Free Antivirus – Windows (2013)


This is a list of free antivirus solutions.  Each one has their strengths and weaknesses and you will have to do a little research to know what is best for you.  Personally I use Microsoft’s Security Essentials because it works well for me, however I am not recommending it as there are a number of options some of which might be better given your needs.  The three below I have used and had reasonably good experiences are Avast, AVG and Microsoft Security Essentials.  While I have not used Bitdefender for Windows (it does have generally good reviews and my experience with using their Linux Freeware version is good.

One note of caution.  Read the licensing agreement.  Most are free for personal use (home), only some are free for business or corporate use.  It is highly recommended to choose an antivirus solution that provides real time protection.

Secure your Wireless Network (Home)


Most people now know how important it is to secure your home wireless, however many still don’t know all the steps available to protect your wireless beyond setting a password.  Here some tips to provide advanced security to your home wireless network.

  1. Change the administrative password.  Use a strong password.
  2. Set your wireless name to something that would not be easily associated with you.  Do not use your address, name, car make, etc.
  3. Turn off broadcasting of your SSID (name of the wireless connection setup in step number two above).  Some devices require broadcasting to setup and connect the first time, if this is the case turn on broadcasting of your SSID, connect the device, then disable it again.
  4. Use WPA2 Encryption.  Again, use a strong password as you did to setup your administrative password.  Do not use the same passwords.
  5. Use MAC Security.  What is MAC security?  Each system (network card) has a virtually unique MAC address.  Much like an IP address, however it is an address provided by the maker of the network card and not dynamic.  Setting up your wireless to only allow specific MAC Addresses (your MAC Addresses) further reduces the chances an unauthorized individual could use your wireless.  You can find your MAC address for any device generally fairly easily by Goggling “how do i find the MAC address for”…
  6. Turn off DHCP.  DHCP is a service provided by your wireless router that provides an IP address to each machine that is allowed on the wireless network.  Turning off DHCP and setting the IP addresses manually for each device is the safest, however I find it to be quite a pain so instead I limit the DHCP scope (range) to only the number of IP addresses of devices I will have connecting and then assign each one to a device.  This then associates an IP address with a MAC address and eliminates  the need to manually set IP addresses on each device.
  7. If you have the option and do not need your wireless devices (such as a laptop) talking to other devices (such as a wireless printer) then disable communication between devices.  Many home wireless routers do not support this option, so you may not be able to enable it.
  8. If you have options to limit the range (strength) of your wireless signal set it to the level that ensures it works for you but not higher.  Setting it higher than is needed makes your wireless network available in ranges you would not need it, thus increasing the chances that someone else might try to use it.

How to Protect Yourself from Malware


There are plenty of sites out there to provide you details of WHY Malware is such a concern today so I am not going to repeat the message here.  I am assuming you already know what Malware is and are looking for a simple list of things you should do to protect yourself.  If I am assuming correctly then I expect you will like this list.

How to Protect Yourself from Malware

  • Keep your system up to date.  Apply related security patches as soon as they are available.  This is for both your Operating System (including things like Linux, Windows, iPhone, iPad, Surface, Android, etc) and the applications that are on the system.
  • Install a strong antivirus software solution and most importantly, KEEP IT UP TO DATE.  It is good to periodically run a full system scan.
  • Remove applications you are no longer using and will not be using.
  • Do not install applications from locations you do not trust.  This includes locations such as peer to peer sharing, pirated software, FREE songs that should not be free, companies you do not know or trust, emails from unknown senders, unexpected emails from senders with suspicious content, etc.
  • Do not use USB or USB type devices from untrusted/unknown sources.
  • Do not open files sent through Instant Messengers from untrusted/unknown sources.
  • Use a proxy with Malware protection.  Ensure it is regularly updated and includes the ability to examine all content (including SSL traffic) and provides regular block list updates for known “bad” sites.
  • Use additional browser plugins such as WOT (Web of Trust) or Bit Defender as a way to know site ratings from web searches prior to clicking links.  WOT is a great source for user feedback, you can even provide your own feedback for any site!
  • Use your browsers built in phishing and Malware protection services.  If your browser does not offer this I suggest using a different browser.
  • Do not run your browser as an “Administrator” or using elevated credentials.
  • Do not use SSL (HTTPS) sites with untrusted certificates.

Any questions?

Hacking Biological Computers Next?


I read an article today posted on Mercury News how researchers at Stanford have created a biological computer.  The claims this opens the doors for things such as checking for mercury levels up to and including shutting of cancer cells based on how fast they replicate.

While this all is good an promising, something I want to see, I do wonder how it will or could be abused in a similar fashion holes have been found in wireless pacemakers.  Think about it, if you could program cells to function a particular way, such as shutdown, wouldn’t you be able to make a computer that would just shutdown ANY cell after it replicates X number of times?  I see no reasons why not, the primary concern to address is transmission, if it is an easy thing (such as placing the biological computers in the drinking water supply) then it would be a high concern as you could create a biological computer that could sit dormant for a significant time then activate in a relatively short period of time in a large number of individuals.  If it is not (such as requires an injection and is short lived) then the concern is much less.

Something to think about eh?

Creating a Strong Password 101


Most authentication is still based on username and password, personally I feel this is adequate for most of my personal accounts as long as I use a strong password. I do wish MY Bank offered two factor authentication, but alas it does not yet.

So, if a strong password is ALL you have to protect yourself how do you create one and more importantly how do you remember it? Let’s start with creating a strong password…

CREATING A STRONG PASSWORD

  • Pick two or three words that are 10 or more letters in length.
  • Use unrelated words
  • Substitute at least one letter for a number, such as 4 for A or 3 for E.  Do not substitute ALL possible letters for numbers.
  • Add a punctuation.
  • Capitalize at least one letter.

Sound doable?  Now, the real challenge is remembering it.  If you absolutely cannot remember passwords then I suggest using the Password Safe, just make sure your password to access the safe is VERY secure.  This allows you to remember only one password and have access to all your other passwords contained in the safe.  For those of you that  feel up to the challenge try running an installation of TeamPass.  It is what I personally use.  Just make sure to back it up and NEVER change the salt.  You should be able to but it is not supported yet and you will lose ALL of your passwords as well as all passwords for all others.  I suggest not putting this site on the internet.

EXAMPLE 1

  • picture leaf
  • pictur3 l3af
  • pictur3#l3af
  • Pictur3#l3aF

Now what you have to remember….

  • picture#leaf with e’s substituted for 3’s and the first and last letters capitalized. 

EXAMPLE 2

  • space manhole
  • sp4ce m4nhole
  • sp4ce.m4nhole
  • sp4cE.M4nhole

Now what you have to remember….

  • space.manhole with a’s substituted for 4’s and the last letter of the first word and first letter of the last word capitalized.

Security Online Malware Research Tools


Here is a collection of various online tools I use to research security related to specific URLs.  Order is not related to usefulness as each has their own usage.  WOT (Web of Trust) is one of my favorites but they all have their uses when researching malware sites.

Virus Total

File Scanner:
https://www.virustotal.com/en/

URL Scanner:
https://www.virustotal.com/en/#url

Description: VirusTotal is a free service that analyzes suspicious files and URLs and facilitates the quick detection of viruses, worms, trojans, and malware.

Use Case(s): Virus Total is a very easy tool to use and can give immediate returns for better known exploits, viruses, malware, etc. This site can also analyze either a single file or full URL. Just because a check comes back clean DOES NOT mean the file or URL are clean. If one or more of the results identify the file as MALWARE beware as there is a high potential for infection.

  1. Evaluate a potential malicious file by uploading it.
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  2. Evaluate a potential malicious URL scanning it.
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Here is a URL sample report of an infected site. It does not show the full list of all engines that check, however what should be of interest and concern to you is that at least two of the sites registered the URL as MALWARE.

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URLVoid

Link to URLVoid:
http://www.urlvoid.com/

Description: URLVoid.com is a free service developed by NoVirusThanks Company Srl that allows users to scan a website address with multiple website reputation engines and domain blacklists to facilitate the detection of possible dangerous websites, used to distribute malware and spyware or related to fraudulent activities. This site can simply be thought of as a website blacklist database.

Use Case(s): This site has much the same use case(s) as Virus Total, however there are a few unique features that URLVoid has that Virus Total does not have.

  1. Evaluate a potential malicious URL
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  2. Shows Website Blacklist Report with clickable links to each of the blacklist sites. Some will pull up reports like MyWOT, others will take you to the search page where you can search again for the questionable site directly.
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  3. Test if the site is still up and responding.
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  4. Shows IP Address Details, server geolocation and “website neighbors”.
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  5. This site also provides informational traffic graphs.
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WOT – Web of Trust

Link to WOT:
http://www.mywot.com

Description: Web of Trust (WOT) is a powerful user reporting tool. It can be added to your browser to provide “warnings” for links provided by search engines (such as Bing and Google). It also provides a method of allowing users to provide direct ratings and comments to any given site. This tool can be added directly

“WOT displays a colored traffic light next to website links to show you which sites people trust for safe searching, surfing and shopping online: green for good, red for bad, and yellow as a warning to be cautious. The icons are shown in popular search engine results, social media, online email, shortened URLs, and lots of other sites.”

Use Case(s): This site has much the same use case(s) as Virus Total and the base function of URLVoid, however it also has a unique feature of its own – a large self-reporting user community base. The largest value I find from this site is self-reporting comments and user ratings. User ratings are broken down by Trustworthiness, Vendor Reliability, Privacy and Child Safety.

  1. Evaluate potential malicious URLs broken down by Trustworthiness, Vendor Reliability, Privacy and Child Safety. Additional information regarding blacklisting’s (such as from SURBL) is provided.
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  2. User comments are provided for some sites. When these exist I find they can be particularly useful, especially when users report sites contain malware and have overall poor ratings.

Google Safe Browsing

Link to Google Safe Browsing:
http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=http://domain.com

Description: Good easy online check, however it is not very good at catching transient sites. I very often will use this (or MyWOT) first as a quick check.  There is no search “box” that I have found and to use this you will need to change site=http://domain.com to the site you want to check, such as site=http://checkthisbadboyout.com

Use Case(s): Provides information if a site has been listed with Google as having suspicious activity over the past 90 days. Some items which can be of use:

  • What happened when Google visited the site: This section will list the number of Trojan(s) and Exploit(s) hosted (not type) and can also provide details such as “infection resulted in an average of 1 new process(es) on the target machine”.
  • Has this site hosted malware: This section can contain other domains which are either associated or were infected by this domain.
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vURL Online

Link to vURL Online:
http://vurl.mysteryfcm.co.uk

Description: vURL is a webpage dissection service that was developed due to limitations that were found in alternate services of similar function. This is probably one of the most complex online tools and certainly the most complex listed on this page. Most of the other tools available will usually provide you enough information to determine if a site is hosting malicious content, however in some cases it may not be clear or there is a need to see what the output of the code is when visiting the site without risking infection to your own machine. When this is needed it is time to utilize the power of vURL Online.

Use Case(s): This tool provides some basic information regarding the site but its primary use is website dissection. In its current incarnation, vURL dissects webpages you provide it, and extracts the following for you:

  • Webpage title
  • Webpage source code (with line numbers)
  • Webpage links
  • Webpage images (coming back soon)
  • Server headers (Only if the server returns this information – not all servers do)
  • Server IP address
  • Server IP PTR (IP to hostname resolution)
  • Server type (Only if the server returns this information – not all servers do)
  • hpHosts inclusion status
  • Malware Domain List (MDL) inclusion status
  • PhishTank inclusion status
  • WhoIs and net-block information (Provided via hpHosts Online)
  1. Need to dissect a URL.
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  2. Provides basic server information, status from hpHosts, MDL, Phish Tank, Sudo secure and Known Security. It also provides the header breakdown
    .
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  3. And this is where the real fun begins. A line by line breakdown of the entire webpage response. This can be useful for identifying re-directions  obfuscation, etc. It has a lot of power, way more than is appropriate to provide detailed information within this document.
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Google Authenticator for SSH access on Ubuntu 11.04 – OTP


This video describes at a high level what it takes to configure Ubuntu 11.04 ssh access to require a verification code from Google Authenticator. Here are some useful links:

WebbyNotes Guide:
http://guides.webbynode.com/articles/…

Guide by Jean-Francois Theroux (Installation / Configuration):
http://blog.theroux.ca/security/ubunt…

Download the Ubuntu Google Authenticator package for Ubuntu:
https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/…

Background can be found here:
http://gnome-look.org/content/show.ph…

YOUTUBE VIDEO LINK
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTjdW3F6GOc

How to determine where an email was sent from (tutorial)


This video explains how to trace an email back to where it originated (or was sent from). This does not mean that the location the email came from is where the person who sent it is, but it does help to determine in most cases where an email was sent from. Information which you can use to determine the legitimacy of any email, spam or otherwise.

YOUTUBE VIDEO LINK
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU649WNhFeE