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Preface to “14 Golden Rules of Computer Security”

It isn’t getting any better on the Wild, Wild Web, despite state and federal government attempts to arrest and prosecute those responsible for electronically-perpetrated criminal acts. Spyware and malware of all kinds are increasingly more stealthy and difficult to remove thanks to rootkit technology. With the advent of Web 2.0 and its emphasis on sharing and collaboration through such social networking websites and services as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and the like, web-based attacks are more prevalent than ever. These sites are based on active, dynamic content and rely on special programs that run in your web browser to perform their magic. These programs can be modified by malicious hackers to steal your passwords, bank account information and virtually anything stored on your computer.

New laws have done little to deter or eliminate spammers, largely because many of them aren’t located in the United States. Despite the few high profile cases in the news, the truth is that few spammers are ever caught. Considering studies that show some spam campaigns can produce as much as $3.5 million in a year, it’s easy to see why today the spam problem is worse than ever–some estimates place the amount of spam email at 80% to 90% of all emails sent.

These days, everyone is at risk of falling victim to cyber-crime, even those of us who know and practice computer security on a daily basis. The average person who goes to the local big box electronics store and buys a PC or laptop for use at home is often lulled into a false sense of security because their purchase is bundled with some “security suite” by some big-name company. They go home, take everything out of the box, plug it all in and usually end up getting infected with all kinds of nasty things in very short order.

I put this book together in hopes that it will make a difference, however small, in how people look at computing and the Internet. Maybe it will save someone from the hardships of financial loss caused by using a compromised PC to access their bank and credit card accounts. Maybe it will save someone from having to pay a big bill to a technician to clean up a severely infected computer. Maybe, just maybe, it will help take some of the profit out of spam and malware. One can always hope.

At the very least, I hope that you, Dear Reader, find this information useful and that it helps make your computing experience more enjoyable.

Ken Harthun

Note: Any discussion of security, cyber- or otherwise, must be based on the concept of a security baseline – the bare security essentials without which all else is futile. The articles that follow assume that a good baseline already exists, whether the computer is just out of the box, or has been running for awhile What’s a good PC security baseline? I propose these four bare security essentials: “a NAT router; a good antivirus program; a good anti-malware program; and, a good software firewall.” These days antivirus, antimalware and a software firewall are usually combined into a single suite. I choose to align with Windows Secrets’ Security Baseline page: “a hardware firewall that’s built into your [NAT] router, security software that guards against all types of malware threats, a software-update service to ensure that your applications are patched against the latest exploits, and a secure browser.”–KH

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Panda Cloud Antivirus Emerges From Beta

I reported on Panda Cloud Antivirus back in June and July in my Security Corner posts, Panda’s Cloud Antivirus (Beta) is a Winner! and Panda’s CloudAntivirus Update.

I tested Panda Cloud Antivirus extensively on my systems while it was in beta and only recently switched to Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) for evaluation. Today, I’ll switch back to Panda on my older, slower system to compare performance of each one. I have noticed a slight performance degradation with MSE that was all but non-existent with Panda. Now that Panda Cloud Antivirus is out of beta, I can make a fair comparison which I will report on later. Check out the full report in this Security Corner post.

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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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Win an Xbox for Asking & Answering IT Questions

Jenny Mackintosh over at the ITKE Community blog (the folks who host my Security Corner blog) announced a cool contest for anyone who wants to show their tech savvy. The only catch is that you have to register as a community member, but ITKE is reputable, so this isn’t a problem:

Now through the end of April, you can not only show off your IT skills by asking and answering questions on? ITKnowledgeExchange.com, but you can earn the chance to spend some quality time honing your bad-guy-vaporizing skills on your very own Xbox 360.

From today (March 18th) through April 30th, you have a chance to win one of three Xbox 360 consoles. The winners will be the top 3 community members who have the most Knowledge Points earned and have asked 5 IT-related questions (you still earn Knowledge points for asking questions) during the contest period. So tell your friends and co-workers to post their IT questions on? ITKnowledgeExchange.com so you can answer and rack up your Knowledge Points.

You can read my post about it here: http://cli.gs/WPeXGT.

Have fun and good luck!

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