Archive for October, 2009

Internet Safety in the Digital Age

Let me introduce a very special guest blogger, Mr. Paul Shirey. Paul is a young man (13 years old) who definitely has a handle on what this Internet thing is all about. In fact, given that people of his generation have this kind of savvy, I think there’s hope that the Internet will evolve from it’s current state of “Wild, Wild, Web” into something more akin to a world wide communications and information portal that is safe for everyone to use. It’s quite possible that you’ll be hearing more from this young man as a future mover and shaker.

You can contact Paul through his website at http://www.teenradiojourney.com or you can leave a comment here. Here’s his article.

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In the digital age,? most of us, if not all, depend on the Internet to get us through the day: some jobs are even 100% online. Well,? sometimes the Internet isn’t all that great, and might be infected with malicious files. Luckily, there are ways you can defend yourself against the Internet terrorists of the digital age.

Online Accounts

The number of online accounts you have can really affect the chances of your accounts being hacked and your identity stolen. The more accounts you have, the more at risk you are. If someone steals your identity and commits a crime in your name, it is possible that you could be the one that ends up behind bars, and none of us want that to happen.

There is a simple way to keep your online accounts secure–don’t use the same password for every online account you have. Imagine this: One day your computer gets infected with malware called a keylogger. Keyloggers record everything you type on your computer. If the hacker behind the malware can find out one of your online passwords before you get the malware removed, that person would have access to all of your online accounts because you used the same password for every account.

Though using the same password for every account you create can be helpful for you (because you won’t have to remember what the password is for every account), it is a serious security threat. There are some very simple ways you can stop this bad habit.

1. If you don’t have a lot of online accounts, use a series of passwords and rotate them between accounts. This way it would be harder for someone to hack into your accounts, and your account could even be temporarily suspended from too many log in attempts.

2. Using a password keeper is an excellent way to create multiple passwords, and most of them have password generators built into them. Even though it might be a little bit annoying to have to copy and paste passwords all the time to log in, it could really be a life saver. You wouldn’t necessarily have to create a generated password for all of your accounts, just the ones you couldn’t afford to get hacked like your bank account or PayPal account. You can download a free password keeper by going here http://keepass.info/. This password keeper can even go onto a USB stick.

Spam

Spam is another way internet hackers gain control of people’s computers and lives. There are some very simple ways you can tell if an email message is spam.

Contains mostly links and is in plain text.

Comes from a free email service like Gmail or Yahoo

Your email client tells you that it is spam

Spam can be very hard to filter out; some spam may even make it through the spam filter. One example of spam that is very tempting is emails that say that you have one a large amount of money. If the email is in plain text and the email address is from a free email service like Gmail or Yahoo, its spam. Delete it and forget it.

If your email client tells you it is spam there is a very small chance that it might not be spam, if you are at a business building using business email, chances are that a lot of non spam emails go to spam due to high filtering settings. You do however need to be able to tell spam from non-spam.

Password Changes

Sites like eBay or PayPal that are heavily encrypted send you an email when your password is changed, even if you were the one that changed it they will still send you an email for security reasons. If you do get one of these emails and you didn’t change the passwoord, you need to contact them immediately.

Imagine that you are opening the door of your house to go inside after a long day at work, but you forget to disarm your security system. The alarm will go off and the alarm company will call you. You tell them that it was only a false alarm and give them your pin number for the alarm system, and they reset the alarms.

So,? going back to the site, the alarm going off when you enter your house is just like you changing your password on a highly encrypted site. The website will contact you just as the alarm company would, except with the website, you usually don’t need to tell them if you changed it or not.

Free Items

Have you ever seen those ads on websites telling you to click to win a free item of high value like a MacBook Air or an expensive car? Well to tell you the truth the website that you clicked on that ad from is just trying to make money, because advertising is how most free websites run. However, that form you will out to get the free item is just collecting your personal information, and you could start receiving tons of spam in the snail mail.

Online Shopping

Another way hackers can attack computers is through online shopping. My rule is the site either has to be approved by internet security companies like McAfee, or use PayPal for orders. I usually will only shop at an online shop if they use PayPal because the only information the store will see when you pay with PayPal is your Name and/or email. That’s a lot better than giving them your credit card number.

The best thing you can do to defend yourself while shopping online is by making sure the shopping website you are buying from is secure. Though eBay and Amazon are very secure, if they were to get hacked it is likely that websites like these would shut down part of their system temporarily until they are sure that the problem is fixed.

Downloads

Downloads can be handy, but if you download multiple programs every day, you could be even more prone to getting a virus. You need to be extremely careful when downloading files from file sharing sites, unless you truly know the person that is hosting them, or were redirected by a software company that you trust.

Sum it up

The key to internet safety is this: if a website or email doesn’t look safe, either don’t go to it,? or do searches on it to see if it is safe. Don’t just look at one search result; look at multiple ones so you are sure that the website is secure. There is a neat little antivirus programs that can keep you safe on the internet, and will even warn you if you try to open an infected webpage or email, and then clean any infected files. You can download this antivirus program by going to http://www.avast.com/. If you already have an antivirus program you trust go ahead and download McAfee Site Advisor http://www.siteadvisor.com/.

Whether you like it or not, you need an antivirus program, it might make your PC a bit slow(er) but it is worth it, you never know when your computer could be threatened in an internet infection.

Paul Shirey

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Make a USB Thumb Drive Laptop Theft Alarm

Picture this: Someone tries to steal your laptop off your desk and as soon as they pull the plug from the wall, your latpop emits a screaming siren that won’t quit until your password is entered to unlock the laptop and disable the alarm.There’s another scenario: You take one of your old USB thumb drives (maybe the one you used to make an anti virus bootable scanner) attach a chain to it and secure it to your desk; if someone tries to move your laptop, unplugging the USB thumb drive in the process, the alarm goes off.

This is possible because of an interesting piece of software called “LAlarm.” It’s free for personal use and there’s a nominal fee for commercial use. Download LAlarm from this link: http://www.lalarm.com/en/index.htm.

I tested this software by installing it on my Dell laptop. It works. You simply install the software, configure the options you want and restart your laptop. To set the alarm, you just press Windows key + L to lock the workstation. If anyone pulls the plug or removes the thumb drive, the alarm sounds.

There’s much more to the software than just an alarm. You can set the software to destroy your data in selected folders in the event of a theft. You can also set zones based on IP addresses and cause an alarm to sound if the IP address changes.

The theft alarm is not affected by the system volume control setting–it’s screaming loud no matter how you have your volume set.

It’s a very cool tool.

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Prevent Online Banking Fraud with a ROBAM

What’s a ROBAM? you ask. Check out this post: Protecting Your Business from Online Banking Fraud. SANS says, “The number one recommended mitigation [to online banking fraud caused by infostealer infections] is to use a read-only bootable alternative media (ROBAM) as an isolated environment for financial transactions.”

You can use a USB thumb drive instead of a CD if you do the following:

1. Download your alternative Linux OS choice (I prefer Ubuntu or Knoppix) in .iso format
2. Download UNetbootin from http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/
3. Create a bootable USB thumb drive using UNetbootin
4. Set the properties of the drive to “read only”

This should have the same effect as using a Linux live CD.

I haven’t tried this, so comments welcome.

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