Tag Archives: Viruses

If You’re A BitTorrent User – Guard Against Malware With BitDefender’s Free Virus Guard

imageIf you’re into downloading open license movies, music, games and applications, then there’s a good chance you’re into the enormously popular BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing application.

Just to be clear – I am not a fan of public, peer to peer file sharing – here’s why: Peer to peer file sharing carries with it a high risk that the user will not get what he thinks he will. And, may pick up something nobody wants to pick up.

So is this a serious risk? You bet – take a look at the following from the BitTorrent Beginner’s Guide –  How do I know that someone isn’t sending out viruses on BitTorrent?

In short, you don’t. You should treat something downloaded with BitTorrent just like any file downloaded from the internet – that is, if you don’t trust the source of the file, then you should use caution when opening it.

BitTorrent guarantees that the content you download is not altered from when the torrent was originally created, but if the source files used to create the torrent were already infected, this will provide no protection!

What’s a user to do then, who enjoys file sharing through BitTorrent, and wants to reduce the risk of being burned by cybercriminals who lurk on public file sharing networks? BitDefender’s Virus Guard, might provide part of the answer.

BitDefender’s free Virus Guard, which is now part of BitTorrent’s App Studio, is available to BitTorrent’s 80 million users.  Virus Guard quickly scans torrents before they’re launched, and flags any potential threats it finds; effectively giving users an opportunity to delete torrents before they can do any harm.

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Here’s a screen capture of the BitTorrent application with BitDefender’s Virus Guard installed. Click on the graphic to expand to original size – 1260 x 745.

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BitDefender’s Virus Guard Fast Facts:

Scan from within BitTorrent — avoid wasting resources on a full disk scan.

Check all torrent downloads (including ZIP, RAR, and TAR archives) to eliminate potential threats before they occur.

Protect against viruses and other malware using industry-leading technology.

Keep all your torrent downloads safe and clean.

BitDefender provides industry-leading protection based on two proactive threat detection technologies.

Virus definition library updated continuously to protect you from the latest threats.

Download Virus Guard at: BitTorrent’s App Studio (you will have to scroll down the page).

Old advice, but more important than ever:

Trade-offs and risks you should consider if you’re a fan of Peer to Peer file sharing.

Privacy: When you are connected to file-sharing programs, you may unintentionally allow others to copy confidential files you did not intend to share. So be sure to setup the file-sharing software very carefully.

If you don’t check the proper settings when you install the software, you could allow access not just to the files you intend to share, but also to other information on your hard drive, such as your tax returns, email messages, medical records, photos, and other personal and financial documents.

It’s extremely important to be aware of the files that you place in, or download to, your shared folder. Don’t put information in your shared folder that you don’t want to share with others. Your shared folder is the folder that is shared automatically with others on peer to peer file sharing networks.

Copyright Issues: You may knowingly, or otherwise, download material that is protected by copyright laws and find yourself caught up in legal issues. Copyright infringement can result in significant monetary damages, fines, and even criminal penalties.

Some statistics suggest as many as 70% of young people between the ages of 9 – 14, regularly download copyrighted digital music. If you are a parent, you bear the ultimate responsibility for this illegal activity.

Adult Content: Again, if you are a parent you may not be aware that their children have downloaded file-sharing software on the family computer, and that they may have exchanged games, videos, music, pornography, or other material that may be unsuitable for them. It’s not unusual for other peoples’ files to be mislabeled and you or your children can unintentionally download these files.

Spyware: There’s a good chance that the file-sharing program you’re using has installed other software known as spyware to your computer’s operating system. Spyware monitors a user’s browsing habits and then sends that data to third parties. Frequently the user gets ads based on the information that the spyware has collected and forwarded to these third parties.

I can assure you that spyware can be difficult to detect and remove. Before you use any file-sharing program, you should buy, or download free software, that can help prevent the downloading or installation of spyware, or help to detect it on your hard drive if it has been installed.

Viruses: Use and update your anti-virus software regularly. Files you download could be mislabeled, hiding a virus or other unwanted content. Use anti-virus software to protect your computer from viruses you might pick up from other users through the file-sharing program.

Generally, your virus filter should prevent your computer from receiving possibly destructive files. While downloading, you should avoid files with extensions such as .exe, .scr, .lnk, .bat, .vbs, .dll, .bin, and .cmd.

Default Closing Behavior: It is critical that you close your connection after you have finished using the software. In some instances, closing the file-sharing program window does not actually close your connection to the network. That allows file-sharing to continue and will increase your security risk. Be sure to turn off this feature in the programs “preferences” setting.

What’s more, some file-sharing programs automatically run every time you turn on your computer. As a preventive measure, you should adjust the file-sharing program’s controls to prevent the file-sharing program from automatically starting.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, BitDefender, Don't Get Hacked

Norman Malware Cleaner –Another Free Tool To Remove Tough Malware

Just like the 14 free specialty malware removal tools I wrote on earlier this year, Norman Malware Cleaner has been designed to identify tough malware infections, including specific malware, and then help you eradicate those infections.

Since this particular application is a stand alone executable, it does not require installation (perfect for a Flash Drive). Since scanning with the most recent definition database is a must, you will need to download a new version of the application on a per use basis.

On execution, you will be presented with the following end user agreement. This may be the shortest end user agreement I’ve ever seen.

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Despite the fact that this is a powerful application, setting the options is fairly straightforward.

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For the first test, I ran a simple Quick scan as illustrated in the following two screen captures.

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This scan completed in less than four minutes, and indicated that no infections were present.

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I then changed two critical group policies which duplicated common malware attacks – no access to the Task Manager, and restricted access to Windows Explorer (show hidden files).

As you can see in the following screen shot, Norman Malware Cleaner had no difficulty picking up on, and cleaning, these registry changes on a scan rerun.

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A scan results log file is saved to the desktop, as illustrated.

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Fast facts:

Detect and Remove malware (viruses, Rootkit’s, FakeAV, worms and more)

Utilize advanced Anti-Rootkit technology

Quarantine module

Scanning and cleaning including Norman patented Norman SandBox technology

Supports Quick- Normal- Full- Custom Scan mode

Command line function for better tailor scanning across several machines (businesses)

Daily signature updates available

Systems requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008 and Win 7.

Download at: Norman

Registration is required.

Note: This application is for use when you are dealing with a machine you know is infected. It is not a replacement for a real-time AV.

As with most tools in this class, advanced computer knowledge is required. Unless you feel confident in your diagnostic skills, you would be better off avoiding this application.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, downloads, flash drive, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Malware Removal, Portable Applications, Rogue Software Removal Tips, rootkits, Software, USB, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

PandaLabs Second Quarter Security Landscape Report

imageIn a rather surprising statement, PandaLabs, in its 2011 Second Quarter Security Report, makes the point that there’s a challenging grey area between “Hacktivism” (LulzSec and Anonymous), and Criminality. Frankly, I don’t subscribe to this “blurry lines” view.

I see the issue in rather simpler terms – if security holes exist in critical systems which enterprise, or government, are either unwilling, or unable to address – ultimately creating a host of innocent victims – then I encourage LulzSec and Anonymous to continue their campaigns of outing non-responsive, and non-responsible organizations. I’m more than a little tired of being placed at risk due to organizational ineptness, or failure to adhere to common sense security practices.

Some key findings from Panda’s report (determined from data collected through Panda ActiveScan) include:

Every minute, 42 new malware strains were created.

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Trojans constitute 70 percent of new malware followed by viruses (10 percent) and worms (8.53 percent). Surprisingly, Adware, which only represents 1.37 percent of all malware, accounted for more than 9 percent of all infections.

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China, Thailand and Taiwan continue to lead infection rankings.

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Top 10 least infected countries.

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So, should these statistics hold any relevancy for you? Should you be preoccupied, or overly concerned, with these numbers? The answer, it seems to me, depends on how aware you are of the overallInternet security landscape, and where you fit into the following user groups.

  • Those who know.
  • Those who think they know.
  • Those who don’t know, that they don’t know.

Hopefully, you are in that small group who can confidently say – “I know”.

Broken record time:

I’ll risk sounding like a broken record, once again, and repeat what I’ve said here numerous times –

“Controlling malware intrusion, while surfing the Net, through the use of a  “virtual” environment rather than operating in a “real” environment, makes sense given the escalating level of cyber criminal activity on the Internet.”

BufferZone, is a particular effective and easy to use freeware virtualization application (perfect for casual users), which creates an isolated environment called the Virtual Zone, while you surf the Internet. You can read more about BufferZone, here.

About PandaLabs:

Since 1990, PandaLabs, Panda Security’s malware research laboratory, has been working to detect and classify malware in order to protect consumers and companies against new Internet threats.

To do so, PandaLabs uses Collective Intelligence, a cloud-based proprietary system that leverages the knowledge gathered from Panda’s user community to automatically detect, analyze and classify the more than 73,000 new malware strains that appear every day.

This automated malware classification is complemented through the work of an international team with researchers specialized each in a specific type of malware (viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware and other attacks) to provide global coverage.

The full report (PDF), is available here.

Follow Panda on Twitter and Facebook.

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Filed under Adware, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Reports, Panda Security, PandaLabs, trojans, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

Runscanner – Aggressively Queries Your System And Applications For Unauthorized Changes

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The developers of Runscanner describe this freeware utility as having been designed to “detect changes and misconfigurations in your system caused by spyware, viruses, or human error.”

Sounds a bit like HijackThis, the free utility from Trend Micro, which has a well deserved reputation for being aggressive in tracking down unauthorized changes that have been made to your system/applications.

Runscanner though, takes this process miles beyond HijackThis, and does so by  using an intuitive approach that casual users*, and experienced users alike, should find easy to work with.

*The only difficulty I see, that casual users might have a problem with is – the enormous volume of information this application is capable of producing. This could make it difficult for a casual user to interpret results.

Runscanner is a simple executable, and no installation is required. Just click on the file, and then choose your mode – beginner or expert.

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The following screen capture shows the results of a full scan I ran on a Win 7 (32 bit), machine. The only entry I was unfamiliar with was Staropen.sys. Runscanner was right on the job though, with the right click context menu providing access to “lookup” services, as the screen shot below illustrates.

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I took a look at Staropen.sys using a Google link to the Prevx file investigation site, and found the following: The filename Staropen.sys is used by objects that are classified as safe. It has not yet been seen to be associated with malicious software.

I then uploaded the file to VirusTotal (another context menu option),and VirusTotal reported the following – as shown in the screen shot below.

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I suspected that this system driver was a component of CDBurner XP, and opening the location (another context menu option), then reading the driver with NotePad, indicated this was correct.

The next part of the test involved generating an online malware analysis report, which generates a massive report on all items which are considered safe, unsafe, whitelisted and additionally, verification of each file’s digital signature.

The screen capture below shows only a tiny (and I do mean tiny), portion of this report. The report is the most comprehensive of any I’ve ever seen, produced by this type of utility.

When you click on the screen capture below, to expand to the original size, you’ll notice that I’ve queried  Nitro PDF Spool Service. Rather than go directly to the site, instead, I’ve used COOL Previews to gather the relevant information. If you’re not yet familiar with COOL Previews – you can read a review of this outstanding time saver here – Surf Smarter – Take A Sneak Peek At Links With CoolPreviews Firefox Add-on.

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Fast facts:

100+ start/hijack locations

Online malware analysis

Import and export of .run files

Powerful process killer

Save to text log file

Powerful file filtering

Host file editor

History backup / restore

Explorer jump

Analysis of file certificates

Beginner, Expert mode

Bit9 FileAdvisor MD5 lookup

Systemlookup.com lookup

Upload file to VirusTotal

Analyze loaded modules

Google lookup

Runscanner database lookup

Regedit jump

If you are a casual user, one caveat from the developer you should be aware of: Runscanner requires advanced Windows knowledge. If you delete an item, without knowing what it is, it can lead to major Windows problems. If you are not sure what to delete, post your Run file to a helper forum.

A list of helper forums is available directly from within the application, or here.

System requirements: Windows 2003, Windows 2000, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7 (according to the developers, the application is x 64 compatible).

Download at: Download.com

Public process list is an additional service provided by the developers. In this list you will be able to browse all processes and files found by Runscanner. Extra information for top processes is added to the database and optional security info is provided by research.

Runscanner has additional capabilities not reviewed here, so I recommend that you take a close look at this freebie. I think you’ll find that it’s worth the effort.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Malware Removal, Manual Malware Removal, Software, System Process Scanners, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

NEW – Panda Cloud Antivirus 1.5 Released

imagePanda Cloud Antivirus 1.5, Panda Security’s newest release (June 20, 2011), of it’s popular cloud-based antimalware application, should be even more effective at keeping the bad guys at bay with it’s newest enhanced features.

New features include – improved scanning speeds, less CPU consumption, advanced configuration options for exclusions of files based on file extensions, and a new activity monitor which shows information such as scanned file details, and previous viruses detected.

Panda Security obviously pays attention to its users recommendations for improved product features, since a number of these new features were suggested by the user community.

Panda Cloud Antivirus is based on Collective Intelligence, a system for detecting and disinfecting viruses and other threats that feeds off the knowledge shared by millions of users. The computers that are part of the Panda Community – instantly share and benefit from all the information stored in the cloud.

Testing anti-malware applications takes considerable time in order to get to the heart of the matter – does an application work in the “real world?”

Will the application do what an average user expects – does it block malware effectively and efficiently? Particularly new, or emerging, malware threats.

Is the interface crafted in such a way that an average user doesn’t need to digest an instruction manual in order to navigate the application?

Is the application capable of providing adequate protection without stressing system resources?

I’ve been running Panda Cloud Antivirus, on a secondary system, since April 2009, and in this extensive testing, Panda Cloud Antivirus has met, or exceeded, all of these requirements. So, I’m looking forward to giving this new release a workout.

Installation:

Pay particular attention at the Install screen. Once again, you’ll be asked to accept a Toolbar and a change in your Homepage – annoying as hell. As well, on this screen, you can choose your language.

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Panda is obviously convinced that the “more is less” GUI approach, is suitable for most users. Kudos – I couldn’t agree more.

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The optimized scan screen.

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Scan time: under 5 minutes – 19,873 files.

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The settings menu is accessed via the tool icon – as shown at the “hand icon” in the above screen shot. I found this “hideaway” a little awkward.

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Despite an abundance of settings you’ll find some settings are only available in the Pro version.

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At less than $30 for the one year Pro Edition license, you might consider jumping up to this version. Frankly though, I’m no fan of one year licenses.

Not when one considers that a lifetime license for Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware and SUPERAntiSpyware, both of which are outstanding applications, can be purchased for less than $30 – considerably less when on sale.

Fast facts:

Light – Only works where necessary. It’s so light you won’t even notice it.

Easy – Don’t worry about complicated decisions ever again. Panda Cloud Antivirus will make the best decisions for you to keep your PC protected.

Secure – Panda Cloud Antivirus is based on Collective Intelligence, a system that continuously collects and analyzes viruses and other threats gathered from the community of millions of Panda users around the world.

Free – No tricks! Panda Cloud Antivirus has a free version that protects you against viruses and malicious websites.

Note: Panda’s Collective Intelligence servers have analyzed 175,569,053  (and counting) viruses, and known goodware.

System requirements: Windows 7 32-bit, Windows 7 64-bit, Windows Vista 32-bit, Windows Vista 64-bit, Windows XP 32-bit,  Windows XP 64-bit.

Panda Cloud Antivirus is available in 20 languages.

Download at: Panda Security

Backed by more than two years experience running Panda Cloud Antivirus in various editions, I have no hesitation in recommending Panda Cloud Antivirus 1.5 as a front line antivirus application.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Cloud Computing, Cloud Computing Applications, Cyber Crime, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, Panda Security, Software, SUPERAntiSpyWare, Windows Tips and Tools

Free AntiMalware Software – And More – For Senior Computer Users

Looking at recent Internet usage statisticsimage, it seems obvious to me that older adults are now realizing that they don’t have to understand the “nitty gritty” of computer technology to send email-mail to friends and family, shop online, play games, make greeting cards, read book and film reviews, look into family genealogy, or find valuable health information on the Internet.

Here’s just one personal example of how older adults have jumped on the Internet bandwagon, and use it to great advantage.

Not too long ago, I ran into some older friends (in their 60s), who had recently gotten home after wintering in Florida. Throughout their time away (5 months, or so), they stayed in touch with their children, and grandchildren – virtually on a daily basis, using the free audio/video communication application, Skype. What a great use of technology!

Like the rest of us, Senior users are susceptible to cybercrime, and like the rest of us, need to protect their computers against the ever increasing exposure we all face to Trojans, Spyware, Viruses, Phishing Scams, and Identity Theft, while connected to the Internet.

Just for the record thought – statistically, it’s the deceptively named“tech savvy” generation, with their often misplaced confidence in their own abilities, who are more predisposed to malware infections and cyber criminal manipulation. Older users it seems, do know what they don’t know. My personal experience with a broad range of users, echoes these statistics.

For those that are members of this newly liberated group of Senior computer users, (who are not aggressive surfers), I’ve compiled a list of free anti-malware, and additional recommended applications, with simplicity of operation in mind – no manuals to digest, no tricky configuration to undertake; just install, and the applications will essentially do the rest.

But first:

Patch your operating system:

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Download and install all available patches, and service packs – if applicable, by connecting to Windows Update. Security Gurus will tell you that 50% of unpatched, and unprotected systems, will be infected with malicious code within 12 minutes of being connected to the Internet. Believe it!

Recommended Security Solutions:

PC Tools Firewall Plus 7:

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I’ve been running with this application for more than a year, and I must admit – I’m impressed with its performance. It installs easily, sets up quickly, and has not caused any conflicts despite my sometimes esoteric running requirements. The default settings are well thought out, and provide excellent protection for all users but particularly, less experience users.

Microsoft Security Essentials

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Easy to set up and run, particularly for new users. The interface is positively simple – offering Quick Scan, Full Scan, or Custom Scan. Provides full real time protection against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Additionally, Microsoft Security Essentials is free for small businesses with up to 10 PCs.

Immunet Free Antivirus

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Companion Antivirus: a superior community driven cloud based security application, which continues to gain increasing popularity – and rightfully so. In real time, Immunet keeps track of the state of security in the collective community (network), and should a member of the network (the community), encounter malware, you (as a member of the protected community), are instantly protected against the threat.

ThreatFire

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ThreatFire blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. This is one of the security applications that forms part of my own front line defenses.

SpyShelter Personal Free:

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SpyShelter is free anti-keylogging, anti-spyware program that protects your data from Keylogging and spy programs: known, unknown, and under-development. It detects and blocks dangerous and malicious programs, to help ensure that your data cannot be stolen by cyber criminals.

Firefox 4.0.1

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While Firefox is not technically an anti-malware application per se, with the most effective security add-ons, including NoScript, Adblock Plus and BetterPrivacy installed, it effectively acts as one.

Firefox 4.0.1 includes hundreds of improvements over previous versions.

WOT

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Web of Trust, a browser add-on which offers Internet users active preventive protection against Web-based attacks, online scams, identify theft, and unreliable shopping sites.

WinPatrol 20.5.2

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With WinPatrol, in your system tray, you can monitor system areas that are often changed by malicious programs. You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.

Keep in mind, malware itself is only part of the problem. The method used to deliver the malware – social engineering – is the most significant problem currently, for an average user. Social engineering, is a sure winner for the bad guys.

Cyber-criminals are increasingly relying on social engineering to create an opportunity designed to drop malicious code, including rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots on our computers.

Overcoming the instinctive human response to social engineering (and we all have it), to just “click” while surfing the Internet, will prove to be challenging . This instinctive response, will pose one of the biggest risks to your online safety and security.

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Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Anti-Malware Tools, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Free Firewalls, Freeware, Internet Safety for Seniors, Malware Protection, New Computer User Software Tools, PC Tools, Skype, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, Windows Tips and Tools

Fake URL Shortening Services –Spammers Latest Weapon

imageAccording to Symantec’s May 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report, released several days ago, spammers are now employing their own fake URL shortening services to redirect users to the spammer’s Web site. It’s hardly surprising that this new technique has directly contributed to rising spam rates.

MessageLabs Intelligence reports that “shortened links created on these fake URL-shortening sites are not included directly in spam messages. Instead, the spam emails contain shortened URLs created on legitimate URL-shortening sites. These shortened URLs lead to a shortened-URL on the spammer’s fake URL-shortening Web site, which in turn redirects to the spammer’s own Web site.”

Key findings from the May 2011 report include:

Spam: In May 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources increased by 2.9 percentage points since April 2011 to 75.8% (1 in 1.32 emails).

In the US 76.4 percent of email was spam, 75.3 percent in Canada, 75.4 percent in the UK, and 73.9 percent in Australia.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 222.3 emails (0.450 percent) in May, a decrease of 0.143 percentage points since April.

Endpoint Threats: The most frequently blocked malware targeting endpoint devices for the last month was the W32.Ramnit!html, a worm that spreads through removable drives and by infecting executable files.

Phishing: In May, phishing activity was 1 in 286.7 emails (0.349 percent), a decrease of 0.06 percentage points since April.

Web security: Analysis of Web security activity shows that approximately 3,142 Web sites each day were harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs including spyware and adware, an increase of 30.4 percent since April 2011. 36.8 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in May, an increase of 3.8 percentage points since April. Additionally, 24.6 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in May, an increase of 2.1 percentage points since last month.

The May 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report provides greater detail on all of the trends and figures noted above, as well as more detailed geographical and vertical trends. The full report is available here.

Reading this type of report (or at least the highlights), can be a major step in expanding the sense of threat awareness that active Internet users’ require.

Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world. Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at www.symantec.com.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Email, email scams, Internet Security Alerts, MessageLabs, Online Safety, spam, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools