How does ransomware work?

We’ve all heard at one point ransomware being mentioned – computers hijacked by evildoers and then encrypted with a key which was available at a cost to the unaware user.

People have been asking – how does it spread? Can it come through the network? Is it a download or an exe file you have to click to get it on your machine?

What makes ransomware so effective? Continue reading “How does ransomware work?”

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Sites affected by the Heart Bleed Virus

my_bleeding_heart_by_kilroyart-d4t4sgfNEW YORK (CNNMoney) – Websites are racing to patch the Heartbleed bug, the worst security hole the Internet has ever seen.
The Heart Bleed virus has been affecting millions of websites on the Internet for two years, but there are ways to protect yourself from the bug, according to reports. Though users don’t have much power over the Heart Bleed virus — website administrators and creators have to update their OpenSSL software — there are ways to defend important passwords on Gmail, Facebook, Yahoo! and other sites.

As sites fix the bug on their end, it’s time for you to change your passwords. The Heartbleed bug allowed information leaks from a key safety feature that is supposed to keep your online communication private — email, banking, shopping, and passwords.

If you want to check to see if a website has bee affected, you can go to this site.

However, if a major website is still vulnerable to the Heart Bleed bug, changing a password won’t matter; the website would have to update their software first. To defend against this, an online tool called the Heartbleed test was created to test if a website has been compromised by the virus. Simply type the web address of the website into the box, and it will let you know whether it is safe. Sites like Facebook, Gmail, Amazon, Yahoo!, Twitter and others have already updated their software.

Many companies are not informing their customers of the danger — or asking them to update their log-in credentials. So, here’s a handy password list. It’ll be updated as companies respond to CNN’s questions.

Change these passwords now (they were patched)

Google+, YouTube and Gmail
Facebook
Yahoo, Yahoo Mail, Tumblr, Flickr
OKCupid

Don’t worry about these (they don’t use the affected software, or ran a different version)

AOL and Mapquest
Bank of America
Charles Schwab
Chase bank
Fidelity
E*Trade
HSBC bank
Microsoft, Hotmail and Outlook
PayPal
Scottrade
TD Ameritrade
Wells Fargo bank
U.S. Bank

Don’t change these passwords yet (still unclear, no response)

Amazon
American Express
Apple, iCloud and iTunes
Capital One bank
Citibank
LinkedIn
PNC bank
Twitter (the company said Twitter’s servers weren’t affected but also noted that Twitter used the affected software in some capacity.)
Wikipedia

How many spyware items are infecting your computer?

SpywareI just had, by mistake, a plug-in called Intelligent Explorer attach to my browser. What a nightmare! I have another article on this topic, but this brings home a point. Spyware or adware items are continually infecting computers. Most computers have no protection from them. Most frightening is the frequency of them. From the InfosecWriters web site, “According to a 2004 survey by America Online and the National Cyber Security Alliance, 91% of users questioned were familiar with the term spyware. Only 53% believed their computers were infected, but a scan found that 80% of their PCs had some type of spyware installed on them.” It goes on to say, “…The average number of spyware components per computer was 93 with one computer having well over a thousand.”

 

What is Spyware?

 

Butte College (www.bctv.butte.edu/support/spyware.html) offers this definition:

 “The term ‘spyware’ is broadly defined as any program that gets into your computer without permission and hides in the background while it makes unwanted changes to your user experience.

Spyware is generally not designed to damage your computer. The damage it does is more a by-product of its main mission, which is to serve you targeted advertisements or make your browser display certain sites or search results.

At present, most spyware targets only the Windows operating system (Internet Explorer).”

 

To be fair, spyware can be harmless, for example tracking cookies don’t do much. While such things infringe on your privacy, they don’t really harm anything. Others, however, are extremely dangerous.

So what do you do about it?

No spyware program seems to do everything, but there are a lot of goods solutions out there that can help. Here is a list of some of the top Spyware tools to look at:

  1.  Try Ad-Aware 6.0 Professional from LavaSoft (there is also a free version with less functionality)
  2.  Spybot Search & Destroy from PepiMK Software
  3.  Xoftspy form Pareto Logic
  4.  Spyware Guard from Javacool Software is a free program

Computer Security Ethics and Privacy

Today, many people rely on computers to do homework, work, and create or store useful information. Therefore, it is important for the information on the computer to be stored and kept properly. It is also extremely important for people on computers to protect their computer from data loss, misuse, and abuse.

For example, it is crucial for businesses to keep information they have secure so that hackers can’t access the information. Home users also need to take means to make sure that their credit card numbers are secure when they are participating in online transactions.

A computer security risk is any action that could cause lost of information, software, data, processing incompatibilities, or cause damage to computer hardware,   a lot of these are planned to do damage. An intentional breach in computer security is known as a computer crime which is slightly different from a cybercrime.

A cybercrime is known as illegal acts based on the internet and is one of the FBI’s top priorities.  There are several distinct categories for people that cause cybercrimes, and they are refereed as hacker, cracker, cyberterrorist, cyberextortionist, unethical employee, script kiddie and corporate spy.  The term hacker was actually known as a good word but now it has a very negative view. A hacker is defined as someone who accesses a computer or computer network unlawfully.  They often claim that they do this to find leaks in the security of a network. The term cracker has never been associated with something positive this refers to someone how intentionally access a computer or computer network for evil reasons. It’s basically an evil hacker.  They access it with the intent of destroying, or stealing information. Both crackers and hackers are very advanced with network skills.

A cyberterrorist is someone who uses a computer network or the internet to destroy computers for political reasons.  It’s just like a regular terrorist attack because it requires highly skilled individuals, millions of dollars to implement, and years of planning. The term cyperextortionist is someone who uses emails as an offensive force. They would usually send a company a very threatening email stating that they will release some confidential information, exploit a security leak, or launch an attack that will harm a company’s network. They will request a paid amount to not proceed sort of like black mailing in a since.

An unethical employee is an employee that illegally accesses their company’s network for numerous reasons. One could be the money they can get from selling top secret information, or some may be bitter and want revenge.

A script kiddie is someone who is like a cracker because they may have the intentions of doing harm, but they usually lack the technical skills. They are usually silly teenagers that use prewritten hacking and cracking programs.

A corporate spy has extremely high computer and network skills and is hired to break into a specific computer or computer network to steal or delete data and information. Shady companies hire these type people in a practice known as corporate espionage. They do this to gain an advantage over their competition an illegal practice. Business and home users must do their best to protect or safeguard their computers from security risks.

The next part of this article will give some pointers to help protect your computer. However, one must remember that there is no one hundred percent guarantee way to protect your computer so becoming more knowledgeable about them is a must during these days. When you transfer information over a network it has a high security risk compared to information transmitted in a business network because the administrators usually take some extreme measures to help protect against security risks. Over the internet there is no powerful administrator which makes the risk a lot higher. If your not sure if your computer is vulnerable to a computer risk than you can always use some-type of online security service which is a website that checks your computer for email and Internet vulnerabilities. The company will then give some pointers on how to correct these vulnerabilities.  The Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center is a place that can do this.

The typical network attacks that puts computers at risk includes viruses, worms, spoofing, Trojan horses, and denial of service attacks.  Every unprotected computer is vulnerable to a computer virus which is a potentially harming computer program that infects a computer negatively and altering the way the computer operates without the user’s consent. Once the virus is in the computer it can spread throughout infecting other files and potentially damaging the operating system itself. It’s similar to a bacteria virus that infects humans because it gets into the body through small openings and can spread to other parts of the body and can cause some damage. The similarity is, the best way to avoid is preparation.

A computer worm is a program that repeatedly copies itself and is very similar to a computer virus. However the difference is that a virus needs o attach itself to an executable file and become a part of it. A computer worm doesn’t need to do that I seems copies to itself and to other networks and eats up a lot of bandwidth.

A Trojan Horse named after the famous Greek myth and is used to describe a program that secretly hides and actually looks like a legitimate program but is a fake.  A certain action usually triggers the Trojan horse, and unlike viruses and worms they don’t replicate itself. Computer viruses, worms, and Trojan horses are all classifies as malicious-logic programs which are just programs that deliberately harms a computer.  Although these are the common three there are many more variations and it would be almost impossible to list them. You know when a computer is infected by a virus, worm, or Trojan horse if one or more of these acts happen:

  • Screen shots of weird messages or pictures appear.
  • You have less available memory then you expected
  • Music or sounds plays randomly.
  • Files get corrupted
  • Programs are files don’t work properly
  • Unknown files or programs randomly appear
  • System properties fluctuate

Computer viruses, worms, and Trojan horses deliver their payload or instructions through four common ways. One, when an individual runs an infected program so if you download a lot of things you should always scan the files before executing, especially executable files. Second, is when an individual runs an infected program. Third, is when an individual bots a computer with an infected drive, so that’s why it’s important to not leave media files in your computer when you shut it down.  Fourth is when it connects an unprotected computer to a network. Today, a very common way that people get a computer virus, worm, or Trojan horse is when they open up an infected file through an email attachment. There are literally thousands of computer malicious logic programs and new one comes out by the numbers so that’s why it’s important to keep up to date with new ones that come out each day. Many websites keep track of this. There is no known method for completely protecting a computer or computer network from computer viruses, worms, and Trojan horses, but people can take several precautions to significantly reduce their chances of being infected by one of those malicious programs.

Whenever you start a computer you should have no removable media in he drives. This goes for CD, DVD, and floppy disks. When the computer starts up it tries to execute a bot sector on the drives and even if it’s unsuccessful any given various on the bot sector can infect the computer’s hard disk. If you must start the computer for a particular reason, such as the hard disk fails and you are trying to reformat the drive make sure that the disk is not infected.