springer wrote:Roy Wilson wrote:springer
Ah boys will be boys. It used to be national geographics.
You, too, eh?
springer wrote:Roy Wilson wrote:springer
Ah boys will be boys. It used to be national geographics.
You, too, eh?
springer wrote:I took over a computer at work earlier this year; it was really clunky and slow. Windows 98. Ran a virus scan...that seemed to take forever. I noticed that, upon getting to the temporary internet files, it scanned over 30,000 of these flies...before I shut it down in disgust. Was taking forever.
These files, if neglected can really, really pile up, taking up lots of space, and making an ordeal out of routine scans. Bottom line, they're clutter.
Third Party cookie placement, as I understand it, is one of the primary means of planting spyware, some of it very nasty and difficult to get rid of. Permitting these cookies, IMHO, serves no one but the other guy.
Blocking them has not caused me one single moment of grief or inconvenience...but I suspect may save me considerable of both in the future.
Cookies do not act maliciously on computer systems. They are merely text files that can be deleted at any time - they are not plug ins nor are they programs. Cookies cannot be used to spread viruses and they cannot access your hard drive. This does not mean that cookies are not relevant to a user's privacy and anonymity on the Internet. Cookies cannot read your hard drive to find out information about you; however, any personal information that you give to a Web site, including credit card information, will most likely be stored in a cookie unless you have turned off the cookie feature in your browser. In only this way are cookies a threat to privacy. The cookie will only contain information that you freely provide to a Web site.
Net security threats growing fast
Older machines are more vulnerable
More than 30,000 PCs per day are being recruited into secret networks that spread spam and viruses, a study shows.
Six months ago only 2,000 Windows machines per day were being recruited into these so-called bot nets.
Experts say the numbers are growing quickly because the remotely controlled networks are so useful to people who profit from hacking and virus writing.
The figures came to light in Symantec's biannual Internet Threat Report which traces trends in net security.
Nigel Beighton, a member of Symantec's Threat Team, said the number of PCs being enrolled in these networks was the stand out statistic for the latest report which covers the first six months of 2004.
The peak of new recruits was 75,000 in one day.
This high watermark was hit when the creators of the MyDoom and Bagle viruses were conducting an online war that resulted in many different versions of their malicious programs being released.
Once created the networks of zombie PCs are used as anonymous relays for spam, to launch denial of service attacks on websites or simply to steal confidential information about a PC's owner.
Vulnerabilities are now exploited in 5.8 days on average
1,237 vulnerabilities came to light in the first six months of 2004
95% of these vulnerabilities were rated very severe or above
4,496 Windows viruses were detected in the first six months of 2004
This number is four and a half times as many as in 2003
Latvia, Macau and Israel are the top three sources of attacks
Mr Beighton said the methods used to recruit PCs marked a significant change in the activity of virus writers and malicious hackers.
In the past many people wrote viruses to gain notoriety or "bragging rights" among their peers. Status in such groups revolved around the number of machines infected and how fast a virus spread.
However, said Mr Beighton, because the bot nets are being put to many outright criminal uses, the writers of the programs that create the networks are happy for their creations to stay out of the limelight.
"When you look at the statistics you see that the level of attacks continues about the same level," he said, "what has changed is how they are operating."
"We're seeing increased use of backdoors and worms written in technically accomplished ways so they do not give themselves away," he said.
The Sasser worm was a good example of this new trend, said Mr Beighton.
That virus did not spread particularly quickly, yet managed to find and recruit many thousands of machines.
What has also fuelled the rise of the bot nets is the willingness of virus writers to share their malicious code so it can be altered and re-used by others.
As a result there are now some viruses that are appearing in a bewildering number of guises. For instance there are now more than 200 varieties of the Gaobot worm.
Mr Beighton said that although many net service firms were working hard to find and clean up compromised machines, many thousands were still in place because they are not yet active or only activate infrequently.
It was too early to say whether Microsoft's SP2 update for Windows XP was going to make a difference to the numbers of PCs being recruited into bot nets.
"The key challenge for Microsoft is not XP users," said Mr Beighton, "it's the Windows 98 and 95 machines."
"Getting those people to upgrade and improve their security is going to make the difference," he said.
What You Should Know About Firewalls
It's 2 a.m. Do you know what your PC is doing? If not, you're probably not running a firewall to protect your system from hackers and malcontents.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Scott Rolf knows trouble when he sees it. An IT director for a law firm near Cleveland, Ohio, Rolf was asked by a friend to check out the new Web site the friend had put up on a DSL-connected Web server. Rolf did more than just visit his friend's site; he quickly found that the server lacked any sort of firewall protection. It took less than five minutes for Rolf to exploit a well-known Windows NT vulnerability and e-mail to his friend a complete listing of files and directories from the server's hard disk.
"He called me a few minutes later and said 'Holy cow, what do I do?' He was at work and couldn't turn the server off," Rolf laughs. "I think he went out and bought a Linksys firewall box."
As the name implies, a firewall acts as a barrier between your PC and the Internet. Firewalls not only prevent unauthorized access to your PC or network, they also hide your Internet-connected PC from view.
Firewalls have long been a fixture at large companies, which must secure their networks against determined attackers. But the dangerous surge in e-mail- and Web-borne threats--including viruses, worms, hijacks, and increasingly aggressive spyware--means that home PCs require this protection as well.
Don't believe me? Consider this. According to the Internet Storm Center, a typical unprotected PC will come under attack within 20 minutes of being connected to the Internet. That is not a misprint. In less time than it takes most people to shower and get dressed in the morning, your PC will probably attract some form of unwelcome advance.
Johannes Ullrich, chief technology officer at the Internet Storm Center, says the situation is so bad that a newly connected PC won't have time to download all the Windows patches needed to make it secure before malicious software has found and infected it. The time to attack is even shorter for PCs on high-speed university networks and cable or DSL services. Hackers specifically target these addresses--much the way car thieves target Honda Accords--for their high bandwidth and always-on nature. It's a digital catch-22. The better your connection, the bigger your risk.
Alas, it seems that too few people have well-meaning--if overly inquisitive--friends like Rolf. Alan Paller, director of research for The SANS Institute, an organization dedicated to Internet security issues, says most home users don't have any firewall protection in place. That leaves connected PCs exposed to all manner of intrusion and attack.
The good news for cable and DSL customers is that firewalls are cheaper to buy and easier to use than ever. And adoption is picking up, according to forecasts by In-Stat/MDR, a market research firm. Sales of consumer firewalls are expected to rise from $455 million in 2003 to $1.8 billion in 2007, in part because firewall functions are being built into all sorts of consumer network gear.
"I don't even think there are any routers that don't have basic firewall protection," says Ullrich.
Firewalls actually come in two distinct flavors: software applications that run in the background, and hardware devices that plug in between your modem and one or more PCs. Both types hide your PC's presence from other systems, prevent unauthorized access from external sources, and keep tabs on network traffic across the firewall.
While software applications can be less expensive--Microsoft has improved the firewall software in Windows XP Service Pack 2, and both ZoneAlarm and Sygate Personal Firewall are free for download--a hardware firewall usually does a better job for broadband users. (For more on software firewalls, see the accompanying story "Internal Defense.")
"Users really like them because they are simpler to use than software firewalls, and they don't have any [performance] impact on their computer," Ullrich says. "The other advantage of a hardware firewall is if you happen to install some sort of malware on your system, it cannot take out your firewall. However, malware frequently disables antivirus checkers and software firewalls."
If you're networked, you probably haven't bought a separate hardware firewall box. Rather, your wireless access point or network router that links multiple PCs can have firewall capability conveniently included. The $85 Netgear WGT624 108Mbps Wireless Firewall Router is a high-speed 802.11g Wi-Fi access point, router, and firewall that offers excellent protection against and tracking of external threats. Similar Wi-Fi products include the $85 D-Link DI-624 and the $70 to $80 Linksys WRT54G.
In the wired arena, firewall-capable routers include the Netgear FVS318NA VPN Firewall router with eight-port switch, about $100, and the Linksys BEFSX41 Instant Broadband EtherFast Cable/DSL Firewall Router, about $70, which provides four ethernet ports.
Matt Neely, a computer security expert for a major financial firm, says you can find bare-bones firewall devices for even less. "You can get a decent one on sale for 10 or 20 bucks," says Neely. "They make a great gift. I give them out like candy on the holidays."
What They Do, What They Don't
Don't make the mistake of buying a firewall and thinking your security problems are solved. Firewalls may be great at stopping unwanted intrusions, but they often do little or nothing to detect virus-laden e-mails or stop intrusive adware and spyware. You'll want separate antivirus and spyware checkers to stymie these threats. What's more, hardware firewalls usually won't manage outbound traffic, which means a piece of spyware can freely send data from your PC to a server on the Internet.
So what do hardware firewalls do exactly? More than anything, they stymie inquisitive software that pings, sniffs, and queries IP addresses in the hopes of finding a wide-open system. To do this, hardware firewalls employ numerous functions. Among them:
Network address translation: Every system on the Internet needs an IP address--like a phone number for computers--which is used to forge links with other systems across the network. NAT foils unauthorized connections by giving PCs behind the firewall a set of private addresses, while presenting to the world a single, public address. The switcheroo makes it difficult for others to reach through the firewall to an individual PC.
Port management: By default, most hardware firewalls close unsolicited access to all ports (akin to doors in a hallway) on your connected PC. So if a piece of software locks onto your IP address and tries to form a connection with TCP port 80 (used for Web connections) or TCP port 25 (used for outbound e-mail), the firewall would ignore the request. As far as the inquiring software can tell, there is simply nothing there. By the same token, firewalls can let you open specific ports (an action known as port forwarding), so a multiplayer game can link up with other systems across the Internet or a Web camera can send a video stream to view on the Internet.
Stateful packet inspection: An important security feature, SPI digs deep into the packets used to encapsulate data traversing the network. The result: A firewall can do more than simply prohibit packets from a specific source and take action based on the content or behavior of packets. For instance, an SPI firewall can tell if an incoming packet was unsolicited (and therefore, unwanted) or if it arrived in response to a request from the local network (in which case it would be allowed through).
Virtual private networking: A method for establishing encrypted, point-to-point connections across the Internet, VPNs are widely used among businesses for giving remote employees access to local networks. The problem is, a good firewall will block the encrypted connection between the remote device and the local VPN software. Firewalls with VPN support can pass through these encrypted links.
Activity logging and alerts: One area where hardware firewalls can vary greatly is in their ability to track, record, and report the activity fielded by the device. If you need finely detailed information about network activity, make sure to check reviews for products that offer the most comprehensive and useable activity logging and alerting features.
Content and URL filtering: Firewalls can also offer higher-level features--for instance, blocking access to URLs with a specified string of letters in their URL (think "XXX") or to any sites that fall outside of a list of accepted Web domain names.
PC security expert Neely suggests pairing a hardware firewall with a free software firewall application, such as ZoneLabs' ZoneAlarm. Software firewalls can detect which applications are trying to send data over the Internet and prompt users to allow or disallow the activity. So when a previously unknown program asks for Internet access, you can dig down and see if that application might actually be spyware. Adjustable alert levels mean you can flag every access for review or simply allow all traffic through by default. Also, hardware firewalls can't plug into analog modems, which means a software firewall is the best option for most dial-up Internet users.
The good news is, firewalls really work. I tested my setup (a D-Link DI-624 wireless router) using the ShieldsUp port test service at Steve Gibson's Web site. I clicked the All Service Ports button, and the remote server performed a comprehensive scan of all the ports at my IP address. The scan took just over a minute and revealed that all of my ports--with one exception--had been stealthed. That is, my firewall had rendered them invisible, so that any computer trying to open ports on my machine's IP address would get no reply. Port 113 on my system was marked as closed, meaning a remote machine would know a live system is out there, but it would be unable to gain entry.
So will all users someday have PCs protected by firewalls? If Scott Rolf has his way, absolutely.
"I preach it so loudly that most of them already have a firewall, and if they don't I've given them ZoneAlarm."
Michael Desmond is author of Microsoft Office 2003 in 10 Simple Steps or Less. He worries that it won't be long before every kitchen appliance will need a firewall.
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