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  Valuable Information for the everyday Internet User and Web Surfer
A Blog (web log) is a quick and easy way to share timely information (alerts, updated news, trends, and developments), answer questions, express opinions and exchange views.

The really valuable and outstanding features of blogging are that it is interactive -- news, views and opinions are exchanged in a timely manner.

Visitors to this Security Alert Blog are encouraged to express their views and opinions on our postings (easily done by clicking on the highlighted 'COMMENT' at each post). You'll notice that our most recent Posts appear first. You can use the links in the left column to jump to posts from earlier weeks.

Please let us hear from you.
We'll look at your comments and remove anything inappropriate (hateful, abusive, explicit, etc.), before posting your replies. Please stick to the theme of "Security Awareness and Safety on the Internet'. Your email address will never be displayed and will not be shared with third parties.

 We are very pleased that you are here today, and look forward to your early return.  
                                                         .........Richard
                        ____________________________

  December, 2004 Posts and Readers Comments

 
December 31, 2004     A Big 'Thank You' to all of our Readers who have helped  get our "Security Awareness Campaign" underway

The campaign started in January, 2004, with the initial 5 pages of our Firewalls-and-Virus-Protection website going online.

More than a very large handful of 'problems' have come this way during the past dozen years or so of using the internet. Originally, they were just "How to do this - or that" type, but recently, all of us everyday internet users have been deluged with so many nasty viruses, worms, trojans and spyware intruders, the focus has changed to "How NOT to".

How not to get infected by these pests and intruders, and of course, how not to let them take over our our computers and surfing pleasures.

The comments, questions and advice received from many online and offline friends made it abundantly clear that we needed help. It needed to be  provided in a manner easy to understand and implement.

The theme of the Firewalls-and-Virus-Protection website, the
News Reporter, and now this Blog has been and will continue to be "simplicity": information that can be used and easily understood by the youngest internet users to the oldest of us Senior people, many of whom were fearful of even starting to use a computer.

So as a rather senior 'Senior', I chose to use the Internet and my online publications as the platform from which I could help the unwary and lesser experienced understand what is happening in the Cyber Jungle and how not to be caught in the ambushes along the way.

Thanks again to the many visitors and readers for their part in carrying on my "Security Awareness Campaign" in 2004 and on into the New Year, 2005.
                                                                     ........ Richard
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December 29, 2004      Nasty Meddlesome Curiosity or Useful Entrapment?

Did you know that there is a controversial Free service that will let you Discover potential sexual predators in YOUR personal life?

This Free Service is offered to anyone who wants to ANONYMOUSLY find out who they know that has an interest in child pornography!

The service was created by International Locator, Inc, (a 12 year old investigation agency). PervCheck.com is in response to hundreds of inquiries they received from concerned parents, educators and law enforcement officers around the world looking for better ways to sniff out the potential sexual predators in their children's lives.

You select the person you wish to target, send their email address to
PervCheck.com and they send a tempting and salacious email to your target.

Beware, if you get one of those enticing, sexy emails, it could be the real thing... or it could be your next door neighbor PervChecking YOU! Conclusions are drawn based on the response of the target,
Right or Wrong.

Is it right to lure an unsuspecting person into danger, difficulty, or a compromising situation that could falsely ruin their reputation, or does the potential discovery of a sexual predator overshadow the moral implications of such Offensive Inquisitiveness?

Care to share your opinion?
COMMENT   
                                        
The full article is available courtesy of http://www.bgchecks.com. You can read it at this address>> http://www.bgchecks.com/newsletters/issue3.html
                                           Readers comments (1)
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December  27, 2004    Shouldn't your New Year's Resolutions include improving  your Online Security?

About 75 percent of of Home Internet Users believe their computers are safe from viruses and online threats and about 60 percent believe they are safe from Hackers. (based on an October 2004 survey of 329 people conducted by the National Security Alliance), while two thirds of the respondents admitted that their anti-virus software is not up to date, and some don't even have a Firewall at all.

If you fit in this group, then the answer to the question is Definitely YES. With so many new virus and spyware threats hitting the Internet daily, one of the most important things you can do for the Year 2005 is to Resolve that you will--
          1. update your anti-virus program at least weekly if it doesn't update
              automatically,
          2. set your spyware sweeping software to automatically sweep your
              hard drive each time you boot up your computer
          3. check your firewall to be sure that it is blocking incoming, and
              also outgoing traffic
          4. install at least two different spyware sweeping programs. Our experience
             indicates that there isn't one single program that will find and remove
             every ad tracker, spyware bug or malware pest. At least install the free
             trial versions of AdAware and Spybot Search and Destroy. There are
             many others listed in our
Security Alert News Reporter and on our
             Firewalls-and-virus-protection website
 
Best wishes for a Healthy, Happy, Prosperous and Safe New Year       ...Richard

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 December 25, 2004        Our Wish List on Christmas Day, 2004

To wish is to express a desire or hope concerning the future.

On this special day, our wish is that all of the people of the world will someday soon be free of oppression, sickness, poverty, hatred, acrimony, cynicism, greed, and poor fortune -- that they can live their lives in peace with their neighbors and within themselves -- and that a wisdom and awareness will descend upon mankind to bond us all in a crusade for peaceful co-existence, regardless of race, creed, color or religious beliefs.

Greetings of the season and sincere wishes that major progress will be made in this crusade during the coming year -- 2005.                      ..... Richard

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December 23, 2004   Helping your children practice safe surfing habits.

"Young people between the ages of 2 and 11 are increasing their use of the Internet at a faster rate than the overall internet user population".

These Nielsen/NetRatings statistics were reported in the January 2005 issue of PC Magazine. They show that this group of young people has viewed more than twice as many web pages this past October than they viewed in October, 2003
(The increase for average web users was only about 15 percent for the same period).

Young boys increasingly viewed entertainment sites like Disney-channel.com and cartoon sites.

Young girls were more interested in the instant messaging sites like MSN Messenger and AOL instant messenger.

           This fact should raise an alarm for parents. It does for us!

Predators are known to lurk in Chat Rooms waiting to lure children, especially young girls into unsafe situations. Here are some Internet safety policies and practical guidelines that will help make the Internet safer for any family.

    1. Position the computer monitor so you can see and control what's
        showing from the internet.

    2. Bookmark child safe web sites so your your children can easily get
        back to them.

    3.Teach children that they should never give out personal information
     
 over the Internet.

    4. Make it clear to your children that people in chat rooms are ALWAYS
        strangers,
no matter how often they chat to them, and no matter how well
        they think they know them

    5. Take an active interest in your child's activity online. Do NOT use the
        Internet as a babysitter!

There's a lot more information for providing Family Security on the IdentityTheft
page of out Firewalls and Virus Protection website. Some Child and Family Safe websites that we have reviewed and recommended to our grandchildren are listed in our News Reporter Newsletter.
                                                                         ....Richard

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December 17, 2004   Return of the Cws.MrHop hijacker*

After having been free of this nasty hijacker since my initial attack earlier in the year, it returned with a vengeance this week... and it was my fault that it did.

Just this one time, I made the fatal mistake of opening an email attachment from a friend whose emails never caused any trouble in the past. However, this was one of those that had been forwarded to them from someone who forwarded it. You know -- forwarded + forwarded + etc.

It did all of the mean and awful things that CoolWebSearch is known for --
    It hijacked my browser
    Changed my Desktop
    Disabled my printer (this was a major surprise)
    Disabled shortcuts to some of my anti spyware and anti virus programs
    Disabled every RSS feed I was following
    Changed my Default Search links
    ... and more

It was missed by all of my security programs. Since my Anti-virus and Firewall programs are automatically updated by McAfee, it seemed logical that my spyware monitoring software could be out of date.

It is really very easy to update these programs from the 'UpDate' link provided.
Many of these services offer update notifications, available by a simple CLICK.
But the main frustration and wasted time comes from restoring all of the damage done.

LESSON Learned: Don't take anything for granted. Vigilance must be practiced when using the Internet. Before opening that attachment, I should have contacted my friend and asked if they had any trouble before forwarding it to me, but I didn't.

*Here's a bit of  information about the CoolWebSearch hijacker and MrHop, which is a CoolWebSearch variant that poses a Severe Threat.

CoolWebSearch is a name given to a wide range of different browser hijackers. Though the code is very different between variants, they are all used to redirect users to coolwebsearch.com and other sites affiliated with its reprehensible operators.

Severe threats typically are remotely exploitable vulnerabilities that can lead to system compromise, which means that Attackers can gain complete control over your computer or install new software on your machine without your permission.
                                                                              ... Richard
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December 13, 2004     Don't become an accomplice of the Hackers.

You may already be an accomplice for Hackers using your computer to spread their worms, viruses, and spyware.

And yours may not be the only one involved.

In a recent issue of the "
Security Alert News Reporter", we noted that an unprotected computer could be hacked and infected with computer viruses and malware within 20 minutes of going on line for the first time.

More recently, the marketing-communication research group AventeGarde, conducted a series of tests with a half dozen computers using different operating systems to find out how quickly they might be compromised.

Their results showed that an improperly protected computer could be hijacked within seconds of going online! (Average time for a Hijacker to take over their test machines was 4 minutes).

The test computers were installed with a variety of current Microsoft operating systems, some with built in Firewalls. Generally, firewalls reduce the potential of being hijacked.

Two of the test machines did have firewall protection and actually survived the two week test without becoming infected.

Scary, isn't it. But of even greater concern is the fact that these infiltrated computers can harbor the viruses and worms without the computer user being aware.

Users can unwittingly spread the computer viruses to their family, friends and other correspondents, reinforcing the Hacker's growing armada of infected machines. This growing mass of infected zombie machines, all under the control of the Hacker, can easily be used for Denial of Service attacks and other disruptive, illegal, and immoral purposes.

In our recent post of December 6, we expressed the importance of having up-to-date anti-intrusion software installed before going online for the first time.

There are no completely immune computer operating systems. Because the Microsoft products are installed on the majority of Windows PC's, (millions of computers, worldwide), the hackers attack this giant target.

As more and more alternate browsers come on line, it's highly probable that their vulnerabilities will become additional targets for the miscreants and malcontents bent on continuing the devastation already wreaked on the world wide web.

It certainly seems to us that the responsibility for thwarting this continuing damage lies with all of us users as well as the legitimate software providers.

And it's as easy as keeping our firewalls, anti-virus, and spyware sweeping programs, and operating systems up-to-date. (Microsoft provides easily used links to their operating system patches, as do the security software providers).

Ignoring any of the available updates is a real gamble, and irresponsible.

                                                           .......Richard
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 December 10, 2004  Has a Phishing Attack tricked you into giving out your Personal Financial Information?

Phishing attacks are becoming so sophisticated and hard to detect that even the most experienced people can be hooked.

Many people going on the Internet and using email or Web browsers for the first time could easily to be fooled into giving up their personal financial information in response to a phishing email or a phishing website.

If you have been tricked this way, you should assume that you will become a victim of credit card fraud, bank fraud, or identity theft.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group has published some excellent advice on what to do if you are in this situation

Even if you haven't been hooked, a visit to the Anti-Phishing Working Group will give you a great head start on how to avoid this disastrous situation.

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December 9, 2004  File Sharing Perils - KaZaA No.1 Pest Threat

According to Computer Associates International, Peer-to-peer file sharing program KaZaA is the No.1 spyware threat on the Internet.

Through its PestPatrol research, CA found that KaZaA posed a greater threat than other programs in its top five spyware list because of its widespread popularity.

KaZaA opens up your computer to millions of strangers is among the top threats because of the amount if copies in use. (KaZaA claims that its software has been downloaded 214 million times).

KaZaA slows a machine by adding unnecessary registry entries and directories.
Peer-to-peer file exchange programs, like KaZaA, Blubster, Gnucleus and WinMX, can degrade network performance and take up storage space because they are bundled with adware or spyware.

CA said the difficulty in exactly defining spyware was one reason why their company often referred to certain programs as pests. "Pest” is a broader category that includes spyware, adware and browser help objects.

P2P Defined: Any peer-to-peer file swapping program, such as Audiogalaxy, Bearshare, Blubster, E-Mule, Gnucleus, Grokster, Imesh, KaZaA, KaZaA Lite, Limewire, Morpheus, Shareaza, WinMX and Xolox.

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 December 8, 2004    Credit Card Scam

This message is being shared among many people on the internet. I put it here as an alert because it describes a very clever way that scammers can steal from you.

These scammers didn't sound like thieves, which is the way internet phishing theft often happens.

The person that was scammed has related this as a personal experience.
Here's her story-
-


"My husband was called on Wednesday from "VISA", and I was called on Thursday from "MasterCard." The scam works like this:

Person calling says, "this is, and I'm calling from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA. My Badge number is 12460. Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I'm calling to verify. This would be on your VISA card which was issued by bank. Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a marketing company based in Arizona?"

When you say "No" , the caller continues with, "Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?"

You say "yes." The caller continues... "I will be starting a Fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 1-800 number listed on the back of your card (1-800-VISA) and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control #" The caller then gives you a 6 digit number. "Do you need me to read it again?"

Here's the IMPORTANT part on how the scam works. The caller then says, "He needs to verify you are in possession of your card." He'll ask you to "turn your card over and look for some numbers. There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are your card number, the next 3 are the 'Security Numbers' that verify you are in possession of the card. These are the numbers you use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. Read me the 3 numbers." After you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he'll say ,"That is correct. I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?" After you say No, the caller then Thanks you and states, "Don't hesitate to call back if you do," and hangs up.

You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the card number. But after we were called on Wednesday, we called back within 20 minutes to ask a question. Are we glad we did! The REAL VISA Security Department told us it was a scam and in the last 15 minutes a new purchase of $497.99 was charged on our card.

Long story made short, we made a real fraud report and closed the VISA card, and they are reissuing us a new number. What the scammers wants is the 3-digit PIN number on the back of the card. Don't give it to them. Instead, tell them you'll call VISA or Master card direct. The real VISA told us that they will never ask for anything on the card as they already know the information since they issued the card! If ! you give the scammers your 3 Digit PIN Number, you think you're receiving a credit. However, by the time you get your statement, you'll see charges for purchases you didn't make, and by then it's almost to late and/or harder to actually file a fraud report.

What makes this more remarkable is that on Thursday, I got a call from a "Jason Richardson of MasterCard" with a word-for-word repeat of the VISA scam. This time I didn't let him finish. I hung up! We filed a police report, as instructed by VISA. The police said they are taking several of these reports daily! They also urged us to tell everybody we know that this scam is happening.

Please pass this on to all your friends. By informing each other, we protect each other. Thank-You."            ...............anonymous
 
 and thanks to our friends, the Smiths from Pennsylvania, USA, who sent it to us.
 
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 December 7, 2004      Prices going up for protective software?

We've observed that some of the security software providers have made moderate increases in the prices of the individual programs that make up their security suites, (a combination of firewall, anti-virus, spam blocker, and spyware killers). We've also noticed that the price of the Security Suites, themselves, seem to be holding fairly steady.

In our opinion, there are a couple of valid reasons for their marketing policies --

    1. More security for the internet user. Having just one of the parts of the package doesn't provide sufficient protection against the hackers and spammers.
The Security software providers know this and their pricing encourages users to do a safer job of protecting their computer systems.

    2. Security software developers have realized higher costs to maintain updates because of the constant and increasing number of viruses and malicious software (malware) variations entering the Internet daily.

The most important issue, of course, is to have full, and current protection. If the  renewal subscriptions for updating your security programs should expire around the same time, of if you don't have all of the parts of these suites, it could be more economical to consider the full security suites. Visiting the providers, such a McAfee, Symantec, etc., through the links at our Firewalls and Virus Protection site is an easy way to start comparing prices.

 
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December 6, 2004,     more on holiday hazards- buying a new computer

If you plan to buy a new computer this season, there are a couple sources of danger to consider:

Some local shops offering bargain computer system deals may not have installed the latest patches for the operating systems. Microsoft, in particular, provides security patches for Windows operating systems on a regular basis (they have to, to keep with the virus writers who constantly seem to find holes and vulnerabilities).

Same is true for firewall and anti-virus software. If the local shops do include them, the versions may not be recent enough to actually find and destroy the most recent viruses (over 1400 new virus variants identified in November, alone!)

The same holds true for anti-spyware programs.

An unprotected computer (one with out-of-date firewall and anti-virus software) could be infected within 20 minutes on going on line the first time.

Our recommendation is to obtain verification from a knowledgeable salesperson that the Operating Systems, Firewalls and anti-virus software are the latest versions available as of the day you actually pick up your new computer.
                                              ... ... Richard
 
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December 5, 2004, potential e-mail Virus Trap for online Shoppers

The November 2004 issue of our
Security Alert News Reporter carried an article warning about a new threat of embedded PC virus links that may appear in e-mail messages.

 CNN/Money reports on a new version of the Mydoom virus that will infect your computer if you click on the link in the text of the e-mail. Typically, you must download and open the attachment to be infected with a virus. Not with this one.

Here's our major concern regarding this threat:

Combined with the increasing prevalence of spoofed 'FROM' addresses, phishing
(official looking but fraudulent e-mail requests for personal information), it's highly probable that some of the unsolicited (Spam) e-mail offers you receive for all kinds of products with special deals and outlandish claims could bait you into this ambush.

Online shopping is generally safe and secure when you buy from recognized and well known businesses, especially when you search for their internet addresses yourself and visit their sites.

Our recommendation for opening e-mail from any unfamiliar source is to Delete it immediately. Don't even open it, or if you do, don't click on any links that it may contain.                             ..............Richard


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December 3, 2004   About the coming Holiday Season -- Net Security during the holidays

Sharing messages and holiday pictures will be one of the major and fun uses of the internet during, and after the coming season.

It's also a 'fun' time for the malcontents and malicious people who will have an even greater opportunity to flood our email boxes with virus laden spam
messages, spoofing and phishing threats.

Why is this a greater opportunity for them?

Consider the increased use of the internet by family members who will be testing their new digital cameras and new computers, scanners (if they don't use a digital cameras), and a host of other new digital toys and devices.

The hackers, crackers and internet thieves will be ecstatic! For sure, many of
their targeted computers will be unprotected, subject to intrusion by their viruses,
trojan horses, spyware and other malicious stuff.

Yes, nearly everyone is now aware that having Firewalls and virus protection
is an absolute necessity.

And Yes, their computers probably have these tools because they are often
included with the software that comes with new computers.

But, have they been updated regular, even recently?

How about your protective programs? When did you update last?

Updating must be done for Operating Systems as well as firewalls, anti-virus
programs and spyware scanning programs. It's general knowledge that some browser services are targeted by the hackers (Internet Explorer for one). Actually, viruses and spyware can intrude into your system through others, as well.

Think of all of the unwary and inexperienced people who enjoy surfing the internet and communicating with family and friends. They are among the prime targets.

How to help them and make them aware, and protect them from the potential
loss of private and personal information, files, important data, and even their
identity is the Goal of many organizations, software providers, and even some individual webmasters.

You can be a part of our "Security Awareness Campaign" and direct your
family and friends to these helpful websites, such as ours, at
http://www.firewalls-and-virus-protection.com

Our message for this holiday season is to "Gift the people you care about"
by helping them learn how to protect themselves and their families. The
Firewalls and Virus Protection website contains the information they really need, and it's easy to read and understand.

Happy Holidays to all. .                .............Richard


COMMENT

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