Google Warns Users About Hacked Sites

July 18th, 2013


A hacked site refers to a reputable, usually safe website that has been compromised and now infects your computer with malware, phishing scams and viruses. As Seth Rosenblatt reports for CNET, Google’s latest transparency report warns users that these hacked sites are far more numerous, and in many ways more dangerous, than dedicated attack sites.

Sites set-up for the sole purpose of infecting visitors were actually a rarity until a few years ago. Even now, Google counts less than 4-thousand attack sites currently in operation. These sites are easy to spot for most users, which makes them easy to avoid.

A hacked site gives malware distribution a better disguise. Malicious actions hide behind a trusted URL to infect visitors. Many times, the administrator of these sites has no idea their site is infecting visitors until Google flags them as a potentially harmful site. There are nearly 40-thousand sites across the web that Google has identified as hacked. That number is actually a dramatic improvement from only a year ago when hacked sites numbered about 60-thousand.

These hacked sites are typically used to distribute malware or for phishing attacks. The average response time for site administrators to remedy the problem after Google flags them is about 50 days. That means for about 2-months, a hacked site continues to operate and infect users’ computers.

Chances are, you’ve visited a hacked site at some point or at least seen a flagged site in your Google search results. While it isn’t advisable to visit these sites while they’re infected, having effective antivirus and security software in place can save you a lot of trouble. Even the most popular ecommerce and news sites can be hacked, so it’s vital that your computer is protected at all times. Bring your computer to Geek Rescue to protect it from malware attacks from hacked sites. Their techs safeguard your computer with the latest security software so you can be safe online. Come by or call us at 918-369-4335.

COPPA’s New Rules To Keep Kids Safe Online

July 17th, 2013

Kids with smartphone

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act was initially enacted in 1998 and mandated the collection of data from children under 13. Known as COPPA, the rule was amended in 2012 to cover a wider range of information, which addresses the increase in mobile usage and social media. This modified version went into effect July 1st, but Grant Gross, of ComputerWorld, reports that some websites are struggling to stay in compliance.

COPPA requires special care and security for children’s identifying information, including cookies, geolocations, photos and videos. Critics claim that what the FTC is asking of developers is next to impossible, however.

The rule is meant to protect children against targeted advertising and online tracking, so that’s where the FTC suggests websites focus their attention. Though violations of COPPA can carry up to a $16-thousand penalty, most believe there will be a grace period for developers to hone new policies and develop new strategies to comply.

As a parent, you can look for apps with a seal of approval from the Association for Competitive Technology and a group called Moms With Apps. Their Know What’s Inside campaign awards a seal of approval for developers who comply with the recommended practices of COPPA.

To be sure you keep your children completely safe online, you’ll also need Geek Rescue’s Safety Net. For about a dollar per day, you get the ability to keep children away from potentially dangerous and inappropriate sites. Call Geek Rescue ta 918-369-4335 to learn more about keeping your kids safe.

Ransomware Sites Pose As FBI

July 17th, 2013


You’re at home surfing the web, as you’ve been known to do. You follow a couple of interesting links and suddenly find yourself in a dark corner of the internet. A page appears in your browser claiming to be controlled by the “FBI Cyber Department” or “FBI Cybercrime Division”. They tell you they’ve seized control of your browser, recorded your activities and you will face legal action unless you pay a sizable fine. To show they mean business, they flash a pop-up of displaying your current location.

Now what do you do? Attempting to leave the page only causes the cycle of messages to start over and trying to close the browser proves fruitless. Paying the fine, however, would be just as pointless.

This site is a scam, as you may have already guessed. It’s accurately called ransomware because of the way it holds your computer hostage and demands payment. Previously, we warned you about a virus that similarly locks down your computer. The virus is difficult to get around, but there are some things to try if you come across a ransomware site, as Topher Kessler details in his post at Cnet.

Because this site is based off a relatively simple JavaScript code, it can be thwarted by disabling JavaScript in your browser. This will be an option found in the settings. Once JavaScript is disabled, the window can be closed like normal.

If you can’t find the JavaScript option or don’t want to go that route, force quit the browser. Unfortunately, your browser may automatically take you to the last page of your previous browsing session, which puts you back where you started. There are ways to disable this function, however.

If you happen to be using Safari, simply reset it from the application menu. These simple fixes will allow you to regain control of your browser and your computer. If you continue to experience trouble or want to safeguard against other malicious attacks, Geek Rescue is always here to help. We have the experience and know-how to restore your computer after any attack and safeguard it for the future. Come by or call us at 918-369-4335.

What You Need To Know About Free WiFi

July 17th, 2013

Free WiFi

Free WiFi is available everywhere, which is great to keep you and your devices connected to a high-speed internet connection. Those free networks, though, are notoriously lacking in security and provide opportunities for cyber criminals to take advantage of you.  David Gorodyansky highlights some reasons for concern when using free WiFi while traveling this summer for Forbes, but his advice rings true even if you are just hanging around your hometown.

Do you have security software installed on your home computer? Chances are you wouldn’t think of surfing the internet at home without some sort of antivirus protection at least. Now, do you have similar software on your phone? For most people, the thought of protecting their smartphone has never entered their mind. Those same people use their phone to not only surf the web, but also to book reservations, make purchases and check their bank account. One could easily argue that your phone should be even more secure than your home computer.

Mobile devices are also often lost or stolen, which gives the thief immediate access to all the information you’ve accessed with that device. Phones have lock screens and apps to prevent access to your personal data and similar preventative measures are available for laptops and tablets.

For the specific problem of using unsecured mobile hotspots, there are encryption services to make your personal experience safe. By utilizing one of these services, you are free to take advantage of free WiFi but won’t be sacrificing security. Even with provisions in place, however, it’s a good idea to take some precautions. Encryption and other protections make it very unlikely for outsiders to steal your information, but not giving out personal information makes it completely impossible. If possible, refrain from making purchases or reservations with your credit card on your phone’s browser. Those can usually wait until you’re in the most secure environment possible.

To secure your mobile devices and to learn more about encryption services, like VPNs, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. They’ll not only make sure you have the most up-to-date security software, but also teach you about safe surfing habits.