Archive for the ‘Security’ Category



Three security tools for Windows 7 that are on the Microsoft web site for free

Posted on February 10th, 2011 in Security | No Comments »

When you are used to using Windows based computers, installing the right security tools on the operating system becomes a way of life. You know that there are hundreds of different pieces of malware that are out there waiting to be installed on your computer and cause havoc. The only thing to stop them is the protection software that you put on your computer. In the past you had to purchase most of your protection separately from the operating system. That is no longer the case. In this article we will talk about three pieces of software that you can get from the Microsoft web site that will make sure that your computer is safe.

Microsoft Security Essentials

The first tool that we are going to talk about is Microsoft Security Essentials. This tool will allow you to install the latest antivirus and Spyware protection from Microsoft. Over the years, Microsoft has let third parties do most of the heavy lifting when it came to the protection against viruses on the computer. Recently they have realized that hoping for third parties to do the job isn’t enough. So they have placed their own versions of the tools on the market and best of all they are free.

No one else should know how to protect the Windows operating system better than Microsoft. They have the available source code and are able to find bugs inside the crevices better than anyone else. Another good thing about having this software installed on your computer is that you get regular updates with the normal Windows update manager. This way not only will you be reminded to install the updates of the antivirus; you will also be reminded to install the updates of the rest of the operating system as well. This leads to better security overall.

Microsoft Firewall

While this software comes installed automatically on the latest Windows operating system, it doesn’t on the older versions. Also, you can use the Windows update to make sure that you are running the latest versions. To be sure that you are totally protected when you are on the Internet, you need a firewall. This will protect the ports that are open on your computer. These ports are used by the bad guys to be able to get into your computer remotely. With the firewall software installed this will not happen.

The latest version of Internet Explorer

What a lot of people do not understand is that security on the internet starts with the browser. If you do not have a strong browser then you are only asking for trouble. There are a lot of alternative strong browsers available for free but there is still a large group of people who like IE. If you are going to use IE then you should go to the web site and use the latest version. If you do not then you are setting yourself up for trouble.

These are three tools that you can get from Microsoft that will allow your computing experience to be a lot safer.

Buy your kid a netbook so they can have a safe computing experience

Posted on December 27th, 2010 in Security | No Comments »

The internet is a wonderful place that is full of mystery and excitement. Never in human history has it been so easy to discover new information. We are able to get data at the speed of light from all across the world. But there is a dark side to the internet as well. And if you have children then you must try to protect them from this dark side as much as possible. They will discover the bad things in life soon enough, make sure that you try to hold it off just a little bit longer. While some people do this by hovering over their kids when they use the computer in the family room, I would argue that there is another way. Purchase a netbook for your kids and put the proper security measures in it. This will allow your kids to have a feeling of independence while at the same time you are still making sure that they are safe.

Securing your netbook

When your kids use the same computer that you use, it might be annoying for you to have to turn off the security protections that you had in place when your kid was on the computer. And then if you turn it off, you have to remember to turn it back on when it is your kids turn to use the computer again. Getting your child their own netbook will help alleviate this problem. By getting them their own netbook, you can now let them surf the internet whenever they want while you have all of the security programs that you need to make sure that they are surfing the web sites that they are supposed to surf. There are all types of web nanny programs that will allow you to accomplish this. You can also set your router to block certain web sites from your kid’s computer by using the IP address of the computer. Most modern day router software has this capability.

And it is not only web nanny software that you will be able to install to protect your kids while they surf the internet. You can also place different security tools that will protect them from malware as well. From antivirus solutions to pop up blockers, there is a whole host of ways that you can protect your kid’s computer. Keeping them secured from the malware out there is just as important as keeping the web nanny software on the computer.

If you want your kid to show independence, while at the same time getting your computer back, then think about getting them a netbook. A device like this is low cost and can make both of your lives a little bit easier. All it takes is a little bit of set up and your kids netbook will be safe to surf the internet with no worries.

Christmas is the time when the most computers are the least protected

Posted on December 21st, 2010 in Security | No Comments »

During the holidays, there are a lot of gifts that are given out to both the kids and the spouses in a home. The older members of the family may receive trinkets such as jewelry or special homemade items. The kids may receive gifts such as toys that they can play with. For almost a decade now, the most popular gifts have all been electronic based. Whether it was a TV or a video game system, electronic gifts are taking over as the number one item that people want to have. And even more specifically, the hottest gifts for the past couple of years have been computer or computer based items. This list includes desktops, laptops, IPads, netbooks and other such items. While this is overall a good thing, there is a negative effect that can take place as well. You will have all of these new devices being opened for the first time and they will want to go on the internet. But items such as this going on the internet unprotected can lead to disastrous results.

The dangers of a new device

For the most part, when you are talking about a new computer or a desktop going out on the internet, there will be less danger the first 30 days. This is because most computers these days come with a piece of software called an antivirus that will protect them with a trial run. Antivirus companies pay computer makers to place their software in the Windows OS OEM installation. This allows them to have first movers advantage to these new customers because they are the first piece of antivirus software that they come across. The problem with this form of advertising is that the software is only a trial version. In 30 days, the time period will be up and most people will not pay to have it renewed. This means that unless they go get a free copy of some third party antivirus software then they will leave their computer very vulnerable.

Keeping your new computer safe

If you want to make sure that you stay safe then you need to pay attention to when that trial run on the antivirus software expires. After it does expire you have several options that you can choose from. You can either go to another third party vendor and get their software for free. There are plenty of antivirus vendors that give away free antivirus of high quality. If you do not want to do that, you can go to Microsoft directly and they have free antivirus software that you can download from their web site. Either way will make you a lot safer.

You must make sure that your computer is protected at all times when you surf the internet. The bad guys do not take the holidays off and as a matter of fact, they will tend to be more active during this time of year.

Rootkits – one of the more serious threats on the internet

Posted on December 3rd, 2010 in Security, Uncategorized | No Comments »

When you are dealing with most malware, you pretty much know how they are going to act on your system. Even the worse of them seem to follow a pretty steady pattern that will help you to get rid of them. But there is one piece of malware that even security researchers hate to hear the name of. When you know that you have one of these on the system, it is going to be a long day of trying to get it out. The piece of malware that we are talking about is known as a Rootkit and it is one of the most damaging pieces of malware out on the internet right now. We will go over the basics of what a rootkit is and look at what kind of damage it can do to your system.  We will also look at the tools that you need to do to get it off of your system.

What is a rootkit?

A rootkit is program that is able to get into the kernel level of our system which means that it is able to hide from scanning programs that is on your computer. For those programs to be able to sniff it out they need to be at kernel level as well. For the people who might not know, the kernel level of the computer is the part where a lot of the sensitive things that your computer can do, happens. It is basically the part of the operating system that communicates with the hardware of the machine. You do not want user level access programs to communicate with the hardware directly so the kernel is the break off point. While we know a lot more about rootkits now than we did before, they can still be a pain to get rid of off of your system.

The damage that it can do

A rootkit, once it is in your system, can give the attacker unlimited power over your computer. They are able to assume the rights as a power user and they will have the same administrative rights that you have, maybe even more. This is because they are able to access the kernel. This is the main objective for any rootkit attacker that is trying to get into someone’s system. When an attacker is able to get this deep, most of the time, they will turn your computer into a simple node. This means that anything illegal that they want to try and hide, they will do on your computer. This means that if someone is going to get into trouble, it will be you.

How can I get rootkit off my system?

In the past it was very hard to get an infection like this off of your system. Formatting the system was the only way that you can get it off. Now there is plenty of software out on the market that will help you get the rootkit off of your system. Download one of these programs and hopefully you will be back to normal.

A rootkit is one of the more serious threats on the internet. If you get one on your system, take care of it right away.

Do you have to worry about a security back door in the software products that you download?

Posted on December 1st, 2010 in Security | No Comments »

a security back door is a very dangerous thing in the world of software. Most people probably do not even know what that means but if you make your living creating software or protecting computer systems then you know very well what a back door is. It is a hole in the software that is put there intentionally by the person who created it. Sometimes the hole is put there for legitimate reasons and at other times the holes is put there maliciously. Let’s have a discussion on how dangerous of a hole a back door in the software is and how you can tell if the software that you installed on your computer system has one.

A back door explained in a little more detail

While we gave you a little bit more detail on what a back door is earlier on in the article, I feel as we should explain it a little bit more for the people who have never had exposure to the term before. A back door is less of a hole and more like a piece of code that only the creator of the software knows that it is there. This code allows you to have access to the software after it has been deployed somewhere else. You are able to get different pieces of information about the status of the software. Some of that information is related to the users system that the software is now installed on. Sometimes, if the software is built by a team of people, only one person on the team might know that the code is there. While most large software teams have code reviews to check and see if something like this is happening, the process is not one hundred percent fool proof. As we said before, some companies place the back door on their software on purpose. This is either because they use it as a security measure to help the client or they are required to by the government. Sometimes the government feels that if a piece of software has too much power then they need a way to get in. You would be surprised at some of the software that has a government sponsored back door in it.

The security implications of a back door in software

It is probably obvious to you why a back door in you software could be a problem. At anytime, the creator of the software that you installed has access to your system. You can never know if the person has good intentions or bad. And it doesn’t matter; nobody should have access to your computer unless they have your permission. Another way that a back door can hurt you is the fact that if it is found by a black hat hacker then they now have access to a very serious security hole in your system. Even if the back door was placed in there by the company for good intentions, the fact that the hackers have found it can mean trouble to you.

If you want to know if your software has a back door in it, try to look it up in Google. Most people do not have the expertise to examine their software themselves. If you hear about problems with a back door then it might be best to uninstall it.

Is windows 7 a game changer when it comes to security?

Posted on November 23rd, 2010 in Security, Windows 7 | No Comments »

When you talk about security these days, you really have to add Windows 7 to the discussion. I know that it seems really weird to do so but Windows 7 is one of the most secure consumer grade operating systems on the market right now and you would be doing a disservice to you and your customer base if you did not discuss it. The security when it comes to the Windows operating system is really top notch compared to how it was in the past and the rest of the security community is starting to realize it. But if you are talking about purely the security aspects of Windows 7, is it truly able to be called a game changer? Is the security of the system any different than the other consumer grade operating systems that are on the market right now? In this article, we will take a look at that question and we will analyze to see if it is truly a game changer. If it is not, then does at least stay with the competition on that front.

The new security offerings that come with Windows 7

When we take a look at the system, we are looking at things that the Windows operating system did not have in the past. This is why so many security professionals like this version. They feel as if the system has caught up to the rest of the pack. There were so many things that were missing in the earlier iterations of Windows. When it came to security people were starting to wonder if Microsoft lacked the necessary tools on purpose. The one thing that changed their mind is when Windows started to offer a real firewall on the system. The firewall’s that the Windows operating system had in the past was barely functional. It would only monitor a certain section of the traffic that came in your system and not all of it. This changed with the last version of the Windows firewall. Now there is no need to download and install a third party’s firewall unless you just like it better.

Another thing that has changed recently for Windows is that Microsoft is now offering a fully functional antivirus suite on their web site. All you have to do is to go to their web site and download the product and the next thing that you know is that you are now protected. The people who make the antivirus suite also work with the operating system kernel creators so that they can make sure that their product is able to offer you full protection.

The last thing we will point out is that the premium version of Windows 7 now offers a new and improved version of Bitlocker. Bitlocker is a technology that allows you to lock down the hardware on your laptop. If the person who accesses the laptop does not have a proper password and username combination, they will not be able to use the machine. This is a huge leap forward when it comes to the security of your machine. Bitlocker is truly a game changing feature when it comes to the Windows operating system.

Is Windows 7 a game changer when it comes to the security of the operating system? In some ways yes it is and in some ways it is not. What we can say is that it is able to stand head to toe with everyone else on the market right now.

Make sure that the USB card that you plug into your computer is secure

Posted on November 19th, 2010 in Security | No Comments »

There are so many ways that we connect to the computer these days that it is a little bit scary. Even if you look at the average laptop, you will see a ton of connections that will allow you to hook the computer up to another device. You will see ports that will allow you to connect to the internet by use of a RJ-45 cable. You will also have a DVD drive on the side that will allow you to play and record movies but also insert data disk into the machine. You will also see HDMI ports that allow you to connect the computer to your HDTV screen as well. There is also another port that is better known. It is called the USB port. It is a port that allows you to connect a whole multitude of devices to your computer. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. In this article, we will talk about how this can be both.

Why is the USB connection both a good thing and a bad thing?

The reason why it is a good thing is because it allows you to connect a device that has a USB end to your computer instantly. You do not have to worry about if your computer is going to have the right physical plug or not. You will be able to quickly place the device in the socket and wait for it to install. This makes life using the computer a lot easier than it used to be. On older computers, to get this same kind of functionality, you had to rely on technology such as parallel ports and things of that manner. Now, thankfully that is no longer the case.

The technology also has its downside as well. While the ability to be able to connect any device quickly to your computer is something that we all should be happy about, it also leaves you vulnerable as well. This is especially true for the device called a USB thumb drive. These devices are like mini hard drives. They allow you to store all kinds of different data to your computer and as soon as you put it in the USB plug, this data is exposed to your computer. If you do not scan that USB device before you use any of the files on there, you can be opening yourself up to an attack.

How do you protect yourself from the USB device?

It is just about common sense. Make sure that you scan an unknown USB thumb drive just like you would any other file on your computer. And that goes for external hard drives as well. Any device that allows you to store data while hooking up to your computer via USB needs to be scanned before using. This is the only way that you can be sure that your computer will remain infection free.

The USB thumb drive and hard drive are great devices and for the most part are safe. Just make sure that if you are putting a strange device on your computer from someone else, that you scan it first.

Are system level attacks still a concern with windows 7?

Posted on November 17th, 2010 in Security, Windows 7 | No Comments »

It has been out to the public for almost a year and the reviews are in. Windows 7 is one of the most popular operating systems that Microsoft has ever released. And not only is it popular, it is the most secured operating system that they released as well. In the past, when you used Windows products there was always a hesitation when you went online that you were going to become infected by something out there. While it is still possible, you are nowhere near as vulnerable as you used to be. But there are still some concerns when it comes to Windows 7 security. It is actually a problem with all operating systems and not just Windows 7. You have to wonder to yourself if low level system attacks are still a problem that you have to worry about. While there are all sorts of attacks out there, low level system attacks are some of the most dangerous.
 

What is a low level system attack?

There are several layers to a computer system. During your use of the computer throughout the day, you probably only see two layers that you worry about. You see the software side, which includes the operating system and all of the programs that are running on it. You also see the hardware side, which if you ever open up your computer is the motherboard, hard drive, and all of the other things that are under the cover. But these are not the only layers of the computer. They are just what you would call the base layer. They both have several layers inside of them as well. The layer that we are going to focus on now is the system level of the operating system. This is a layer that is able to control the inner parts of your operating system. This why attacks on this layer can be so damaging. When you take control of a person’s operating system, you can do a lot of damage. Better yet, if the black hat hacker is smart, they can get a lot of information as well. System level attacks are a real problem.

Does Windows 7 solve this problem?

Windows 7 does not eradicate the problem but they make it a lot harder for attacks like this to happen. Microsoft has implemented several security features that will allow you to defeat such intrusions in your system. Form the antivirus programs that they allow you to download and install for free, to the permission based installer on the system; these are all things that have helped the fight. Now, whenever a file that can be damaging, is changed by a program, Windows 7 will ask you permission first before the change is allowed. This is a great way to stop most of the system level attacks that happen. They usually go after low level operating system files and if you are notified beforehand then you can stop it. 
 
Windows does help a lot when it comes to this problem. If you want to make sure that you are safe, keep the permissions turned on in Windows 7 and install an updated antivirus program.