Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Security Alert — An Infection Has Been Detected!

Online crime is bigger than the global drugs trade¹. The Internet shadow economy is worth over $105 billion.  No country, no person, no business and no government is immune from CyberCrime.

Currently there is an epidemic of fake anti-malware software on the Internet– which is collectively called “rogue anti-malware“ and/or “scareware”. Marketed under hundreds of different names, such as VirusRemover 2008 and Antivirus XP 2009, this type of rogue software scares people by giving false alarms, and then tries to deceive them into paying for removal of non-existing malware. [update: some of the newer ones are now encrypting your files, and requiring a ‘ransom’ for the key. Don’t pay. There is help online.]

This video shows what happens when a legitimate Website gets infected and redirected to one of these bogus anti-malware scams.
Yes, folks, legitimate websites are being ‘hacked’. (It’s called “poisoned”.)

The people behind this scourge use many different ways to try to entice you to click – realistic looking pop-up windows appear, offers of “free trials” arrive in e-mail, and “free scan” buttons on legit-looking ‘fight malware’ websites.. the means are quite varied!

As this video shows, the user is tricked into (scared into, really) providing their credit card #  to clean infections that weren’t there before they clicked and aren’t really there now.
* The ‘false positives’ are not “cleaned” BUT, more adware and spyware is installed.
* A good percentage of my calls at Aplus Computer Aid are folks needing help with getting rid of these rogues. Because these clever programs use the latest techniques to combat removal, and it can be quite tough — if not impossible — to truly remove them.. without formatting your hard-drive.
* For more, please read Is that anti-spyware program really spyware?
* One Website dedicated to combating this epidemic is Spyware Warrior. It has a pretty good list of known rogues, and much more detailed information. Another excellent resource is Bleeping Computer.
* I have written several How-To’s on protecting yourself from malware, and how to clean your machines as well. Click here to see those titles.

¹ From a recent MessageLabs whitepaper. (This eye-opening report provides a disturbing look into the ‘dark’ world of cyber-crime. This link is the online version.. you need to scroll a bit..)

Today’s free download: WOT (Web Of Trust) is a free Internet security add-on for your browser. It will help keep you safer from online scams, identity theft, spyware, spam, viruses and unreliable shopping sites. WOT warns you before you interact with a risky Website. It’s easy and it’s free.

  • Ratings for over 22 million websites
  • Downloaded over 4 million times
  • The WOT browser addon is light and updates automatically
  • WOT rating icons appear beside search results in Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Gmail, etc.
  • Settings can be customized to better protect your family (new “Parental Control” setting blocks access to Web sites with a poor child safety rating and no rating at all)
  • WOT Security Scorecard shows rating details and user comments

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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April 16, 2009 Posted by | advice, antivirus, cyber crime, hackers, Internet, Internet scam, PC, phraud, privacy, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

How To Block iFrames*

If you are interested in Tech, and visit Websites such as this one, it will not be very long before you read about Firefox. (In fact just this week I posted an article.) And, it won’t be long before you see NoScript mentioned. Odds are, you already have.

NoScript is a small program you download and add ‘into’ Firefox to enhance its functionality (these small programs are known variously as “add-ons”, “plug-ins”, and “extensions”– different words for the same concept.)

NoScript gets mentioned in the Tech media a lot because it is a security tool that automatically “blocks” (prevents from running) certain web page ‘elements’ (scripts) — Java, Flash, JavaScript, and XSS– from running unlesNSOptss you click the Option button and select “Allow”, or “Temporarily allow”.

Which puts you in control, and goes a long ways toward preventing “drive-by downloads“, and other malicious Internet attacks and activity from occurring should you happen to visit a Website which has been poisoned” by a hacker.
(I don’t mean to depress you, but the current state of the Internet is so insecure that this can be, literally, any Website.)

By default, NoScript is a powerful tool (to read the NoScript “About” page, click here) and for many people is the primary reason they have made the switch to Firefox.

Tip of the day: Enhance your NoScript protection by turning on the IFRAME blocker feature.
IFRAMES are another dynamic Web element that cyber-criminals are now using as an “attack vector” (aka “method”) with great success. Like the scripts mentioned above, IFrame attacks can happen invisibly and automatically. Oh, the joys of Web 2.0!
[note: today’s advice should be of interest to Mac and Linux users too.]

1) In Firefox, click on “Tools”, then “Add-ons”
Add-ons
2) Scroll ’till you find NoScript, and click the “Options” button. (If you have not yet installed NoScript, click the “Get Add-ons” icon in the upper-left.)
NoScript
3) Click on the Plugins tab. Place a check in the “Forbid <IFRAME>” checkbox.

That’s it. You’re done. Now when you visit a site that uses IFrames, you will have to approve them (aka “whitelist”) before they’ll appear.

[Note: the scripts and tools (Web 2.0 “features”) mentioned in this article are NOT in themselves bad or dangerous, and it is thanks to them that the Web is such a rich and interactive environment.. but, in the wrong hands they can — and are — being used with criminal intent.]

Related: A short video tutorial for using NoScript can be seen here.

Today’s free link: One of the more disturbing (outright alarming, if you ask me) hacker uses of IFrame attacks is the alteration of Search Engine results (Yes, you can’t truly trust Google, Yahoo!, or MSN anymore) and Internet Security blogger Bill Mullins has posted an excellent article on this subject, Fake/Redirected Search Results – Consequences for You

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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November 7, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, Firefox, how to, Internet, PC, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Block IFRAME For Added Protection

If you are interested in Tech, and visit Websites such as this one, it will not be very long before you read about Firefox. (In fact just this week I posted an article.) And, it won’t be long before you see NoScript mentioned. Odds are, you already have.

NoScript is a small program you download and add ‘into’ Firefox to enhance its functionality (these small programs are known variously as “add-ons”, “plug-ins”, and “extensions”– different words for the same concept.)

NoScript gets mentioned in the Tech media a lot because it is a security tool that automatically “blocks” (prevents from running) certain web page ‘elements’ (scripts) — Java, Flash, JavaScript, and XSS– from running unlesNSOptss you click the Option button and select “Allow”, or “Temporarily allow”.

Which puts you in control, and goes a long ways toward preventing “drive-by downloads“, and other malicious Internet attacks and activity from occurring should you happen to visit a Website which has been .
(I don’t mean to depress you, but the current state of the Internet is so insecure that this can be, literally, any Website.)

By default, NoScript is a powerful tool (to read the NoScript “About” page, ) and for many people is the primary reason they have made the switch to Firefox.
(I’ll let you in on a little secret; it is one way to measure a user’s “savvy”.. look for a Firefox icon.)

Tip of the day: Enhance your NoScript protection by turning on the IFRAME blocker feature.
IFRAMES are another dynamic Web element that cyber-criminals are now using as an “attack vector” (aka “method”) with great success. Like the scripts mentioned above, IFrame attacks can happen invisibly and automatically. Oh, the joys of Web 2.0!

1) In Firefox, click on “Tools”, then “Add-ons”
Add-ons 
2) Scroll ’till you find NoScript, and click the “Options” button. (If you have not yet installed NoScript, click the “Get Add-ons” icon in the upper-left.)
NoScript
3) Click on the Plugins tab. Place a check in the “Forbid <IFRAME>” checkbox.

That’s it. You’re done. Now when you visit a site that uses IFrames, you will have to approve them (aka “whitelist”) before they’ll appear.

[Note: the scripts and tools (Web 2.0 “features”) mentioned in this article are NOT in themselves bad or dangerous, and it is thanks to them that the Web is such a rich and interactive environment.. but, in the wrong hands they can — and are — being used with criminal intent.]

Today’s free link: One of the more disturbing (outright alarming, if you ask me) hacker uses of IFrame attacks is the alteration of Search Engine results (Yes, you can’t truly trust Google, Yahoo!, or MSN anymore) and Internet Security blogger Bill Mullins has posted an excellent article on this subject, Fake/Redirected Search Results – Consequences for You

* Firefox users: Update 3.0.3 available today.

Copyright © 2007-8 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 27, 2008 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, browsers, computers, cyber crime, Firefox, hackers, how to, Internet, PC, security, software, tech, Web 2.0 | , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

! READ AND REPLY

This urgent (“flagged with a red “!”) e-mail slipped into my Inbox. The Subject was READ AND REPLY.

Sir/Madam
I am a lawyer and legal representative to a high profile client within the international community that requires your experience and assistance in the investment of her inherited funds,should this transaction be of interest to you contact me for more.
Best regards,
Dominic Chambers

Hmmm… curious. I suspect this is scam spam (mainly because I have never, ever, made an investment or inquired about investing). But some of the usual elements are missing.. and it did make it past my spam filters.. and it is marked “urgent”…

Maybe this high-profile, international lady wants to invest her money in me?
That could be kewl. I like money.

Tip(s) of the day: Don’t even think about responding to e-mails like these; and better yet, don’t even open e-mail from unknown sources.. doing so can/will mark your e-mail address as a “live” person, and get your name on junkmail lists (which spammers trade with each other) and you’ll get even more spam than you already do. I don’t care if they’re marked “Urgent” or not– resist the temptation.

Secondly, please read my article Managing your email: eliminating junk and learn a few techniques for spam reduction.

And thirdly, why do dumb scammers send dumb scam e-mails? Because a few ________ people respond, and get hoodwinked. Don’t be part of the problem.

Today’s free link: A recent building project had me using an old 3D drawing program that I first downloaded years ago, and so I went looking to see what apps available now. I discovered the simply fabulous Google SketchUp, and after watching a couple of animated tutorials, I knocked out my design in no time at all.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 14, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, cyber crime, e-mail, Internet scam, security, spam and junk mail, tech | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geek+Spyware*

I want to apologize to you in advance for a word I will use in this blog from time to time, and that word is “geek.”

When I was a boy–many years ago now–“geek” was a completely pejorative and insulting word. A “geek” was typically a socially inept, small, quiet, know-it-all (who usually wore glasses) kid who couldn’t connect his bat with the softest-thrown baseball or catch a football to save his life…and he used big words all the time. Perhaps in your day you referred to ‘him’ as a Pointdexter, nerd, dork, or wimp. Back then there was no doubt or question about it–“geek” was a put-down: a derogatory statement. Period.

Today, I proudly declare: I am a geek. When I do, I am not broadcasting my pride in my inability to catch a football. (I can catch; and, even throw a tight spiral.) I am saying that I’m “into” computers and electronic gadgets, and I know a little about how they work.

At some point and time our common usage of the word “geek” has changed. It is no longer used strictly as a ‘slam’ and a put-down (however, if that is your intent, I believe the other words I listed above are still 100% negative…although Bill Gates may have softened the word “nerd” some…). If, in the course of reading this blog, you see me use the word “geek”–please rest assured that I am always using it with the nicest of meanings. I even use “geek” as a compliment. Really.

Tip of the day: A reader mentioned in a comment to yesterday’s post on defragmention that spyware, if it gets onto and runs on your machine, will cause it to (amongst other unpleasant things!) suffer performance degradation and make it run slower. I intend to spend a fair amount of time discussing malware, and spyware in particular, and how you can combat and remove it. I will return to this topic in the future. But for today I just want to make this point: If you connect to the Web, you need to run anti-spyware programs. Notice I that I wrote programs. Plural.

That fact is, no one anti-spyware application is 100% effective at stopping and removing spyware. There are many anti-spyware programs available and some are more effective than others. Some are great at stopping keylogger’s but fall down when it comes to Trojan Horses, and others are visa-versa…as an example. So I strongly recommend running two anti-spyware’s, in the hopes that one will catch what the other missed. (There are many free anti-spyware applications [and some are adware disguised as anti-spyware, (called “rogue apps“)] available. For my more detailed descriptions and a fuller listing of free anti-spyware tools, click here.) I cannot stress to you strongly enough to install and run some kind of anti-spyware program…and preferably, two. In that vein, today I will provide not one, but two, Today’s free links.

Today’s free link #1: AdAware SE Personal from Lavasoft. “Ad-Aware 2007 Free remains the most popular anti-spyware product for computer users around the world, with nearly one million downloads every week. Our free anti-spyware version provides you with advanced protection against spyware…”

Today’s free link #2: SpyCatcher Express from Tenebril. From site: “Allows novice PC users to remove aggressive spyware . Stops next-generation, mutating spyware. Blocks reinstallation of aggressive spyware. Removes spyware safely and automatically.”

*Original posting 6/13/07

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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May 2, 2008 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, computers, how to, Internet, PC, ransomware, rootkits, security, tech, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments