Rss

Archives for : Security

How can you get better performance with your Internet connection?

You’ve seen the scam artist advertisements for software programs that do nothing more than install junk-ware on your system.

TV Ad for software that did little to help novice PC users

The thing to remember is that many times your PCs Internt connection is slow becausee of your DNS provider.

Now you might be thinking “what is DNS John?” and I would tell you that this is a good question .

DNS means Domain Name Service. It operates on your computer’s port 53 and acts as the phonebook for the Internet. Here’s how…when you want to order a pizza for dinner, you may have to look up the number to the pizza place online or from an ad that they placed on your doorknob. You do not instinctively know the phone number to the pizza place and that’s okay. It’s normal.

Well in the same way you do not have every phone number that you may need in a day memorized, computers do not keep a track of every possible web site you might want to go to in a day stored in them either. Sure, some days you may bounce from a cable news site to a cable weather outlet to an Internet storefront and finally finish up at an Internet movie house like Youtube.

All of these have an IP address and yes, the sites you visit the most often you might want to save their IP addresses in your hosts file. This can be found in a Windows system in C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc\hosts (and note that this file DOES NOT have a file extension).

You can save them in this format:

tech.jchampion.com            50.87.150.160

Now for you to have a better list of sites that are available worldwide on a DNS server. You are no doubt using one of the ones that your Internet service provider told you to use. These DNS servers may use tricks so that in the event you mistype a domain name, you are redirected to a relatively safe site that is hosted by the ISP or the DNS service provider. Any link that appears on these pages that you click on, make money for the service provider and likely put some sort of tracking cookie on to your computer to follow your movements to similar sponsored sites across the vast internet.

One way to speed up your experience and maybe avoid the whole tracking thing, is to use a new DNS provider. I’ll bet you did not think that you could do that but you can?

Simply go your Internet settings on your computer (Control Panel\Network and Internet\Network Connections and choose whichever icon matches your Internet connection). Right click on this icon and select properties. Now select Internet Connection version 4 from the window that pops up and then click on the properties button that highlights directly below that selection box.

Another window will pop up that will give you some options on things to fill out. Leave the top of this window alone if your Internet/network connection is working fine. What you want to fill out is the section that says “Use the following DNS server addresses” — and now you get to fill in any of a series of numbers you like. It looks like this:

The bottom part of this General IP Properties page that has DNS information is what you'll want to fill out.

The bottom part of this General IP Properties page that has DNS information is what you’ll want to fill out.

The IP addresses to populate those boxes are 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220

Google also has a DNS service that is available for the public to use and you can certainly use their IP addresses, 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 . With these addresses you get away from your ISP’s control but at the same time Google does not provide any level of service to help control or customize your own experience.

A list of other IP addresses for publicly accessible DNS services are listed here — just be sure to check the companies providing the IP addresses that you can use before you use them. You never know what information they could be pushing you to. There is such a thing as DNS poisoning and it is bad.

By bad..I mean that you could think that you are paying for an Amazon or Bank payment service and instead your traffic is directed through JimBob and Bubba-Sue’s scam site that culls your credit card or payment information before passing it along to Amazon or your bank so your purchase goes through and you are unaware anything went wrong, until you see your credit card bill or get that dreaded call from credit card security services.

It’s something to be aware of but do not be afraid. Forge ahead.

My goal in giving you this information is to teach you how to improve things for yourself without needing to spend money on software that does nothing but further bog down your system and worse, entices you to remove files your computer needs to run.

Have fun, be smart, and be independent. There will be more tips coming soon!

 

 

A new blog from me to help you help yourself in a step by step fashion

On this new site I am seeking to provide step by step help and guidance in doing things that sometimes seem too difficult to attempt individually.

Here is the latest post from this new blog called TechTips4Me.com

http://techtips4me.com/?p=20

Create a button to kill a pesky or stuck Chrome browser section

browsersSo..you go to a site to read an article on rooting your Android/Apple phone, you get creative and want the lyrics to a popular song, or you visit a news link to some new media site that you’ve never heard of before but it has a news item that you are interested in and it happens…a popup window in the middle of your screen and it is asking you to some task before you leave (and that includes clicking on a “CANCEL” button on the popup.

First off–DON’T CLICK ON ANYTHING within that browser window. Nothing there is good for you or your computer. Most of these sites are made with CSS, HTML5, and Javascripting. JavaScript has a feature that is deployed in every version and you cannot block it easily, called onUnload().

So no matter where you click on that page or even if you CTRL-ALT-DELETE, you may be subject to something being loaded on to your computer screen.
o
Another scenario is that Chrome for some reason is just stuck and will not respond to your mouse clicks and you need it dead NOW!

Okay…I hear you…much in the same way we created a shortcut to kill off Internet Explorer under similar circumstances, we can create a shortcut for your desktop or taskbar that will immediately terminate Google Chrome and it will not trigger any onUnload() event that can harm your system.

So to stop myself from reinventing the wheel, I want you to go over this previous posting — http://tech.jchampion.com/?p=16 and follow the steps to the letter.

The only thing that we are going to change the command you paste into the command line area from “C:\Windows\System32\taskkill.exe /F /IM iexplore.exe /T” to “C:\Windows\System32\taskkill.exe /F /IM chrome.exe /T”

If you want to understand what all your instructions mean it is simple – taskkill.exe is the Windows commandline command to terminate a task by either process identification number or by name.

/F means to force it dead
/IM means the image name to kill
/T is telling taskkill to not only kill the program but any child programs that may have opened up as a result

This is quick, painless and easy. Just follow the steps from above and if you want instructions on all of Taskkill’s options use this TechNet link —

This works in Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Server 2003, Server 2008, Server 2008r2, and Server 2012.

As usual…if you have any questions about this–just ask! Find me on Facebook, Twitter (@jachamp) or via this blog.

john

Windows 8: What It Is and Why You May Not Want It

I’ve been away from this blog for a while. Mostly because things have been in turmoil here at Casa de Campeogni. So today we are going to unravel Windows 8; what it is, how it works, where the experts say it is going to lead us to, and more importantly…do you need to run out and get a copy or if it comes on your new computer, do you need to wipe it out and downgrade back to Windows 7.

Hardware to firmware to EFI to the OS loads

Block diagram of the Intel and Microsoft UEFI firmware interface. This is stopping people from installing Linux on brand new computers the user has purchased.

First things first, if you are putting Windows 8 on an older system with an older motherboard and know how to properly configure your firewall, you’ll be in good enough shape to use it. I’ve been playing with it now since Beta 2 and I’m okay with the way it looks and feels. If you really want (or like me need) a “Start Menu” there are a couple of excellent utilities. The first is Start8 by Windows Blinds manufacturer, Stardock. It’s a $5 investment and in my humble estimation, worth it.

Option #2 a free version of a tool called Classic Shell created by a group of developers at MIT. It’s available at Sourceforge.net (links to both will be at the bottom of this article).

Functionality aside, let’s take a look at what is in it for Microsoft if you have a newer system and choose to stay with Windows 8. The crux of this argument is a replacement for your 30+ year old basic input output system (aka your BIOS). It’s old and it’s well passed its time in the sun. In the beginning it was never meant to be upgraded or flashed. Over the years, we just figured out ways to upgrade (flash) it and with that came a whole host of users who broke their computers (that is what happened to my last Sony laptop).

UEFI, uniform extensible firmware interface, is an upgradeable, programmable piece of software that runs before anything else does. With its current design and its current schema, when Microsoft and Intel (the only two companies planning the UEFI future currently), decide to ramp up the security and close off the Windows garden, and get updates on software signatures and approved license keys you’ll hear talk about using this to stop viruses, malware, spam, botnets, and other bad things we all loathe. When that happens, and it’s not a matter of if it will happen as much as it is a matter of when it will happen), many pirated copies of software will also cease running. Many bootleg copies of music, movies, or images will no longer be accessible. The possibilities for this technology is endless.

Sure..it’ll be Microsoft and Intel who will be doing the lion’s share of the work initially but with AMD, HP, Dell, Apple, and many many others onboard and the list growing, it is simply a matter of time before all major software manfacturer’s start paying the WinTel ransom to block their pirated software from running.

So…that’s part one of my theory on UEFI. If you have one, please let me know and I’ll post your 2¢ on its own separate post. I’ll write more about this issue next week…and I promise…no more long outages.

Are you still using PC Anywhere?

lock icon

A Breach is coming your way

Why? Have you ignored the requests from Symantec about ceasing useage of this product because of Symantec’s code breach? If you are unaware…read it from a trustworthy news source.

It’s simple…Symantec had its code stolen. The thieves tried to extort money out of Symantec and Symantec got caught trying to initiate a sting. So the code base for PC Anywhere is about to be made public.

That means that any hacker with a knowledge of compilers can, and will, create a tool to gain entry into your home or work systems. It means that your data is at risk of being compromised. It means that your credit card information and other vital information that could embarass you, that you keep on your computer, is likely to be stolen.

Do you need an alternative to PC Anywhere? You should’ve said so. I’ll cover that aspect tomorrow.

Hackers expose Grindr members intimate images

An app that has been used to target gay and bisexual men and their smart phones has had its userbase hacked. The hackers gained access to and exposed images of some of the site’s users.

While that’s bad…what makes it worse is that many of these members had very intimate images of themselves maintained on the Grindr system. This will no doubt create a problem for many of the site’s members.

Here is a reminder — if you must take adult oriented images of yourself, please remember how easy it is to hack a phone and share those images. Once an image is released on to the Internet, it will exist forever.

So please keep anything you do not want shared with the world, stored on a system that is secured and if possible have the images of yourself encrypted so that even if bad apples gain access to your system, they will have a very hard time decrypting your images and ruining your reputation.

I’m back and posting; more Symantec code stolen; and why your Apple really needs an antivirus

After a nine month hiatus, I am back and posting. No I did not have a baby but I did change jobs. I’m no longer the DOD contractor geek but now I’m a full time college professor teaching, among other things, security.

So let’s get started…Symantec initially said that hackers may have stolen their code base but it was for old products. Well that was not entirely truthful. Symantec’s latest announcement said that source code for Norton Antivirus Corporate Edition, Norton Internet Security, pcAnywhere, and Norton GoBack had been taken. This is in addition to the Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.0 and Symantec Antivirus 10.2 that the company acknowledged two weeks ago.

What does this mean? Well if you are one of the many who use Symantec products, it means that you will need to be very careful about what updates for the Symantec software you download. Some of it could be fake.

Also puncturing a hole in a mythical secure operating system, is F-Secure’s announcement that the number of trojans, malware, and loaders for Apple MacOS products climbed this week.

Last year, F-Secure noted that Apple products enjoyed a roller-coaster ride of security. With some months being better than others. Best bet…if you have a Mac, get an antivirus.

And finally…I will be revamping this site a little now that I have more time to devote to it. Remember that the key to keeping crap off of your home computer is to be smart and not download or visit sites that are known for pushing malware on to user’s PC’s. Use Firefox with the NoScript add-in and above all else…stay away from porn and gambling sites.

Clicking on an Osama picture can be hazardous to your computer

Malware purveyors keep looking for the next thing to convince you to click on download/”Look at this!” type of links. Sunday night’s announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s (I don’t really care if I spell that name right–the terrorist doesn’t deserve for it to be spelled correctly) death and the subsequent details coupled with America’s thirst for blood and gore mean that the pickings are ripe for malware purveyors.

So Facebook users…you’re up first. You are a prime target because most of you are not all that computer saavy and most click on anything that looks tantalizing…afterall if it looks salacious it must be awesome, right? And also if no one knows I clicked on the gory details link, what’s the worst that can happen? After all, there is that big “X” in the upper right hand corner of my browser right?

The FBI knew this was going to happen and issued a press release to the American public warning people about such links:

“The FBI today warns computer users to exercise caution when they receive e-mails that purport to
show photos or videos of Usama bin Laden’s recent death. This content could be a virus that could
damage your computer. This malicious software, or ‘malware’, can embed itself in computers and
spread to users’ contact lists, thereby infecting the systems of associates, friends, and family members.
These viruses are often programmed to steal your personally identifiable information.”

So what does this mean to you, the common user? It’s simple. Until the Obama administration announces it has released photographs and/or videos, there are no such things. You should pay full attention to the FBI’s warning. Click on nothing that you do not know. Click on only those things you were expecting and from trusted sources after using your anti-virus/anti-malware to the fullest.

Finally…if you do accidentally stumble into one of these traps…follow the regular steps to remove malware viruses from your computer. If you don’t know what these are, then you should be extra careful about the things you click on.

The Epsilon Breach Just Keeps Getting Worse

When it first happened, media from CNN, Fox, Time, NY Times, Washington Times, and other popularity driven news organizations did the lazy thing and reported the press release that Epsilon and those companies who turned over your personal information to Epsilon wrote to give the information they wanted you to think was true.

Epsilon Breach Press release

But the information contained in that release, like most press releases, is misleading at best and downright false at worst.

Here’s why…spam and spear phishing are the least of your worries in a breach of this kind. Coupled with other information email addresses, usernames, and companies you deal with can tell a lot about you and give identity thieves and identity sellers, loads of personal information to gain access into your life.

Not to mention that the folks who stole this information want you to turn over your computer to them. While they don’t want the electric bill from running it, they do want to use its CPU cycles, ram, and hard drive space to rent out to spammers, malware providers, adware servers, adult oriented material, child pornography, and let’s not forget about general mischief.

So how do you protect your from all of this sad activity?

1) Never click on links in incoming emails.
2) Use a good anti-virus/anti-malware/firewall.
3) Use common sense. Do not load photos/images just because a friend, an acquaintance, or someone else you may know sent them to you. Using steganography, a user can load javascript loaders, into the cutesie images that are sent to you and those can be used to begin delivery of malware, spyware, or other stuff you just don’t want on your system.
4) Stop sending emails that are meant to be forwarded. These give hackers an idea about which users are more susceptible to attack than others.

Finally–the reason why spam and malware continue to spread is because people are allowing the tools that come with their PC’s to expire, or just think a sofware firewall is sufficient. And let’s not forget the profit margin. Sending spam is quite profitable and people keep opening it, reading it, and responding to it.

It’s so profitable in fact, that many of the original spam factories of the 90’s are now legitimate email marketing companies.

So please…take responsibility for your computing actions. If you cannot afford to pay for the Symantec/McAfee software subscription that comes with your new computer…have a tech remove it and install Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG, Avast, Avira, or some other free anti-virus option.