Archive for March, 2007

Update: How to make a bootable thumb drive virus scanner for NTFS

Please note: the information in this post is outdated. This post has been superceded by “How to make a bootable thumb drive virus scanner for NTFS: 2008 update.” Please do not post a comment saying that this post is out of date–I just told you that! Go to the latest post.

Some nice folks have recently told me about broken links in the article. Thank you! The NTFS4DOS tool I specified is still available. Datapol is still alive, apparently having been acquired by Avira, the German company who makes the free — and very good, I might add — antivirus program, Antivir. Here’s the full orignal article with all of the links checked and fixed:

My latest Kool Tekkie Tool (KTT, pronounced “kit”) comprises a thumb drive made bootable with Datapol’s NTFS4DOS; the latest version (3.16b) of FRISK Software International’s F-Prot Antivirus for DOS is run from the command line. Both of these utilities are free for personal use, but require payment if you plan to use them in a commercial setting: NTFS4DOS is only $25; F-prot is $29 for a 20-user license.

NTFS4DOS is, in itself, a KTT. It allows you to make an NTFS-capable floppy disk or thumb drive and comes with chkdsk and defrag utilities to boot. First, make your drive bootable by following the instructions in my LockerGnome article, “Kool Tool to Make Your Thumb Drive Bootable.” (The original link to the HP utility in that article is broken click here to download the HP utility.) CAUTION! This will completely erase your drive; be sure you have your data backed up before you start. Then, download NTFS4DOS and run the setup. From the NTFS4DOS program group, select “Create NTFS-capable boot floppy.” Select the drive letter of your thumb drive and click Next twice. Your thumb drive is now bootable and NTFS capable.

Next, download F-prot, the latest virus signatures and the latest macro virus signatures and extract them to a folder on your thumb drive. You’re ready to go! Plug it in and let’s take it for a spin.

Make sure you set your PC’s BIOS to boot from your thumb drive. On most machines, you do this by making “USB” or “Removable Device” first in the boot order. If all goes well, the PC will boot to a startup menu. Choose NTFS4DOS; you’ll see the drives being mounted and if you are using the freeware version, the screen will scroll to the NTFS4DOS title screen; you will have to answer “yes” to the question “Do you use this version of NTFS4DOS for private usage only? (Yes/No):” You’ll see the mounted drives at the top of the screen and the C:\> prompt at the bottom. Change to the folder where you stored F-prot and run f-prot.exe to do a virus scan.

Pretty Kool, eh?

The Geek

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How to Secure Your Computer: Maxim #4

In How to Secure Your Computer: Maxim #3, I stressed the importance of changing the default username and passwords of all configurable network devices. That’s good advice. But a weak password, one that is easily guessable, is almost as bad as no password at all.

For example, if you use a password that conforms to common patterns that most people tend to use, it can be easily guessed. According to Wikepedia,

Repeated research has demonstrated that around 40% of user-chosen passwords are readily guessable because of the use of these patterns:

  • blank (none)
  • the word “password”, “passcode”, “admin” and their derivates
  • the user’s name or login name
  • the name of their significant other or another relative
  • their birthplace or date of birth
  • a pet’s name
  • automobile licence plate number
  • a simple modification of one of the preceding, such as suffixing a digit or reversing the order of the letters.
  • a row of letters from a standard keyboard layout (eg, the qwerty keyboardqwerty itself, asdf, or qwertyuiop)

So, the lesson here is simple, and becomes Maxim #4:

Use an unguessable, or difficult-to-guess password always.

What’s an unguessable password? I’ll cover that in a future post.

The Geek

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How to Secure Your Computer: Maxim #3

In How to Secure Your Computer: Maxim #2, I stressed the importance of having a NAT router between your PC and the Internet. While that is without question the first, most important security step, it alone is not enough. The router itself is a weak point unless you have it properly configured.

All routers come with a default username and password configured. These defaults are well known and published on the Web. Three of the more widely-used consumer routers, Linksys, D-Link, and Netgear, have recently been shown to be vulnerable to a JavaScript web page attack. Go to the wrong site and if your router has the default password, the attacker can change its settings to send you wherever they want you to go. You’ll think you’re looking at your bank’s login page, but it will be a fake look-alike that steals your account information as soon as you log in.

Always change the default username and password of any configurable device you put on your home network.

The Geek

Note: If any of what I say in these Maxims is over your head, please find a friendly Geek to help you, or post a comment here asking for clarification.

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