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WiFi Security…

… and getting your configuration right can be frustrating. So I was lucky enough to receive a guest post from Dan Shernicoff (a good friend) of Brassnet blog fame explaining the whole subject. Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Having a secure WiFi network is important to your peace of mind.

Insecure WiFi can have a lot of bad consequences. It can let anyone access your network (and all of the personal data you have on your computers.) It can let anyone pretend to be you (just Google Firesheep and you’ll get an idea as to what I mean.) It can leave you open to viruses and attacks.  The good news is that it’s not hard to secure a WiFi network; you can do it with 6 simple steps.

  1. Change the SSID – The SSID is the name of the WiFi network. It’s what you see when you go to configure it.  All routers have a default name for the SSID, commonly the name of the manufacturer.  By changing the name of the SSID you make it harder for a bad guy to figure out what the password is to access the configuration and make changes on you.
  1. Set up WPA2 – WPA2 is a form of encryption that is used on all the data sent between two endpoints on the wireless network.  What that bit of tech speak means is that it takes the data sent from your computer, phone, tablet, Roku, etc. and turns it into gobbledygook that only the access point (router) and the device understand. Since WiFi is basically radio anyone with a receiver that can pick up the appropriate channel can see everything sent from the computer to the access point and back again; WPA2 makes that information unintelligible to anyone other than the intended recipient.

    It’s important that when you’re setting up WPA2 you use a strong password.  Since this is a password you’re only going to have to enter once on any given device you should make it long as well.  One suggestion might be a group of unconnected words (not a phrase) with some of the letters capitalized and the zip code of your second home.  If you want to test the strength of your password you can go to a site like http://www.passwordmeter.com/ to check.

     


     

  2. Disable UPnP – UpnP (Universal Plug And Play) is a network protocol designed to allow devices on the network to open ports on the router. In order to let you know why this a bad thing I’ll have to go into a bit of networking (and it might get technical) feel free to skip the explanation and just take my word that open ports are a bad thing.

    Ports are a way of letting an individual computer to manage multiple network connections at once. Every time you load a web page you are actually opening multiple sockets (a socket is just a fancy geek term for a network connection) and what differentiates these sockets is the port. One of the sockets is downloading the webpage itself while another might be downloading an image and a third is retrieving a script that’s needed for the page to work properly.  On the server side all of these sockets are going to the same port (80 being the standard for http data) and the router on the server side knows that data on port 80 gets sent to a specific port (not necessarily the same one) on a computer.  Any time a port is open data from the outside world can go to a computer on the network and there is no guarantee that the data coming in is friendly. Ideally any port that does not need to be open should be dead (i.e. it doesn’t reply, it just ignores knocks on the door.) UPnP lets applications open ports. While this is all well and good if the application that is trying to open the port is friendly (maybe that media server you decided to set up) but what if the application that is trying to open the port is a virus?  There is nothing preventing a virus author from leveraging UPnP to open ports to let more viruses in – or hackers – and even if you find the virus, the port is open and you’ll never know about it.

     

  3. Disable WPS – WPS (WiFi Protected Setup) is a standard that makes setting your network up easy, press a button or enter a pin and, voila, your network is ready to go. The problem with what sounds like an ideal situation (you don’t need to remember that long password you set up in step 2) is that there’s a hole in the standard that it makes it pretty easy to hack giving anyone with the skills and knowhow to do so the ability to be on your network.
  1. Disable WAN management – WAN management is the ability for someone who’s not on your network (i.e. someone on the internet) to manage your router.  That means that if you didn’t change the SSID (step 1) then someone can access your router from afar and do some not too pleasant things (like opening ports – read the techie part of section 3 for why this is bad) and in general make your life miserable, sometimes without you even knowing it.
  1. Change the admin password – This is the password to the router itself. This password is what you need to know to do all of the things mentioned above. Every router ships with a default username and password – usually printed on the label on the bottom of the router and always searchable. If the password to your router is the default (and for a number of manufacturers that’s username: admin password: admin) then your router is easily hackable with brute force attacks. Since your router is your first (and main) line of defense from hackers you want it to be as secure as you can make it and this one simple step takes care of making it pretty secure.

That’s it in a nutshell. Follow the simple steps above (and it’s OK if you just read the bullet points and not the explanations) and your network will be as secure as you can make it without a dedicated IT team and a very large budget.

The Warptest POV

There is very little I could add to this that Dan hasn’t already explained in excellent detail. Thanks Dan.

I would recommend you follow Dan on Twitter  and read his posts over on the aforementioned Brassnet blog but most likely you have already done it.

Windows 8 Shield

Let’s clarify when I say Antivirus …

I’m referring to your security toolbox that includes Antivirus, Antimalware, Firewall and Antispam.

are you secure

The good ones will check that your OS is patched and up to date with critical security patches but I’m not going to get into which the best is out there. That’s a discussion for another day.

Anyhow, this depends on a variety of factors including: –

  • Personal preference
  • Hardware spec
  • Operating System
  • User Experience
  • How you use the Internet
  • And more.

Why do I need all this?

Is your data in the cloud? Is it backed up there or your primary storage? Do you keep an offline backup? Or do you not trust the security of the Cloud and haven’t found anything easier than just leaving all those documents and photos on your hard drive?

The only secure computer is one disconnected from internet or email on a permanent basis.

That’s about as useful as <insert colorful phrase here>.

Whilst your data is important to you there are two other things that through your Personal Computer (regardless of OS) can have a drastic impact on you: –

  • All your passwords: Unless you are in the habit of using a password management application or of continually cleaning your browser cache, this information is sitting somewhere on your computer. I’m particularly referring to things like Social Networking and or E-Commerce Site logins.
  • Your online reputation: This is a little bit more ephemeral but you don’t want someone malicious posting online as if they were you, accessing contact information you have or hijacking your computer to turn into surreptitious Adult entertainment server.

That’s all about what’s good for you but if you are an active participant in sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or So.cl then for better or for worse you one part of the many.

Be Selfless, Be Thoughtful and Be Social…

Given the degree of interconnectivity your web connected presence has on social networking sites you have to ask yourself,

“What do you want to pay forward to your contacts? Engagement or malware”

As such the most social app you have installed on your computer may well be your Antivirus.

So this is you looking down at the lapsed license for your antivirus or the last scan date of 6 months ago or a questionable short link and deciding that Social is also responsibility for only passing on the good things.

gratitude - social

So be secure and hopefully all your friends, followers and contacts will feel and act the same way.. now go run your antivirus.

Skype Warptest-ed

Skype, the popular VOIP application has been under the microscope lately. I’ve looked at it on Windows PC, Windows Mobile (legacy but working version), Symbian, Linux and other platforms. Why you ask, mainly because I frequently get asked about it in a support context.

image

As you know in May 2010 Microsoft announced their acquisition of Skype.for $8.5 Billion. Since then the biggest thing we have heard was the news that it will be developed for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. ((Since I began writing this I found way more interesting news about Skype for PC incorporating HD video, Facebook and Bing Bar integration))

As I looked this popular app both as a day-to-day user and as a tester I found it frustrating at times and was hard pressed to put my finger on why.

Great expectations

So I sat down with a tumbler of scotch and mulled exactly was bothering me. I came to the conclusions that: –

  • It hasn’t really progressed from a Desktop Application (even the versions ported to mobile platforms).
  • It is the kid in school who always gets the could do better  and  does not play well with others on their report card.

Perhaps one of the reasons that Ebay and Skype themselves before Microsoft didn’t fulfill Skype’s potential was that they simply didn’t see what they had.

Is Skype simply a VOIP application? Definitely not.

Warptest Predictions or 2 Things Skype needs…

Once again I’m going to indulge in something between predictions and the hope that someone at Redmond reads this and says “”Hey great ideas, let’s hire this guy and run with this”: –

  • Full integration into Windows Live. Skype is at its core a Desktop app but the way to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century is to make it part of Microsoft’s cloud ecosystem. Just as a small example, if I send or receive files via Skype the best place to store them as a default location is not the local device I’m using, it’s my Skydrive. For those who don’t favor Live add an option here for Dropbox, Box.Net, Google Apps and that way when it hits Europe you can avoid those pesky EU non-compete suits.

Skype - SkyDrive

  • Turn it into a social media hub. Yes, Skype needs to maintain it’s core VOIP functionality but it already has some Facebook integration. Adding full integration allows a user to also post to Twitter and other Social Networks; VOIP / IM were the natural precursors of the Real-Time Social Networking Revolution so this would be a case of natural evolution. Skype as a Social Networking Hub would open a huge can of whup-*ss on applications like Seesmic or Tweetdeck.

I’m not even going to get into the potential as a commerce or pay-per-service platform that would be well served looking at models like Linden Labs’ Second Life for just how easy an application can make it for their users to pay each other for services or products.

I guess my last question is if Skype should be proudly 100% Microsoft then will I be able to search accounts via Bing and where does this leave MS Messenger?

Soluto – In the Beginning:

Soluto has done it again. No longer a simple client PC application it has evolved and iterated into a sophisticated Control Panel for system management of multiple PCs.

soluto - button

Uncle Monty’s Got No Internet:

Many of us who are used to the frantic calls to resolve PC issues for friends and family were overjoyed with this remote access solution; allowing you the Power User to solve these issues from the comfort of your own chair and computer.

You may have heard it here first:

I wrote on my old blog in July 2010 about how to use Soluto hand in hand with CCleaner and FileHippo; this was the best way at the time to ensure a smooth running, stable PC.

Awhile later I indulged in predicting via Twitter that @soluto should romance either CCleaner or FIlehippo as the results would be awesome.

Soluto-logoCcleaner-logo - Solutofilehippo-logo - Soluto

Will It Blend?

Last week the guys at Soluto did one better and announced on their blog that they are incorporating a Disk Cleaner and App Installer (beginning with Skype apparently with other apps to follow).

As a freemium user you get to invite 4 other users and be their Power User / Online Support:

Soluto - grab

So we have one killer app that basically will allow you to do away with: –

  • Maintaining a stable, optimized boot and running OS
  • 3rd Party Patch Management
  • Remote Access Tools for Support
  • The uncertainty of DIY 3rd Party App Maintenance

What Next?

That’s Soluto today as a Freemium version. It doesn’t take much to imagine the Web App / Soluto Client providing support for iOS or Linux (even Mobile platforms) but the kicker is going to be seeing your Sys-admin maintain your whole IT infrastructure via Soluto with an Enterprise version. (prediction)

In a nutshell for all you LOTR fans this will likely be the One Ring to Rule Them All.

 

In 2006 Apple was having a fun time tweaking Microsoft’s collective nose with their “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” line of ads.

These were a brilliant series of ads comparing the young, hip, funny Justin Long as Mac versus the stodgy, starchy, clumsy be-suited, bespectacled PC.

In the video below PC get’s a virus “atchoo”:

Fast forward to 2011 and recently we have seen malware on Android and on Apple products.

The most recent of these attacking iOS has been MAC Defender / MAC Guard. I don’t need to write about what the malware does. This has been covered excellently on ZDNet here and here.

I spoke to a bunch of MAC users who were remarkably unconcerned,

“Malware? Viruses.. those are PC issues.”

In an earlier piece on Smartphone security I maintained something I’m going to reiterate here: unsecured devices (mobile, desktop or otherwise) are easy points of access for malware to compromise data in the cloud and spread to other users.

In addition, for Apple to provide a solution based on a signature file that is bypassed by the malware writers immediately after each file is released reeks of arrogance and a lack of concern for their customers or their data safety. Microsoft didn’t have an in-house solution for anti-malware. As a result they went out, found a company who made a robust Windows solution and bought them, folding it into the services they offer.

Apple’s behavior in this shows they still perceive themselves and their user demographic as in the same place as in their 2006 “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC.” ad above.

It’s the equivalent of the sex education teacher at the end of class giving out condoms they know are out of date.

What it really comes down to is a “wake up and smell the coffee” moment for Apple. If Apple has become the leader in personal and mobile computing then it stands to reason they are going to become increasingly the focus of malware. De facto, they have become a victim of their own successes. The next step for Apple is to realize they need to address this situation by offering their own robust security solution or recommending those of 3rd parties for example Panda Security who do offer a MAC solution:

Panda_Mac

The other aspect of this is, if my earlier assertion about security for cloud stored content in correct then what security solutions should we be relying on for that?

It’s 2011, is your MAC / PC / Linux computer secure?

QR Codes and Microsoft Tags: bar codes for the continuing millennia or viral marketing media spreading like wildfire?

myblog-qrcode

 

Jonathan_Ross_2010927131146

Either way they are popping up everywhere on the back of products in supermarkets and pharmacies, movie posters, ads on buses and in magazines.

The basic concept is using an app that piggybacks on your smartphone camera you can rapidly capture and use the data inside the QR Code or MS Tag.

I’m not going to get into arguments about which is better, supported by more phones etc. both work and are easy to implement.

The fact is that this technology of encoding data in graphics is both a really neat tool and potentially an easily exploitable method of getting malicious code onto someone’s mobile device.

At present I have found no security application that scans Tags or QR Codes prior to any device decoding the embedded data. At the simplest level it could be a URL leading to a malicious site and I’m not going to speculate at the worst.

Your mobile device decodes these on the fly and in the case of you are connected to the internet to do this.

Recently I have been doing some testing related to these and whilst working on a novel it occurred to me this could be a great plot device either using Tags/ QR Codes this way or else as simple .. how I use it in the novel you are just going to have to wait and see. My writing occurs in fits and starts as inspiration hits me 🙂

This “tags” on nicely to my earlier piece on anyhow, what do you think about Microsoft Tags and QR Codes; have you used them yet?

It’s 2011 and the Rise of the Smartphone is upon us. The hardware being built into cellular phones is rapidly converging with prior Desktop / Notebook technology.

The way I see it there a 3 main types of Smartphone users: –

    • Personal use consumers.
    • Corporate Road Warriors with full connectivity to company remote data, servers and email.
    • Smartphone Worker Bees who use it as a productivity tool but don’t have the backend to exploit like the Road Warriors.

The Smartphone is at the sharp end of it and with their connection to Push Mail Servers, Cloud Storage, Remote Server Connection, their onboard Contacts, Calendar et cetera. The question is, are Smartphones secure?

I asked several people via Twitter and Facebook who own different Smartphones and I consider to be expert or power-users the same question I asked Microsoft in the screengrab below.

Particularly thanks to @ricktep (Rick Teplitz) of Imperva for providing me with a link to their blog which had a thought provoking piece on the subject. I strongly recommend you read it. I’ll be looking at the rest of their blog too.

http://blog.imperva.com/2010/11/trend-6-mobile-devices-compromise-data-security.html

Let’s break it down: this is a summary of the answers I got and research I did myself: –

Table 1: Preinstalled / OS functionality

  iPhone Blackberry Android Windows Phone

Password Protection

yes

yes

yes

yes

Data Encryption

iOS4

AES / DES encryption

There’s an app for that

SSL

AES
HMACSHA1
HMACSHA256
Rfc2898DeriveBytes
SHA1
SHA256

Security Apps *

see table 2

see table 2

see table 2

see table 2

Remote “Bricking” if stolen

There’s an app for that

yes via Network or App for personal users

remote locate

remote locate via Live service

Table 2: Security Apps * (incomplete list)

  iPhone Blackberry Android Windows Phone
Norton Smartphone
Antivirus Firewall SMS-antispam
      WinMob 5/6
Norton Mobile (beta)
Remote bricking
    Android 2.x  
McAffee EMM
comprehensive security including secure remote access
iOS3 onwards   Android 2.2 WinMob 5/6

McAffee Mobile Content
antimalware

online service online service online service online service
McAffee Mobile Security
Enterprise solution inc. real time antimalware
      WinMob 5/6
F-Secure Mobile Security
Real time antivirus Firewall Anti-theft
    Android 1.6 / 2.x WinMob 5/6
AVG
Real time antivirus Anti-theft SMS-Antispam
    Yes  
ESET
Antivirus Firewall Antitheft AntiSpam SMS/MMS..
      WinMob 5/6
Kaspersky Mobile Security 9 (*features not for all OS)Antitheft Call/SMS filter Privacy protection* Encryption* Parental Control* Antivirus*   BB 4.5 – 6 Android 1.6 – 2.2 WinMob 5/6

These tables show that security is available should the CIO or personal user want it. No two companies support all major platforms in fact, Panda Security has no mobile solution at all at present and furthermore. It appears that the most under-secured Smartphone seems to be the iPhone. Is this a carryover from the Apple sentiment that

“viruses are something that only happen on PC’s?”

Even if you say that Smartphones are unsecured points of access you are still effectively disregarding any sync’d or local data stored on the Smartphones.

How come the Smartphone Companies, Cellular Providers or Security Software Vendors aren’t beating our doors down to offer these services?

I’ll finish by throwing down the gauntlet to Panda whose products I like and use. You were the pioneers in Online security with Cloud Antivirus why is this product not being revamped to support all the major Smartphones?

So what do you think, does your Smartphone need the same level of protection as your PC?

As those of you who follow my tweets @jonathanross will know, I was recently in the UK for a couple of weeks on a working holiday.

Some of that work was done with my [disclosure] brother’s company, and as such I spent some time in his office. One of the things that fascinated me was their test-bed PC.

First Contact is a Panda Security reseller amongst other things and they often use the test-bed PC for certain security related functions.

The mainstay in their toolbox is Panda Internet Security. Panda has a great product line of security software that from year to year, in response to user input has only gotten better.

One of the things I like the most about Panda Internet Security (yes I have it installed on both our computers at home) is the relatively small footprint compared to some of their competitors in terms of CPU and RAM usage. The exception to this is the few moments after an update when Panda devours whatever CPU / RAM is available to it however, this is minor as it does little to interfere with continued work and has yet to have any negative impact on other open applications.

If I were to suggest any change at all to their update module it would be to allow for either time scheduled checks for updates or to go the Adobe Acrobat path where the user can simply delay the upgrade until a more convenient time when the bandwidth/ resources are free to use. The obvious problem with this is that not upgrading malware definitions can leave your PC exposed to the most recently discovered malware. Other than this, Panda makes it eminently simple for the average user to install and use their security products without complex, tweaky settings leaving users befuddled or annoyed.

The_Scream

Putting performance aside, the true mark of a great security tool is does it catch the malware? There are no tools or methods that 100% protect your PC from infection short of never switching it on however, Panda scores high both in my experience (I have been using Panda since 2001) and Av-test.org published results of their comparative testing;

av-test-2010-q2-fx-2

Their results show Panda has only two competitors in these tests: Kaspersky and Symantec. I have used recent versions of both and come the time to choose between renewing my license or moving to another product I’ll be staying with Panda.

Panda also led the way in and yes, it is free for home users.

Okay, I guess you get it. I really like Panda’s product line but also I like their Social web presence and interaction with their customer-base. Panda has a blog, Twitter feeds for @pandatechsup – Panda Technical Support, the blog and for their company entity or brand @Panda_Security.

Anyway back to Manchester and sitting in the – I was sitting eating a scone and sipping my morning double espresso from the local Kosher Bakery and looking at the conclusion of a Panda scan on an infected PC. I had briefly been discussing ways of increasing their web presence and looking at their website when I had one of those random, caffeine inspired ideas.

"Wouldn’t it be great if you had a widget on your website that showed how many viruses/ malware you found and disinfected for you customers using Panda?"

It then occurred to me to simply tweet Panda and ask them if they had something like this. As I said Panda clearly believes in engagement and interaction with their customer-base: –

image

The truth is having a Panda branded widget that sits on a company web-site and gives metrics of successful disinfections is win-win for Panda and the reseller/ support entity. Apparently Panda has some smart folks running their brand and saw the benefit of this.

What next? Well if it was me (and having read a Gartner report on tech to watch out for in 2010-2011) I would look to see if Panda Cloud Antivirus is going to support Smart Phones and Cloud storage/ services like Windows Live / Skydrive or Google Apps / Documents.

So having once again shamelessly self-promoted an idea from the grey matter of Jonathan Ross I will bid you all a good evening. I need to make supper for the little guy, have another double espresso and see what the next idea will be.

Let’s take a look at some of the big movers and shakers in Social Media: –

blogger facebook linkedin

twitter 

  • Each of them is interested in your content.
  • Each of them has your content in the Cloud.
  • Each of them has to some degree a store of your personal information.

Most if not all of us have antivirus, firewalls, anti-malware solutions on our personal and work computers. Many of us have suffered to some extent from unwanted and often inappropriate emails, spyware and even viruses (I know, not you Linux folks… right.) however, our usage of Web 2.0 and Social Platforms seems to suffer a little more from these delightful occurrences certainly at the Spam level.

Blog comments:

As a blogger you basically have limited options regardless of which platform you use: –

  • You can disable comments altogether, something Engadget felt forced to do this week due to the nature of some of the comments they were receiving (apparently even threats).
  • You can leave comments open and unmoderated for any and all to post which can result in large amounts of Spam. If you configure the Comments to go to your email then this can further overload your inbox with the same Spam.
    • Case in point, this blog receives Spam comments in Kanji, Mandarin, Portugese and Italian.
    • Below is a comment from @dvirreznik regarding his month old blog

dvir-tweet

  • You can configure your comments for moderation which requires you to approve each and every comment made. This is both time consuming / labor intensive for the blogger and sort of takes the Social out of it all.

When I commented in Twitter about this myself @testingqa responded with a great deal of insight:

my comment was …

Thought 4the Day: should blog platforms provide security against spammers beyond moderate comments? #geofilter #learningfilter #antispam 2:54 PM Jan 29th from Seesmic

My tweets: @Testingqa replies:
me-spam

 testingqa-spam

 

The problem seems to be growing not just on blogs but in Facebook, Twitter itself and other Social Media.

Facebook:

Facebook has security settings which are for each functional aspect of a user’s Facebook identity or page they may define the extent that their information is exposed. Furthermore, the user may choose to limit whether their posts to Facebook are indexed by search engines. Facebook chooses to set the defaults as more open rather than more secure as they are in the business of information accessibility. The onus is on the user who they choose to connect to and the levels of sharing they decide to configure.

LinkedIn:

LinkedIn the most business / professional oriented of the platforms I’m writing about here and other than some ads I didn’t really want to see (but weren’t inappropriate just irrelevant) I have not experienced any phishing, spam or mal-occurrences.

The real question is why do platforms like Blogger which is Google’s blogging platform or Facebook or even Twitter (which experienced phishing attacks just yesterday for user passwords) not have better solutions to these security issues which frankly are worrying precursors to actual malware and virus attacks on users and their information on these platforms?

Is it indifference on the part of the platform owners, a lack of a solution or simply that Social Media platforms have not reached the level of product maturity to provide solutions?

Google for example has excellent anti-spam technology in Gmail, why not port this to Blogger’s comments?

I know that simply filtering comments by language/ commenter geo-location allowed by the blog owner would reduce the Spam on my blog drastically.

Or should comments only be from someone who wants to follow you either via Twitter / Facebook / OpenID / Google Connect?

Are we only going to see a more structured response to this black hat behaviour after the fact? Time will tell but if your information is valuable to you don’t rely on others to protect it ensure you have your own backup / disaster plan in place.

Over the last few months I have heard several stories from friends where their blog/ site as hacked, content deleted and they subsequently discovered the host had failed to perform any expected backup.

At the end of the day we have to balance our desire for strong security with how that will limit the exposure of our content; after all it’s not Social Media if we lock it in a box. Now that I mention it I think it is time for a backup after I post this.

Good luck and stay secure.

Having dealt with the issue of malware eating my C drive and reinstalling I took some time to clean my different email inboxes.

My webmail connected to this blog has been onset with spam comments (mainly in kanji) and a local Modiin politician who should really know better has repeatedly snubbed my requests for him to remove my Netvision email address from his mailing list.

1. If someone came up to you on a bus, train or in the street and started telling and selling this unsolicited stuff to you how would you respond? Those of you who know me well know exactly how I would respond to this.

2. Why do we have to put up with this? As consumers isn’t it time we started yelling to the ISP’s and anti-malware / anti-spam developers to create more offensive tools that allow us to fight back.

3. Why won’t the ISP block specific email addresses or even domains on demand – there has to be money in it for them?

I remember installing my first antivirus and my first firewall and deleting my first spam mail.
I would like to remember after all this my first day where my mail is spam free and my web surfing is alert free, wouldn’t you?

Like any of us if enough time goes by in peace and quiet we get complacent and don’t follow our own established procedures. That’s what happened to me two weeks ago. My PC was infected with a particularly nasty bit of malware.. due to my complacency and probably a tired click on the wrong link.
It was very late and I was tired, already a recipe for IT disaster 🙂 and the next morning I booted up my PC none the wiser. I had been running my Antivirus as part of Panda Internet Security regularly but since all was reasonably quiet I had not been running an additional anti-spyware program frequently enough.
I had Windows Defender installed and MalwareBytes but was only getting around to running them about once a month.
As I said I booted the PC and after typing my password went to get a cup of coffee. On my return Windows XP was reporting a problem with OS files having been overwritten and this was the first sign that something was seriously wrong.
I couldn’t run Panda or either of the anti-spyware programs, no executables or OS folders could be found throught search, Explorer or via DOS either locally, over the workgroup and finally no Disk On Key Apps could be run.
So I tried a System Restore .. nope.
Then I tried a Repair from the Boot Disk .. my Administrator password was not recognized.
Several inappropriate words later I deciced to try backing up my data, PST etc to an external drive .. luckilly this worked. Then of course I opened my laptop and used it to scan the external drive as deep as it could go using Panda, Spybot Search and Destroy and MalwareBytes.
I decided to cut my attempts at repairing the damage short and just reformat and reinstall the OS and programs.
To cut a long story short, the PC is up and running better than ever with more stringent security; what did I learn?
  • Complacency is one step before disaster.

  • Backup, backup, backup.

  • Keep all your data on a separate partition and preferably sync it to a remote or network store.

  • Keep a list safe (hardcopy in this case) of all your license keys for all your software.

  • It’s worth having a reminder for scheduled antivirus and antispyware scans.

  • If you even suspect that you clicked on the wrong thing or the PC is acting strange then run your security programs. 

Well I am now cruising at 1.5 M on my new Cable connection and to save a little money I decided not to take the ISP’s anti-SPAM/ anti-virus web solution.

I know, some of you are slapping your foreheads, astounded at my hubris to think that I don’t need this.

For the last four years I have been a loyal user of Panda Platinum Internet Security. It is less resource intensive than several other competitors and frankly it has yet to let me down. My one gripe with Panda and their competitors is SPAM and Malware handling. The anti-SPAM is basically a local blacklist that the user can add to as the respective emails come in. Think simple and user dependent unlike the advanced heuristic features in the rest of the Panda suite.

This is where I get to vent a bit 🙂 even when I have shown proof of repeated spamming to my ISP’s in the past they are immensely reluctant to blacklist that company (yes not faked or spoofed addresses). It fell to me to send “cease and desist” notices and keep their Customer services on the phone until I got assurances that I was removed from their mailing lists.

What you never, ever want to do is hit the “remove me” links embedded in the SPAM.

What I want though is some more muscle in my anti-SPAM; I want to have a feature to notify my ISP or the blacklist of my choice; I want to detect the mailer’s IP address and send that SPAM right back at them and I want the ability to have a domain not just a user on it defined as SPAM. I am never going to want mail from @__.to for example.

It’s time the average user was able to take back their email from these pests, thugs and creeps. To do that tools are going to have to provide a more aggressive protection. However, the real problem is that the ISP’s and government are going to have to come up with legislation and enforcement options for dealing with this. If say, most of all phishing/ SPAM comes from one country or locale then why not have a national embargo on that domain at ISP level unless a specific user applies to receive mail from that locale.

I suppose this seems much ado to some of you but frankly I am not going to keep expanding my online mailbox size to accomodate the ISP when it is in their own interests to stop this garbage and malignancy from getting through.

There is a minute chance that one of you reading this is one of these poor souls who gets paid to send this garbage at several cents a mail. If you are then let me add one more feature to where I want to see my security tools going; I would love to have these tools detect a serial spammer/phisher/ malware sender and initiate a legitimate denial of service on your IP address.

Is this for want of a better phrase a call to arms for cyberwar of sorts? Is it even realistic to ask for these things? All I know is there are things I do not want me or my family reading in our Inbox. If someone came up to you in the street and spoke to you this way, what would you do? I know what I would.