disingenuous and suggests an uninformed basis for comparison.

If you’d like to get an handle on just how easy it is to run Ubuntu, you can download Ubuntu and run it alongside your current Windows system – just as if it was a normal Windows application. It’s a fabulous way to get a taste of Linux. Did I mention that it’s free?

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Freeware, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Ubuntu, Windows 8

Download Free PC Fixer – Fixes Common PC Problems

imageOften, new and casual computer users get left behind when it comes to PC utility software. Developers of this type of application are prone to designing tools that require more than just a passing knowledge of how computer operating systems really work.

New users are very often unfamiliar with both the technology itself, and the technical terms involved in using this type of application. For many users, a simple set of tools that does not require the user to be geek inclined, is more appropriate than a suite of tools that does everything but clean the kitchen sink.

While it’s generally true that more advanced users want/need much more control than a one click system utility provides, a one click system utility can often be the ideal solution for a new user.

PC Fixer 1

PC Fixer is a relatively simple, but nonetheless, powerful set of tools for new and casual computer users that includes the following comparatively basic modules:

Install – assists in the setup/installation of applications, internet, email, printers, wireless network and more.

Fix – diagnostic applet with comprehensive solutions to common problems.

Optimize – a configuration utility with surprising functionality.

Secure – as well as the ability to remove malware, this module allows the user to configure Windows security settings.

Data Recovery – provides the user with the tools required to recover data in specific applications including MS Word, Excel, Access, and Outlook and so on.

Tune up – this feature is essentially a Registry cleaner.

PC Fixer 2

A sample of repair issues addressed by PC Fixer:

CD or DVD driver is missing.

CD burner does not work.

Printing service is disabled.

Cannot open Task Manager.

Additional functionality included in this neat little application:

Windows XP & Vista – Diagnose and fix common desktop issues, repair corrupt files, and resolve configuration conflicts in Vista and Windows XP.

Microsoft Office – Provide automatic fixes for problems related to Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point, Access, and Outlook for your email.

Security – Improve security and privacy by recognizing and fixing configuration flaws in system/device/software settings and removing virus and malware.

CD/DVD, Printer, or USB – Fix issues related to CD/DVD, Printers, USB, etc. where conflicting device software and configuration make them inaccessible.

Performance Tuning – Improve overall performance by fine tuning various system and network settings, improve startup time by turning off unnecessary programs in your startup and services.

This application is not a panacea for computer problems of course, but for less experienced Windows users, it should prove to a valuable addition to their computer toolbox.

Interestingly, CNET’s (Download.com), editors rated this application as a 4.5 Star, out of 5. This is a significant rating, since the number of applications that have earned a 4 Star rating on CNET, is quite limited.

System requirements: Windows XP/Vista, Windows 7

A note on Windows 7: While the developers site does not make mention of Win 7  compatibility, PC Fixer ran perfectly on my Win 7 test system.

Download at: Download.com

Video Tutorial of how to use PC Fixer

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, computer repair, Computer Tune Up Utilities, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Problems, New Computer User Software Tools, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Download Free SpyShelter Anti-Keylogger

image A software Keylogger, or system monitor, is a small program (not always malware, I should point out), that monitors every keystroke a user types on a computer’s keyboard.

Keyloggers are a particularly sinister type of malware, and are notorious for disabling Firewalls and anti-malware tools. This is a type of malware that I pay particular attention to, and make a special effort to guard against.

Since I test a lot of applications, I am continually amazed at the number of programs that request access to my keyboard, and screen, during installation. Unless there are valid reasons for this type of access, I don’t allow it. Surprisingly, in most cases the application installs correctly. Curious!

Regular reader Charles L. recently gave me a great tip on a freeware anti-logger application – SpyShelter Personal, which is also available in a paid version, SpyShelter premium.

SpyShelter is an anti-keylogging, anti-spyware program that protects your data from Keylogging and spy programs: known, unknown, and under-development.

It detects and block dangerous and malicious programs, to help ensure that your data cannot be stolen by cyber criminals.

The free version includes the following features:

  • System protection (HIPS)
  • Anti keylogger
  • AntiScreenCapture
  • AntiClipboardCapture

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Setup is a snap, since the user interface follows the familiar tabbed menu system.

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SpyShelter Fast facts:

Proactively scans when any spy program, Keylogger or Trojan attempts to store your private information.

Compatible with other well-known security products such as anti-virus and firewall software.

Protect your passwords, chat, credit card.

Fast algorithm process does not slow down your computer when scanning for dangerous items.

SpyShelter needs only a small amount of hardware and system resources.

Doesn’t need to check a signature database.

Simple, easy-to-use, intuitive GUI.

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

Languages: English, German, Spanish, Italian, French, Polish, Croatian, Serbian, Chinese, Turkish, Czech, Macedonian, Brazilian(Portuguese)

Download at: SpyShelter.com

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There are additional remedies for this type of malware threat, including –

SnoopFree Privacy Shield (free):

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SnoopFree Privacy Shield (which I’ve been running for years), is a free application that guards your keyboard, screen, and open windows from all such spy software.

It makes it virtually impossible for any spy program to work on your computer since SnoopFree Privacy Shield’s protection works against spy software in real time. Unfortunately, this application works on Windows XP only.

Download at: Download.com

Zemana AntiLogger (commercial):

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Since my personal home machines now run on Windows 7, I can no longer protect against Keyloggers using SnoopFree Privacy Shield, so I had to find an alternative. Zemana AntiLogger, is a competitively priced anti-keylogger application that I have come to rely on since I installed it 6 months ago.

This is an impressive application, particularly the system defense function which intercepts proposed changes to system files NOT picked up by other security applications on my systems.

Since I use a Webcam extensively for communicating, the active Webcam protection offered by Zemana AntiLogger, is of special importance to me.

Zemana AntiLogger is compatible with Windows XP, Vista and Win 7.

This application is not freeware, but is very well priced at $34.00 USD. You can download a 15 day trial version at: Zemana

We’re now half way through 2010, and as predicted, this year has being a banner year for cyber-criminals. Being prepared and being aware, while not a panacea, will continue to be a key element in mitigating risk exposure. If Keylogger protection is a concern, you should consider adding an anti-logger application to your security toolbox.

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Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Software, trojans, Viruses, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Fix Your Computer with Free PC Fixer a 4.5 Star Utility

Often, new and casual computer users get left behind when it comes to PC utility software. Developers of this type of application are prone to designing tools that require more than just a passing knowledge of how computer operating systems really work.

New users are very often unfamiliar with both the technology itself, and the technical terms involved in using this type of application. For many users, a simple set of tools that does not require the user to be geek inclined, is more appropriate than a suite of tools that does everything but clean the kitchen sink.

While it’s generally true that more advanced users want/need much more control than a one click system utility provides, this type of utility can be the ideal solution for a new user.

PC Fixer 1

PC Fixer is a relatively simple, but nonetheless, powerful set of tools for new and casual computer users that includes the following comparatively basic modules:

Install – assists in the setup/installation of applications, internet, email, printers, wireless network and more.

Fix – diagnostic applet with comprehensive solutions to common problems.

Optimize – a configuration utility with surprising functionality.

Secure – as well as the ability to remove malware, this module allows the user to configure Windows security settings.

Data Recovery – provides the user with the tools required to recover data in specific applications including MS Word, Excel, Access, and Outlook and so on.

Tune up – this feature is essentially a Registry cleaner.

PC Fixer 2

A sample of issues addressed by PC Fixer:

CD or DVD driver is missing.

CD burner does not work.

Printing service is disabled.

Cannot open Task Manager.

Performance tuning tips.

Security and Privacy protection.

This application is not a panacea for computer problems of course, but for less experienced Windows users, it should prove to a valuable addition to their computer toolbox.

There is additional functionality included in this neat little application, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Good surprises are cool, right?

Interestingly, CNET’s (Download.com), editors rated this application as a 4.5 Star, out of 5. This is a significant rating, since the number of applications that have earned a 4 Star rating on CNET, is quite limited.

System requirements: Windows XP/Vista, Windows 7

A note on Windows 7: While the developers site does not make mention of Win 7  compatibility, PC Fixer worked perfectly on my Win 7 test system.

Download at: Download.com

Video Tutorial of how to use PC Fixer

For a more robust set of system utilities checkout “Glary Utilities – Perfect Collection of Free System Tools” on this site.

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

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, computer repair, downloads, Freeware, New Computer User Software Tools, Older Adult Computer Users, Registry Cleaners, Slow Computer, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP