October 15th, 2013
Keeping your data private while surfing the web is a challenge, regardless of what device you’re using. A recent study conducted by at Stanford reveals that mobile devices in particular present a unique challenge because of their sensors.
Security researchers at Stanford were able to uniquely identify smartphones based on their accelerometer. James Temple writes on the SFGate blog that other sensors included on most smartphones would be similarly vulnerable to tracking.
The accelerometer aids smartphones in a variety of functions. Most notably, it is how your smartphone recognizes when you have it turned vertically, for portrait mode, or horizontally, for landscape display. When your phone is sitting still, the accelerometer is still active. It has a reading of numbers representing its current location in space. For example, if your phone is resting on a table, it should have a reading of 1 when it’s face up and -1 when it’s face down. However, that’s not actually the case.
Each smartphone has tiny defects that are unavoidable. They make the accelerometer’s readings off by minuscule amounts so instead of 1 and -1, you’ll actually get something like 1.103234 and -.823432.
Since every smartphone is slightly different in its accelerometer readings, those readings can be used to uniquely identify each device. Without you even knowing it, a website you visit on your mobile browser could capture your accelerometer readings and use them to track your actions online.
The Stanford research team compared accelerometers’ readings to cookies. Many websites save files called cookies to your device so they can identify you and target you with specific ads or other actions.
Your smartphone has other uniquely identifiable quirks as well. Each device’s microphone is also different, so fingerprinting is similarly possible. Radio signal inaccuracies have also been used to identify users and their devices.
The use of these tracking methods could be to market relevant products to you or something more sinister. The challenge for security experts is to determine how best to combat these tactics since they don’t require downloading malicious programs or any actions from the user.
To improve the security on your mobile device or desktop PC, call or come by Geek Rescue. We not only offer a variety of security solutions, but we also fix your devices that aren’t working correctly. Call us at 918-369-4335.
October 10th, 2013
Phishing scams are attempts to trick users to give out personal information so hackers can then use it to break into accounts and steal their identities. Most phishing scams start with an email that directs users to a website where they’er asked for information like their phone number, physical address and even social security number or banking information. There are a number of tell-tale signs of a phishing email, which makes many people believe they could never fall for one. As Sam Narisi of IT Manager Daily reports, a recent study by the Polytechnic Institute of New York suggests otherwise.
The study consisted of 100 science and engineering students. The students were given a personality test and asked about their computer use and proficiency. The researchers then anonymously sent a phishing scam to their personal accounts. The email included the usual signs of a scam, including misspellings and other errors. Still, 17 students fell for it and willingly gave out personal information.
What this study uncovers is that everyone is at risk to become a victim of a phishing scam. Due to social engineering when developing these scams, and a carelessness by users, even the most educated individual could still be a victim.
This extends to other threats, like malware, that infect your system through careless user actions. When a user isn’t extremely cautious online, bad things happen. This is costly for users on their personal computers at home, but it’s a huge risk for businesses who have to safeguard their entire network from numerous careless users.
Education is a great place to start to protect yourself and your office. Knowing what to look for in a potential cyber threat is important, despite the results of the study. Additional security measures also need to be put in place, however, with the knowledge that, eventually, someone is going to click on the wrong link.
To improve the security on any of your devices, at home or at the office, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
October 9th, 2013
The iPhone is regarded by many as a recreational tool, not one made for business. However, iPhones are being used more and more with the BYOD trend and, as Joel Mathis of MacWorld, points out, iOS7 is packed with features that makes the iPhone a great tool for business.
Any device being used for business is either going to be storing sensitive data, or have access to it. So, the security of that device is extremely important. With new features like the fingerprint scanner and Activation Lock, which gives you the ability to disable your device if lost, iOS7 has the security features necessary to keep data out of criminals hands.
Apple has also included app-specific security to help keep employee’s personal devices from compromising the network. Apps designed for company use can be configured to connect to a virtual private network, or VPN, while an employee’s personal apps aren’t allowed access.
Another important feature of any business tool is that it allows easy collaboration between team members. AirDrop, which allows the seamless sharing of files between iPhone users in close proximity, is a new feature of iOS7. In an office setting, AirDrop could enable quick sharing between all employees.
Another factor in the ease of teamwork is that iPhone users generally adopt updates faster than Android users. More than half of all iPhone users had updated to iOS7 one week after it was made available. For Android users, only about 33-percent are using a version of their operating system released within the past year. Having all of your employees on the same device, running the same operating system cuts down on a lot of headaches and compatibility issues.
Apple’s iWork app suite is specifically designed for business productivity. New iPhones running iOS7 now have access to iWork for free. This app suite is competition for the widely adopted Microsoft Office and gives users the tools needed to complete most office tasks.
There are, however, still some features missing from the iPhone to make it a perfect business tool. For example, many users still complain about battery life and that becomes more important when employees are using more demanding functions of the smartphone. There’s also still concern over employees mixing personal use with business use and a feeling that, even with app specific VPN features, Apple hasn’t done enough to ease those concerns.
If your company would like to explore options for data storage, hosting, networking and security, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We offer a variety of IT business solutions. We also offer service on iPhones and other smartphones.
October 8th, 2013
Is your home WiFi network secure? Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad information out there that convinces users that they’ve secured their home network, when in actuality it’s still as vulnerable as ever.
Eric Geier, of CIO, set out to debunk some popular myths regarding WiFi security in a recent article. The items on this list have been proven to be inconsequential for protecting you against potential threats.
You’ll find many individuals across the web suggesting you stop broadcasting your wireless router’s name, known as its SSID, or Service Set Identifier. This is to keep your network invisible from those you want to keep out. However, it will still be visible to most users and the SSID is easy to discover for hackers. Plus, trying to stay invisible can make you a target as criminals believe there may be valuable data on your network that you’re trying to conceal.
MAC stands for Media Access Control. A MAC address is an alphanumeric code used to uniquely identify each device on your network. You’re able to configure your router to only allow certain MAC addresses access to your network. In theory, this would keep out unwanted network users, even if they have your network’s password. However, hackers have tools to easily see the list of accepted MAC addresses and can then change their device’s address to match one of those. This makes MAC address filtering little more than a time waster.
In addition to the MAC address, each device on your network has a unique Internet Protocol, or IP, address. Your router issues an IP address to each device when they join the network. By changing configuration so your router only has a limited number of IP addresses to issue, you should be able to limit how many users your network can possibly have. Hackers are able to scan for IP addresses being used by your network, however. They can then assign an acceptable one to their device and by pass this security measure.
Another myth is that reducing the power of your wireless router will make it harder to be accessed by anyone outside your home. The theory is that since the WiFi network won’t be visible from as far away, not as many people will be able to penetrate it. Hackers use high-powered antennas, however. So, having a low powered router will only limit your use of your network.
If you’d like to truly secure your network, consider encryption and firewalls. Coupled with regularly updated antivirus software, this is the best way to keep your network and computer safe. For help improving the cyber security at your home or office, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
October 7th, 2013
As previously mentioned, antivirus programs can’t be expected to fully protect your computer. Hackers produce hundreds of thousands of new malware every day and even the most up to date security software can’t possibly keep up.
That’s why it’s important to do your part and keep your machine out of harms way as much as possible. Shay Colson, of Information Space, has some tips on how to avoid malware and other potential threats online.
Just as in the forest it’s important to watch where you step, online it’s important to watch where you click. Most malware is downloaded to a computer when the user clicks on something they shouldn’t have. Particularly when you’re on a less reputable website, it’s important to avoid clicking on ads or links as much as possible. Also, make sure any security software you have installed is up to date. That way, if you do encounter malware, you’ll have the best chance of having it detected before it does any real damage.
The simple solution for making all of your accounts online more secure is to improve your password. Make sure it is 8-characters or longer and includes both upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Some advocate using your least secure passwords for throwaway accounts, medium passwords for social media, but if you want to avoid a potential hacking, use unique, strong passwords for each account. Using all of those different passwords can get confusing, so it’s also a good idea to use a password manager.
Almost everyone makes purchases online. It’s a good idea to use a credit card, rather than a debit card, however, since it’s easier to dispute fraudulent charges on a credit card. Most eCommerce sites give you the option to save payment information for your next purchase. This is a time saver, but it puts your account information at risk. It’s much better to enter your card number each time than have it available to anyone who gains access to your account.
Your mobile device also has access to sensitive data. Keep it safe by utilizing the lock screen. As seen with an iOS bug that allowed users to bypass the fingerprint scanner, or Android’s notoriously easily hacked lock, this doesn’t fully protect your device. However, it offers some protection and is easy to use. Also, be sure to enable services to remotely disable and wipe your phone in case it’s stolen. Both Apple and Android offer this service. It’s extremely useful in keeping your data out of a criminal’s hands.
These tips keep your information safe without installing additional security software. However, you should always have antivirus programs and other security in place. To improve the security on any of your devices, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We also remove viruses and other malware from infected machines.
October 7th, 2013
It seems like everyday there’s a new story about a major company or website that’s been hacked or attacked by malware. Many times, as Steve Johnson of the San Jose Mercury News reports, these attacks stem from initial infections that slip past security software and remain undetected for days, weeks or even months.
The New York Times recently encountered 45 pieces of malware that had remained on their computers for about 4-months. Only one of those was detected by their antivirus protection. Security company Kaspersky reported that a global malware attack that stole individual’s data had eluded antivirus software for five years.
Globally, an estimated $8.4-billion is expected to be spent on antivirus software alone this year. So why doesn’t it offer better protection?
The reason is in the sheer volume of malware being produced. Kaspersky finds 200-thousand new pieces of malware every day, which means there are likely several thousand more being produced each day that avoid detection. That number is up significantly from only 700 piece of malware daily in 2006 and 7-thousand in 2011.
Keeping antivirus programs updated protects you from known threats, which means you’re safe from the majority of the malware that’s out there. However, there are varieties of malware that have been produced, but not yet discovered that pose a significant threat.
In addition to the unknown malware is new techniques by hackers that disables antivirus products all together. Security software is continually getting smarter to protect against these hacks, but it’s an uphill battle.
One way security is improving is to expand the capabilities of antivirus programs. Rather than scanning systems for known malware, they’re able to scan for suspicious behavior from any program, whether it is suspected of being malware or not.
Unfortunately, creating malware is a big, lucrative business. Security software will always be behind the curve in keeping up with new ways for hackers to attack your computer. To stay safe, it’s important to practice safe surfing. Be careful of what you download to your computer, don’t open emails you suspect to be spam and don’t click suspicious looking links.
Even though antivirus programs can’t offer impenetrable security, it is still vital to have updated security in place. To improve the security for your computer at home or at the office, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. If you think you’ve already been infected with malware, we fix that too.
October 4th, 2013
More than half of all smartphone users are using an Android device. Unfortunately, that has made Androids a target for hackers, who are starting to produce more malware for the mobile operating system.
Besides adding security software to your phone, one way to stay safe is to identify potential risks. Sam Narisi, of IT Manager Daily, has a list of some of the most common.
Many Android users don’t enable a lock on their phone at all, which means there’s no security if their phone is lost or stolen. Even those that do use either a pass code or pattern lock don’t get much benefit. The Android lock setup is notoriously leaky and easy to break.
Unlike iPhones, Androids have no built-in option to automatically regularly backup their data. If your phone is infected with malware, you run the risk of losing pictures, videos and more in order to remove it. There are apps available to perform backups, however.
You’ll also need to install a third part browser in order to stay safe when using the internet. The native Android browser has no option to only allow secure sites. This puts you at significant risk of a malware infection.
Adding security apps to close up potential risks is a great idea, but you need to cautious about which apps you download. Many claiming to be anti-malware apps are actually viruses or malware themselves.
Protecting your smartphone is just as important as protecting your computer. In many cases, your smartphone will be in much more dangerous situations because it connects to unprotected WiFi and security is naturally lower.
If your smartphone is infected with malware, or if you’d like to improve the security on any of your devices, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
October 4th, 2013
A troubling trend is growing for the creators of malware. More and more malicious programs with legitimately signed digital certificates are being discovered. As Ellen Messmer, of Tech World, reports, this makes malware more likely to slip past security provisions and infect a computer or network.
Security company McAfee starting seeing a significant amount of malware with legitimate certificates in 2010 when they accounted for about 1.3-percent of all malware. That has risen steadily to more than 6-percent now. That actually signifies a huge increase in the sheer number of malware with legitimate certificates since the amount of pieces of malware is estimated to double each year.
This is a problem for mobile users as well. About 24-percent of all malware for Android devices has a legitimate certificate.
These certificates are used to verify that the programs they’re attached to come from a reputable source. There are only a few companies able to sign these certificates and, in the past, many malware programs were using fake or stolen certificates. Now, it seems that hackers have been increasingly successful at obtaining legitimate certificates and using them for multiple pieces of malware.
Many of these certificates were seen attached to malware used in a specifically targeted attack. Hackers knew the type of security being used and used a certificate that would allow the malware to be undetected.
An option available to deal with this growing threat would be to a service in place that would check the “reputation” of a certificate. Those that are being used to by a large number of programs would alert the system to the possibility of malware. As one security expert notes, however, that would only force hackers to obtain a new certificate for each piece of malware, not stop the threat entirely.
Using safe browsing techniques and being extremely cautious about what you download to your computer are the best tactics to take to keep you safe from malware infection. To improve your security, or to check and clean any malware currently on your machine, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
October 3rd, 2013
There are plenty of articles online about how to improve your own cyber security. Because there are so many, it’s easy to get lost or overwhelmed reading about tactics that provide little help.
Mark Stockley, of Naked Security, suggests concentrating only on the essentials. Here are three things that every home should do to immediately make a significant impact on their cyber security.
- Regularly update security software
Most likely, there is already an antivirus program on all the computers in your home. Those antivirus programs, and other security software, is only effective if they’re continuously updated, however. New forms of malware are issued daily and hackers are constantly inventing new ways to attack your machine. The only way to come close to keeping up is to install updates as soon as they’re available.
If there’s a wireless router in your home, the first thing to do is to protect it with a strong password. After that, check to find out what type of security it’s set to. You want to protect your router with WPA or WPA2. This stands for ‘WiFi Protected Access’ and are considered the best way to protect your router. The other option is WEP, which has been determined to be inferior.
The key to creating a strong password is to make sure it contains both upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Longer passwords are better so try to shoot for 8-characters or more. Even with a strong password, the chances of your account being hacked is greatly increased if you use the same password for multiple accounts. Using a strong, unique password for each account is the best security tactic. If you think you’ll have trouble remembering all of those different passwords, consider using a password manager, which are available online and encrypt all your passwords behind one master password.
These three tips won’t make your security completely impenetrable, but are all vital steps to take. If your security is missing any of these, you are at risk of a malware infection or worse.
To improve your security, or to clean malware and viruses off your machine, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
October 3rd, 2013
A new threat is emerging for both desktop and mobile internet users. It’s called malvertising and, as Adam Greenberg reports for SC Magazine, is a way to spread malware to unsuspecting users through online advertising.
These malicious ads are placed individually by hackers on otherwise legitimate websites. The hackers must convince companies through email and by using false identities to agree to put up the malvertising. When visitors to the site click the ads, it downloads malware onto their machine.
The criminals are specifically targeting sites with a lot of traffic and security experts estimate each malicious ad averages about 100-thousand views before it’s taken down. Users have to actually click the ads to be affected, but with so many views there’s the potential for a large number of users to be infected with malware. These threats are fairly widespread also with an estimated 10-billion malicious advertisements seen in 2012.
Because hackers are using fraudulent credentials, it’s difficult, or nearly impossible, to track them down even after an ad is found to contain malware. The key to stopping these attacks is for companies to be more judicious in selecting the ads they place on their websites. Asking about corporate and individual identities behind these ads before allowing them on a site is vital to avoiding potential headaches down the road.
Be aware that, while there are some legitimate advertisers who will contact you directly to place ads on your website, there are others who are attempting to spread malware. A safe option is to use PPC ads from a trusted source like Google or Bing.
For users, clicking on ads is a natural part of the web surfing experience, but some caution is needed. Clicking only on ads from reputable companies doesn’t always keep you safe, but it is a start. If your computer is infected with malware, call or come by Geek Rescue and we’ll clean it. Call us at 918-369-4335.