Secure Computing: Up-To-Date Anti-Virus

What is the number one reason why most people with virus prevention programs installed on their computer become infected? The answer is quite simple. The virus prevention software isn’t kept up-to-date.

Anti-virus software is only as good as its virus definition database and its detection software. Commercial anti-virus vendors only provide adequate updates to the virus definition and the detection software as long as the customer has paid for the updates. Today, most vendors provide 1 year of updates with the purchase of their products and many consumers choose not to renew update subscriptions after the initial period. Unfortunately, by not extending subscriptions consumers leave their computers at risk of infection.

Fortunately, free anti-virus vendors have been getting better and better reviews giving consumers another solution. There are three free anti-virus solutions that I would recommend: AntiVir Personal, Avast Home Edition, and AVG Free. These all have comparable features, free updates, and you can checkout http://www.av-comparatives.org/ for comparisons of their effectiveness against malicious code.

iPod Battery Not Holding a Charge?

Next time you think your battery is going bad in your iPod because it doesn’t hold a charge anymore just try draining the battery completely.

If you’ve read through the blog, you know that I own a 30GB iPod video (Post). I bought it so that I could have something to listen to while I’m at work and I found that it can easily go the entire work day on a single charge. But, one day recently, I went to work, turned on my iPod, and about 3-4 hours later my iPod showed low battery. I couldn’t figure out what was going on and immediately I thought that my battery was going bad. Then I calmed down and started thinking about it. Never in the time that I had owned my iPod, had I ever let the battery discharge. It was worth a shot since I thought I’d be buying a new battery or even iPod. I just let my iPod play until the battery was completely dead and when I got home from work that night I plugged it in to charge overnight. The next morning when I got to work I turned it on and let it play. I left work that day and it was still going strong, EQ and all.

Advanced Google Features

Unbeknown to most, the seemingly simple Google Search box is really very powerful. The following examples are just some of the ways that Google Search can be used.

Google Calculator

Google allows you to do calculations right in the search box. You can do basic arithmetic (+, -, /, *) but it also allows for a few other calculations.

Examples:
Percentage of: 45% of 39
Raise to a power: 2^5 or 2**5
Convert Units: 300 Euros in USD

Google Safe Search

Every now and then you want to search for a topic that you know may return some adult results. For those of us that don’t want to be bothered with adult content, Google has provided a way to prevent adult content from displaying in results. The following example shows what you would type if you wanted to search Google for “sex education” and not have adult sites in your search results.

Example
safesearch: sex education

Generic
safesearch:

Special Searches with Google

You can easily find the definition of words, movie information and showtimes, phone numbers, and even your local weather using Google.

Generic
define:
phonebook:
bphonebook:
rphonebook:
movie:
weather

Examples
define:words
phonebook: New Orleans, LA
bphonebook: New Orleans, LA
rphonebook: New Orleans, LA
movie: Superman Returns
weather New Orleans, LA

For the phonebook information, “bphonebook” searches business numbers only while “rphonebook” searches residential numbers only.

Site Specific Searches with Google

Google provides users with ways to search only within one website and to find all pages linked to a specific webpage.

To search within a website:

Generic
site:

Example
contact information site:www.jeremyknight.me

To find all linked pages:

Generic
link:

Example
link:www.jeremyknight.me

If you would like to learn more about Google’s “hidden” features, please visit: Google Advanced Operators (Cheat Sheet)

Phishing and Pharming, Awareness and Prevention

Argueably one of the main security topics in recent years has been the onset and prevalence of phishing and pharming scams. Unfortunately, while many end users have heard of these threats, they remain unaware of the severity of these very dangerous scams. Users should educate themselves not only on prevention techniques but also on the scams’ processes. This article is meant to provide users with a non-technical explanation of phishing and pharming, as well as prevention techniques

Phishing

Phishing is a form of identity theft in which phishers, people that use phishing, create websites that appear to belong to legitimate companies. Phishers usually draw users to these fraudulent sites by sending websites links in authentic-looking emails, which could even include the real company’s logo. If a user is drawn to the phisher’s website and submits his or her personal information, the information is submitted to the phisher.

For example, a user receives a fake email supposedly from Bank XYZ with a link back to the site asking you to click on the link. That user then clicks the link and is sent to a page which looks like the XYZ login page but the address in the address bar at the top of the browser is not correct. When the user types in his or her user information, they aren’t logged into XYZ but instead the phisher now has his or her user information and can log into their XYZ account.

Pharming (aka Domain Spoofing)

Pharming occurs when a hacker “poisons” the domain name, or web address (www.google.com, http://www.yahoo.com, etc), of a website and redirects users from the “poisoned” website to another website usually owned by the hacker. Once at the hacker’s site, the pharming process is identical to phishing. Users submit information to the hacker’s site but are truly submitting their information directly to the hacker.

Unfortunately, this technique can cause large groups of users to be driven to fraudulent sites even if they type in the correct URL, or web address. The larger the website address “poisoned” the larger the pharming scam. For example, if http://www.google.com has been “poisoned,” when you type in http://www.xyz.com you would not be taken to the real XYZ page but one of the hacker’s choosing. If the page is created to look the same as the real site then it may be hard to tell that pharming has occurred since the address bar will still say http://www.xyz.com.

Phishing and Pharming Prevention

** As a general rule NEVER click a web address inside of an email. Even though the email seems to be from someone you know or an organization you know to be safe simply open your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.) and navigate to the website without using the link in the email.

  • Phishing

1) Watch the address bar! Phishing does not disguise the URL in the address bar so you will be able to see the difference in the address bar at the top of your browser. If phishing is occurring the URL, or web address, will be incorrect.

2) If you think that you may have fallen victim to this, the best advice is to login to the real website and change your password. This will negate the information that the phisher obtained but I must stress that this be done immediately so as not to give the phisher time to change your password or collect your information.

  • Pharming

1) You CANNOT rely on the address bar. The address bar will look correct but you will not be on the website that it says.

2) Check names on authentication certificates. If the name doesn’t match the site you want to go to, leave the site and contact a tech to verify the authenticity of a site.

What is RSS?

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a format for sharing website content. RSS allows you to subscribe to websites that offer RSS feeds. Today you can find RSS feeds on news sites such as CNN and Wired, blog sites, and many more. The list of uses for RSS, as well as the list of sites using it, is growing daily.

Software is needed to read RSS feeds, and, to the delight of many users, it can be found for your computer as well being offered as a service by some websites. Sites like Google Reader and Protopage allow users to keep there RSS feeds online so that they may read them from any computer, while programs like Mozilla’s Firefox, Feedreader, and SharpReader allow users to view feeds from the comfort of their own home. For those that wish to read their feeds from home but don’t want additional programs, email programs are starting to integrate RSS reading functionality. Mozilla’s Thunderbird email program already has this capability while Microsoft has said the next version of Outlook will have it included.

If you have further questions about RSS, please feel free to ask them in this topic.