May 30th, 2014
Implementing proper security features on your computer isn’t high on most individual’s priority list. The assumption is that it will take hours to install new antivirus software and make other necessary changes. But, in reality, some significant improvements can be made in just a few minutes. Andy O’Donnell of About offers his “10-minute security tune-up”. While these won’t make you computer immune to malware infections, they are helpful.
Whether it’s your operating system, browser, antivirus program or other applications, it’s important to keep them updated and install the latest patches released by the developer. It’s a quick and easy process, but it protects you from some of the most dangerous threats to your PC. Patches and updates are often released to fix a vulnerability that has been demonstrated to be exploitable by criminals. So, failing to install these updates leaves a known security flaw open. That’s like asking for trouble. Similarly, updating your antivirus program allows it to stay up to date with the latest recognizable threats so it can identify them on your PC or stop them from infecting it in the first place.
Most users have an antivirus scanner installed on their PC, but have you ever considered the need for a second one? Even if you keep a trusted antivirus program updated, it’s still likely to miss a few threats. Some experts suggest adding a second antivirus scanner to identify problems that would have slipped through. This can potentially cause issues if both antivirus programs are set to actively scan at all times. Instead, you may consider using your primary antivirus program at all times, then run additional, regularly scheduled scans with your secondary scanner.
Regardless of how many security tools you put in place, there is always the chance of a catastrophe. Cyber attacks grow more intelligent every day and it’s impossible to close every potential vulnerability. Even if your PC isn’t taken down by malware, you could lose your data because of a hardware issue or natural disaster. That’s why it’s important to regularly back-up all the important data stored on your hard drive. With cloud storage readily available, you can even store it off site so the loss of your computer doesn’t mean the loss of your back-ups.
As mentioned, no security is perfect. If any of your devices are infected with malware or you’re experiencing other issues, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
May 28th, 2014
Identity theft and malware infections are two of the biggest security related worries for internet users. Unfortunately, both often stem from a lack of security for social media sites. Facebook, Twitter and other popular social media platforms are continuously working to make users safer, but you can take some additional steps on your own too. At Gizmodo, David Nield offers a few tips for how to make your social media accounts nearly unhackable.
- Two-Factor Authentication
Most of your social media accounts require nothing more than a password to log-in. When you stop and think about how much valuable information is available to anyone with access to your account, however, you’ll likely decide that more protection is needed. With two-factor authentication, you’ll log-in with a unique PIN sent directly to you via text message or through a mobile app. No device will be able to access your account without first going through this process. For Twitter, head to the ‘Security and Privacy’ menu in ‘Settings’ to enable two-factor authentication. Similarly on Facebook, the option is found under the ‘Login Approvals’ section of the Security Settings page.
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and many other social media sites allow users to add apps to their profiles for extra features. These may be related to games, photo sharing and editing or a number of other uses. These apps often create a security flaw that allows criminals to hack your account, however. While having no apps is the safest, that may not be realistic. If you’d rather not sacrifice apps entirely, regularly audit your apps and remove those that you no longer use or that the developer is no longer updating.
Phishing scams have infiltrated social media through instant messages, or in the case of Twitter, malicious tweets and profiles. Clicking on a bad link often leads users into trouble, but the most popular web browsers have some protections in place for these scenarios. Users must keep their browsers up to date, however, in order to be protected. Even with these security features, it’s a good idea to avoid any link you’re not absolutely sure about.
On the devices you use the most, your social media accounts are likely available without the need to sign in. No one wants to enter their password every time they check Facebook or Twitter on their smartphone, but what happens if your phone is lost or stolen. Now, whoever finds your device can look through your profiles, send out messages and steal whatever personal information is available. To limit this possibility, make sure to put a secure lock on your device. Require a PIN, password or pattern to be put in whenever the screen turns off.
In addition to these suggestions, it’s also a good idea to use a strong, unique password for each account and change it regularly, especially when there’s news of a large site being hacked.
If you’ve been the victim of an attack through social media, email or another source, bring your infected device to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
May 22nd, 2014
Microsoft’s Silverlight plug-in, which has features similar to Flash and is used for a variety of rich media applications on websites, including Netflix, is leaving users vulnerable to exploits. As Mathew J. Schwartz reports for Dark Reading, outdated versions of Silverlight contain vulnerabilities that lead to malware infections.
Up until recently, vulnerabilities in Silverlight were largely ignored by attackers. In late April, however, a pair of security flaws came to light and drew the attention of a number of exploit kit developers. In many of these attacks, malicious code is hidden in ads displayed by legitimate advertising networks. When these ads are displayed on websites that a user with an outdated version of Silverlight visits, malicious files can be installed.
While these vulnerabilities only exist for users who have failed to keep Silverlight updated, it seems that there’s a large number of users vulnerable and a large number of successful attacks stemming from these flaws. Currently, Silverlight is the most popular target for exploit, according to a report from Cisco.
Part of that popularity stems from the development of exploit kits. These kits are basically attacks in a box that any individual can purchase and launch without the need for any real expertise. These particular Silverlight flaws have made the development of exploit kits fairly simple, which has meant that many are being created at a rapid pace.
Silverlight is the latest, but certainly not the only plug-in that has caused security issues. In 2013, 85-percent of successful attacks involved an exploit of a third-party plug-in like Java or Adobe products like Flash or Reader.
The biggest danger in these plug-in exploits is businesses who are shockingly unprepared for them. Only 29-percent of businesses who were hit with this type of exploit in 2013 were able to discover the breach themselves. In some cases, they were unaware until their client base informed them of a problem.
If you’ve been the victim of an attack and need help clearing the malicious files off your computer and network, or if you’d like to find out more about properly securing your company, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
May 22nd, 2014
Spam is a constant problem for email users and has been since the early days of email. Through spam, malware infections and phishing schemes torment users. Unfortunately, as Malcolm James reports for the All Spammed Up blog, the spam problem in the US is getting worse.
A report released by antivirus manufacturer Kaspersky that users in the United States receive more malicious emails than any other country. At nearly 14-percent of the world’s spam, the US leads this category by almost a full 4-percent over second place United Kingdom.
Over the past few months, the US has seen a sharp increase in spam emails. In the third quarter of 2013, US email users received about 10-percent of all spam, while users in the UK received the most at about 12-percent.
One noticeable trend is an increase in spam targeting mobile users. Most notably, spammers have begun sending messages that appear to be from popular mobile app developers. Messaging app ‘WhatsApp’ has been used in a number of email scams to spread malware. Even users who have never connected an app to their email address have been fooled. For many users, these messages are believable enough that they’re opened and an attachment downloaded to investigate further. Unfortunately, that’s all the action a user needs to take for malware to infect their system.
Overall, about two-thirds of all email messages are categorized as spam. This is actually down from the end of 2013, but about the same as this time last year. Experts warn that the total amount of spam is less consequential than the tactics the spammers are using. New, more intelligent tactics are allowing more spam to slip through filters and find their way into users’ inboxes, which creates more opportunities for users to mistakenly open these messages.
Geek Rescue helps you recover from and protect from spam. We offer services to help get rid of malware and better filter spam. Call us to find out more at 918-369-4335.
May 19th, 2014
It’s a well-known concern that Android users are much more at risk for malware infections than iOS users. Just a month ago, a fake antivirus app made the rounds in the official Google Play store and victimized a number of users. Google has since offered refunds to those who mistakenly downloaded the malicious app, but it seems they haven’t sufficiently protected against a similar threat reappearing. Lucian Constantin reports at Network World that the Google Play store and the app store for Windows Phones have both recently had malware hidden behind recognizable brand names identified in their stores.
It’s a fairly recent development, but it seems criminal developers are launching malicious apps with well-known company names to further confuse users. This is a well-known tactic of email scams and phishing websites.
One developer account launched malicous apps under the names Avira Antivirus, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera Mobile, Internet Explorer and Safari. The same developer also has a Kaspersky Mobile antivirus app complete with the company’s logo. When downloaded, the app will even simulate a scan of the device’s files.
Making these fake apps more believable, and more costly to users, is that they aren’t free. The Kaspersky Mobile app costs about $4. Most users instinctively trust paid apps more than free ones. A number of free apps have been reported to be malicious, but there’s an implied value tied to something that costs money. It’s also much more believable to pay money for a high quality, big name security app than to get it for nothing.
Some of these apps have been downloaded more than 10-thousand times and even made it onto the “Top Paid” apps list that helps them be further distributed.
Because there has been no sufficient changes made to the Android and Windows Phone app stores, it’s likely that these fake apps will continue to pop-up. However, since many of them steal the exact name of legitimate apps from recognized industry leaders, there’s also likely to be more pressure put on both Google and Microsoft to enhance security.
If you’ve mistakenly downloaded a malicious app, or are having any other kind of trouble with one of your devices, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
May 16th, 2014
It’s important to have proper security tools in place to protect your computer from attacks and malware. Tools like antivirus programs, firewalls and router security are essential. If you’re a Windows 8 user, you’ve even got some handy built-in security features to assist. At Window Security, Ricky and Monique Magalhaes list the various security features you’ll enjoy with any version of the Windows 8 operating system.
You may not ever notice, but Windows 8 has made a concentrated effort to improve the security associated with wireless internet connections. By extending support to Mobile Extensible Authentication Protocol standards they’ve done just that and made it easier to connect to secure networks.
There are a few different scenarios where you’d need to remotely remove data from your device. If a device is lost or stolen, or if your company allows employees to bring their own device and you need to remove data after an employee has left the organization are just a couple. Windows 8 includes a remote data removal feature to help protect both users and administrators.
Windows 8 offers Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, or UEFI, which probably doesn’t mean much to you. It’s an interface between the operating system and the firmware that’s a significant upgrade in security over previous operating systems. When attackers gain access to and manipulate the firmware, it’s extremely bad for the user. UEFI keeps this from happening.
Windows Defender comes with Windows 8 and while that isn’t a new feature, it does have enhanced performance and decreased memory usage. While Defender and other features of Microsoft Security Essentials are useful, they’ve never been meant as stand alone security solutions. Using them in addition to other antivirus and anti-malware programs creates a more secure environment.
Improved and added security features in Windows 8 aren’t limited to what’s listed here. Microsoft clearly concentrated on improving security for their users with the latest version of their operating system, but that doesn’t mean that using Windows 8 security features alone will keep you safe from malware. These features are only a part of an effective security infrastructure.
For help with security for your PC or business, or to recover from an attack or malware infection, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
May 15th, 2014
The hard truth is that it’s extremely difficult to effectively secure a business from cyber attacks, malware and data breaches. It’s also vital to managing a successful business, however. At Dark Reading, Mark Goldstein and Arun Sood published a list of common security myths that hinder both the understanding and the effectiveness of a company’s security infrastructure.
What is adequate in the context of data security? The truth is that no system is 100-percent effective. Successful attacks are unavoidable because it’s impossible to secure every endpoint while simultaneously dealing with thousands of new pieces of malware each day. The key is to minimize the risk and the damage and have a plan in place to recover and mitigate attacks.
Many business owners believe that server and security management is as simple as getting everything online, then dealing with problems as they arise. That’s one way, but that introduces a number of potential problems. First, by not being proactive and looking ahead for issues that could happen in the future, you’re actually likely to have more problems and more downtime. Similarly, while static systems cost less and require fewer man hours, they also create an unchanging target for attackers.
- All Threats Demand Action
Common sense suggests that any time there’s an intrusion or a vulnerability, your IT team needs to take action. In reality, however, reacting the same to every threat only means that you’re unable to react sufficiently to the most dire of threats. IT professionals understand that there are minor attacks that can’t do any real damage. It’s unwise for these threats to trigger the same alarms as large scale attacks because it increases the chances that one of these serious threats gets missed or overlooked.
- Patch All Vulnerabilities
In the same vein, don’t expect to be able to patch and close all security vulnerabilities that exist on your network. New vulnerabilities are added every day, or even every hour. With tens of thousands of vulnerabilities, it’s impossible and a waste of time to try to secure each of them. Instead, good IT professionals know how to spot the most dangerous vulnerabilities and patch them immediately. This is a more efficient use of time and keeps the most dangerous threats out while protecting your most valuable assets.
If you need to improve the security at your business, call Geek Rescue for help at 918-369-4335.
May 13th, 2014
Microsoft ended support for Windows XP a few weeks ago, which means security patches for known exploits aren’t being released for users still using the old operating system. That means those users are vulnerable, and will stay vulnerable, to attacks that have proven to be successful. Surprisingly, this situation still isn’t enough to make XP Microsoft’s most often infected operating system. At Digital Trends, Konrad Krawczyk reports on Microsoft’s latest Security Intelligence Report that details which versions of Windows put users most at risk.
According to the report, Windows Vista, not XP, is the most vulnerable to attacks of any operating system Microsoft has released since 2001. Vista, which was released in 2007, is the only monitored operating system with an infection rate over 3-percent. Windows 7 was the next highest at 2.59-percent and then XP at 2.42.
The safest operating system is also Microsoft’s newest. Windows 8.1 has an infection rate of only .08 percent. Windows 8, however, is infected at a rate of 1.73-percent.
The infection rate numbers don’t tell the whole story, however. Windows 8.1 has a low infection rate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the safest operating system. It is certainly the least used of all Microsoft’s products so there are fewer targeted attacks. Conversely, nearly half of PCs use Windows 7 and XP still accounts for more than a quarter of desktops. Windows 8 and 8.1 combined are installed on about 12-percent of PCs.
The takeaway from these statistics is that no operating system is truly safe. Even users of Windows 8.1 need to have additional security tools in place to avoid attacks and malware infections.
Regardless of your operating system, if your computer has been the victim of an attack and is infected with malware, bring it to Geek Rescue or give us a call at 918-369-4335.
May 8th, 2014
Twice each year, Microsoft releases a Security Intelligence Report detailing the security issues that have plagued users over the previous few months. The latest edition was released this week and reveals an alarming growth in the number of Windows users who are infected with some type of malware. At PC World, Jeremy Kirk reports on the threat that is primarily responsible for this rash of malware infections.
The problem isn’t just that there are more infected users than expected, but that the number of infected users has tripled in a short time. During the third quarter of 2013, it was estimated that less than 6 Windows users per 1-thousand were infected with malware. By the end of 2013, that number had escalated to 17 out of every 1-thousand users.
A malicous program called ‘Rotbrow’ is identified as the primary reason for the quick growth of infected users. At issue is that Rotbrow was only recently identified as malware. It’s been around for quite some time and has infected a number of computers, but it never showed any malicious activities until now.
Rotbrow is disguised as a browser add-on that supposedly helps with security. In reality, it’s what’s known as a ‘dropper’. This is a type of malware that downloads and installs other malicious software to a computer.
In the case of Rotbrow, it waited weeks, or even months, before it started any malicious activities. When it began downloading other malware, security developers quickly added it to a list of recognized malware, but by then it had already been allowed to infect users worldwide. At the time of the Security Intelligence Report’s release, Rotbrow was estimated to be on 59 out of every 1-thousand Windows machines.
The existence of Rotbrow alone isn’t a huge concern except that it often downloads malware capable of much more sinister activities, including ransomware that locks users out of their own computers.
Most security tools are now capable of detecting Rotbrow and blocking it from infecting a new computer, but only if a user’s antivirus program is updated. If yours isn’t, update immediately and scan your computer for malware.
If any of your devices have malware or other issues, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
May 6th, 2014
Once your computer is infected with malware, it can be a long, complicated process to remove it. An infected system is at risk for data loss and risks spreading the malware to other computers. The best security is to keep the infection from ever happening. To do that, you need to know where malware infections typically stem from. At Business New Daily, Sara Angeles lists the most common tactics taken by malware to infect users.
A decade ago, pop-up ads were common online and were a common way of spreading spyware and other malware. The use of pop-ups has significantly decreased over the years and online advertising has become much more legitimate. However, there are still plenty of malicious online advertisements that have the singular goal of infecting users. Sometimes referred to as malvertisements, online ads exist that are capable of infecting users without even a click. The display of these ads can be enough to install malware on your machine. Usually, these ads are found on less than reputable websites, but through an intelligent attack, they’ve been known to plant themselves on trusted sites from time to time.
The traits that make social media so popular are also the primary reasons why it’s often the route of attackers. Messages received on social media are trusted because they appear to be from a friend or recognized contact. There’s also the sheer number of users. An attacker has a better chance of seeing his malware spread to thousands or millions of users on social media than through other avenues. Facebook messages and Twitter DMs are common ways to spread malware, but there are also malicious Twitter accounts that tweet out spam and malicious website links.
Smartphones enjoyed a short period of safety from malware, but as the mobile audience has grown, so has the amount of malware targeting it. Android users are at a much higher risk of malware due to the operating systems open source nature, but iPhone users have seen their share of security scares also. Malicious apps that are either downloaded from a third party or infiltrate the official app store are usually to blame for a mobile malware infection. Malware can also be spread to mobile devices through text messages, emails or through infected websites.
Regardless of the number and effectiveness of security tools you have in place, an unsuspecting and uneducated user is likely to encounter plenty of malware. Even those that know not to click suspicious looking links or download apps from outside the official app store can be duped. Malware developers use social engineering to manipulate users and make links irresistible. They play off of current news stories and promise deals that are too good to be true. If it didn’t work, they’d stop doing it, but there’s no end to these tactics in sight.
Much like social media, nearly every internet user also has an email account. Malware is commonly spread as an attachment to spam messages that claim to be from a trusted business, website or government agency. Users who download these attachments have their computer infected with malware, and often end up spamming their entire address book with malware and malicious links. This is another problem as other users receive messages that appear to be from a friend and instinctively trust the contents.
Malware is becoming more intelligent. Recent attacks have been able to hide themselves from security tools or encrypt a user’s files.
If your device is infected with malware, bring it to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.