Archive for July, 2012

Local Experts’ Way of Fortifying Your Computer against Viruses

July 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Just as viruses and bacteria continue to bother us in the real world by causing health problems, computer viruses also bother our desktops, laptops and our mobile phones . From ‘Brain’, which was the world’s first self-replicating virus, computer viruses have come a long way in terms of sophistication and their lethality as well.

Today, there are different types of viruses like Trojans , malware, spyware, etc. There are different categories of malicious code which are not classified under a particular group of viruses. However, for the sake of simplicity, we will consider all of them as similar computer viruses in this article.

Challenges Faced By Security Experts

One of the many challenges faced by online security experts is the challenge of countering different approaches of hackers. This means that the experts will have to think from the perspective of a hacker while designing counter measures. This is not an easy job as some of the worlds best talent is working tirelessly to gain unauthorized access into others’ computers and wreck havoc.

So, even experts should be innovative, creative and unconventional in their approach to online security. For example, hackers are using anonymous social media accounts to infect unsuspecting users with files. So, there should be a security software which identifies that that link as potentially dangerous and warn the user.

However, you also have an active role to play if you want to ensure that you remain secure. Most people are not aware of this fact. No security system is foolproof and the user should always be on the lookout for signs which indicate a breach in your online security setup. Here are some of the latest tips from top online security experts to help you keep your computer safe.

Anti Virus Software

One of the main reasons why all companies insist on usage of  an anti-virus program   is that they are equipped to deal with the latest viruses and are regularly updated too. As mentioned earlier, viruses keep changing and new ones are released on the internet. So, it is imperative that your anti-virus has the latest database of viruses it needs to deal with. It will enable it to recognize the threat and instantly delete it.

There are a number of players in the online security market but it is recommended that you stick to the software from top players or the ones which people you know have used, and not faced any issues with. Combination software, which will not only provide you virus protection but will also give you a firewall, browser protection, and a range of other features,  is also available today.

Create File Backups

As there is every chance that you could become a victim of virus attacks, it is only prudent that you have a backup of all your files in a safe place, where you can retrieve them from. A few years ago, CDs and flash drives were the preferred method of data storage, but now, cloud storage is the ultimate solution. Cloud storage providers have servers which can hold tons of data and ensure its safety. So, even if your computer’s hard drive is infected and you will have to completely format it, all the lost data can be retrieved from the cloud.

Windows Users are More Vulnerable than Mac Users

Since Windows is the most widely used OS in the world, many hackers write virus programs meant only for Windows. This does not mean Mac users are safe. But the probability of Mac systems being affected is much less than Windows based systems. So, if you are a windows user, you need to keep running virus scans more often.

All these above steps might not give you 100% protection against online threats, but they will at least reduce the chances of your computer getting infected by viruses and other malicious software.

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California’s Way of Protecting Online Privacy

July 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Online privacy has been a cause for concern for the netizens for a long time now. The rise of social media networks, in which users voluntarily provided their personal and location related information, raised the issue to an all new level as people had never realized that the implications of their actions could be so serious. Although most companies are beefing up their approach towards protecting the online privacy of its customers, there have been regular reports of breaches and the average Joe being victimized.

This has prompted the government of the State of California into taking matters into their own hands. They are now taking strict measures to ensure that they protect the online privacy of the citizens of the state.

Using Existing State and Federal Laws to Protect California’s Netizens

To protect the privacy rights of California’s netizens, the state government has established a new unit in the state’s Department of Justice. The unit is called Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit and is completely responsible for all online privacy and other online security related issues. This is an aggressive step from the state government and the residents of California can breathe a sigh of relief, as the internet companies will take online privacy more seriously now because the government is involved. This unit will use the laws on online privacy, which are already present (both state and federal laws), to help ensure the online privacy of the California state’s netizens.

Increasing Accountability in Terms of Protecting Online Privacy

An interesting move on the part of this privacy enforcement unit is to hold the companies behind the sites responsible for protecting the online privacy of their clients. This is a very smart move, which will not only motivate the companies to beef up their security measures but will also give them a system through which they can keep tack of how things are going on the privacy protection front without being directly involved in the  process.

If a user of a particular internet company faces online privacy issues, the unit will take the company  officials to the task and grind them. If it is a case of negligence or lack of competence on the company’s part, the unit has the authority to fine the company and warn them against future, similar issues.

Top Companies Respond by Strengthening Their Mobile Security Policies

Following the approval of the Golden State’s Privacy Protection Act (which incidentally is touted as one of the strongest privacy laws ever implemented in the United States), many companies have consented to step up in their efforts to increase the mobile privacy of its customers. Facebook, the leading social networking site in the world, was in the line of fire last fall. An Australian blogger, Nik Cubrilovic, had raised his voice against the cookie tracking method adopted by the social networking company in his blog. He had said that even if you stop cookies/tracking online, you could still be tracked as Facebook was so keen to access your location in a bid to make the posts more complete and comprehensive.

Effects of this Government Initiative

The above mentioned incident is one of the few which has come to the attention of the general public. There are incidents like this reported on a daily basis. However, this no-nonsense approach from the California State Government will definitely improve the online privacy of California State’s residents and the citizens of the entire United States of America in the near future. The response given by internet companies are already encouraging signs that people are taking online privacy more seriously now and it is only a matter of time before more measures are implemented.

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How Safe is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

July 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Virtual private networks are always associated with online privacy and online security as they are one of the safest and legal ways to protect your identity online. However, the basic rule of network security is to never let your guard down. Even if you have the best system protecting you, it is only a matter of time before it is compromised. Leading network security companies have time and again stressed for the need of regular updates for this reason only. They also never claim that the systems they are protecting are completely secure, which is absolutely true.

So, how safe are your VPNs? Is the channel through which you are communicating completely secured? Is the data flowing to the destination site passing though several ghost servers, where it can be accessed? This article will clear out all these doubts.

The Basics of VPN

The logic behind a VPN is pretty straightforward and simple, but the implementation is a very complex process. Firstly, the VPN is, as the name suggests, is virtually your own private network. Since it uses the existing network hardwares, a private pathway is created between your system and the destination, which is the URL you have keyed in the address bar. Since all the data flowing to and  from your computer will be within the private channel, others will not have access to it. This is different from where you don’t use VPNs where the data will be flowing through a common channel and all you need is a tuned receiver to receive it.

To further protect your data, it is encrypted before it is transmitted. It can only be decrypted at the receiver end. Even in the case your private channel fails, the encrypted data will make the job of a hacker harder.

Is the Channel Safe?

One of the major concerns of people using VPN is  if the channel they are using is safe or not. If you are using one of the top VPN service providers, rest assured that your data is safe. They use state of the art algorithms to make sure that the channels are properly shielded and nobody can gain access to the channels. Even the encryption algorithms are designed in such a way that no one can crack the code and get to the real data hidden in the seemingly random flow.

Can The Service Providers Access the Data?

Another question that people constantly ask is if their data is safe from the VPN service providers themselves. The answer to this query is that it absolutely is safe. The algorithms which are used to create the channels and encrypt the data make use of random number generators which will generate the code for encryption. Since the service providers do not have any measure of control over the random number generator algorithm, they have no way of decrypting the data or the channel through which your data will pass.

How Can VPN Hide Your Identity Online?

When you are using VPN, the IP address which you will be associated with will be generated by the VPN server. This will ensure that your IP address will not be visible to the destination site and hence, your location will not be revealed. The IP address will be randomly generated in such a way that you will appear to be originating from a different country altogether. The advantages of this fake IP usage are many, the most noteworthy being that you can shop without being tracked and hide your real identity online.

The VPN servers are also fortified with other online shielding techniques which will block the hackers from accessing the location of the VPN server. So, even if you are using a local VPN service provider, your location will remain discreet.

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Three Important Rules for Better Management of Network Firewalls

July 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Network firewalls were indeed one of the greatest innovations when they were introduced and a firewall is one of the integral parts of the security set-up of a network even today. But there has been a growing debate about the effectiveness of the firewalls due to the increase in the number of successful network attacks. Security experts have begun to argue that it is not sufficient to just place a shield around the entire network, i.e. the firewall.

As technology grew, hackers have identified different entry points to a network. So, if you have to guard a network comprehensively, you will have to guard all these access points. They are data, endpoints, applications and the network itself. This segmented approach will not only make the job of security experts easier but will also help them in identifying minor flaws and fixing them for maximum efficiency.

The Three Laws of Network Security

Keeping all the aforementioned rules in mind, we can coin in some ground rules on devising a system to protect your network. Let us compare the network to a car. Cars have the necessity of brakes just like networks need firewalls. But we do know that in spite of  being equipped with brakes, cars are involved in accidents, mostly due to the negligence of the driver. Similarly, even networks are involved in accidents and the user will be at fault most of the times. Based on all these assumptions, here are three rules we can write about network security.

  • If a network should be secure, it should assume that every one of its hosts are potentially hostile
  •  If a host should be secure, it must assume that the network is potentially hostile
  • If an application should be secure, it should assume that all its users are potentially hostile

These rules seem a little paranoid but paranoia is the fuel that drives network security in today’s world. The most important thing, you online privacy, is at stake and even a small slip up may prove to be a costly mistake.

Use a Single and Your Best Firewall

One of the basic mistakes done by security experts is to use more than one firewall. The logic behind this approach is pretty straightforward. More the number of walls, stronger will be the protection. Unfortunately, this logic doesn’t work in the cyber world. More number of weak walls will mean more number of barriers with access points to the hackers. You are better off bringing down all of them and fortifying your main and best firewall as much as you can. Standardization will also help you in keeping track of the maintenance, and the number of places on which you have to keep an eye on will also be reduced.

Integrate All Your Security Solutions

Just like too many firewalls create more problems, too many security systems cause clashes too. Each program will have its own set of protocols and they might interfere with each other creating weak point in the entire system, which the hackers might make use of. Entrust a single system to protect all facets of your network and if needed, add further fortifications. But do not use one system for virus protection and another as a firewall. That approach will definitely create problems sooner or later.

Never Assume Things

Assuming that you are safe is a fatal mistake in the world of network security. Just like hackers don’t rest, even you should not. There have been cases of computers being hacked when they have disabled the firewall for a couple of hours, just to access proxy servers in order to overcome local blackouts. So, it is important that you take even small network security issues seriously and make sure that they are resolved as soon as possible.

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Latest Online Threats You Need To Be Wary Of

July 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Ten years ago, if someone had claimed that there was a way of remotely tracking you via information you provide by yourself, the concept would have been a big joke. Unfortunately, the joke of that day has manifested itself into a reality in today’s world. Social networking sites, which are used by almost everyone today, are a treasure trove of information for stalkers and without infringing any laws, they can easily keep a track of your lives.

The biggest threat from this is to your privacy, especially online privacy. If any of these miscreants get a hold of your social media accounts, they have the potential to irreparably damage your reputation.

Knowledge is Power

The best way to counter these threats is by creating awareness about them. Hackers are evolving at such a rapid pace that they are combining human psychology, advanced networking techniques and anonymous social media accounts to lure unsuspecting people and gain access to their data. To avoid falling prey to the devious plots of hackers, you can educate yourself on the techniques they use to target you. The next time you feel that there is an attack, you can immediately recognize the danger and take measures to protect yourself. Here are some of the most recent trends noticed in online hacking.

Businesses Accept That Hacks Are Inevitable

Most organizations have understood the fact the online security is a battle of wits and will between the protectors and the invaders of the cyber world. As long as the protectors (anti virus and other network security measures) have the upper hand, the networks are safe from any sort of intrusion. But the hackers never cease their efforts and will be constantly trying different techniques. Sooner or later, they will succeed.

This knowledge has enabled businesses to me more careful about the type of information they store and where they store the confidential information. They would be prepared for the worst case scenario, which means that even in the event of a breach; the damage caused can be recovered from. It is a good idea for every user to adopt this strategy and safeguard his/her most sensitive data.

Mobile Malware Will Rise

Mobile devices have become such an integral part of our lives that some of us can live without out laptops and tablets, but cannot endure a single moment without out cell phones. Hackers have identified this trend and are targeting mobile devices. Mostly, the Android operating system is the main target as it is easily accessible and the malware can be tested and tweaked with the aid of the latest versions of the software. The malware can do anything from record usage data from the mobile of the users to change registry files, corrupt the hard disk, steal passwords, etc. If you notice anything fishy with your Android phone, make sure that you get it checked.

Anti Theft Protection for Your Mobile Devices

One of the most obvious risks for mobile devices is losing them. Even though you use the latest security measures to ensure that your mobile device is not lost, if you lose it, the data can be misused if it falls into the wrong hands. So, you have to ensure that you have measures to ensure that the data in your mobile devices is not compromised. One of the ways of doing it is to install tracking software which will help you in tracking down the mobile even when it is not being used. The other method is to enable remote data wiping. When the phone is lost, you can remotely wipe the data if you have enabled the service.

These are a few of the many security trends you need to be wary of. Even if you have a shred of doubt, take measures to ensure that you are completely safe before relaxing, as you never know what might happen the next minute in the cyber world.

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Techniques to Bypass the Protect IP Act – PART 2

July 24, 2012 Leave a comment

In part-1 of this article, we have discussed about the top two techniques for accessing the sites blocked by the protect IP act. Using VPN and Hosts file technique will not only help you bypass the DNS block, but will also help you in protecting your identity on the internet. There are many advantages of these methods. For starters, you have  worry free torrents access. Since you cannot be tracked, you cannot be identified and warned. So, everything you download will appear to be originating from an anonymous location and will lead the authorities nowhere.

There are a few more techniques you can use to bypass the DNS block instigated by the protect IP act. Although these methods are not as well known as the ones mentioned in the first part of this article, they are highly effective and have their own set of advantages.

TOR Usage

Today’s tracking technology has improved to such an extent that even if you are using a proxy server, you can be tracked with the right tools and techniques. To counter this, TOR was developed. TOR is nothing but a set of interconnected proxy servers. They can be based anywhere in the world and they are connected through the World Wide Web. When you access a site through TOR, you will be going through a path of various proxy servers.

Even if anyone wants to track you, they will have to go through all the proxies, which is theoretically and practically impossible. Using TOR will give you an outsider’s perspective of a local website, i.e. you will be able to view a website as it appears to someone who is not located in your country. This technique is used by many people for downloading data using torrents. It will ensure that you can download torrents  without fretting about being tracked.

There are a few minor issues while you are using TOR. To access some sites, you might have to download and install some software. Sometimes, you might not be able to access the site you want to visit straightaway because your signal might have been interrupted in any one of the proxies through which it is passing.

Using a DNS Look-Up Tool

A DNS look up tool is basically software which will give you a list of IP addresses which are valid. You can obtain and save the list of the IP addresses for the servers of the domain you intend to visit. If you find that the DNS is blocked due to the protect IP act, you can use one of the IP address and access the site. All you have to do is just type in the IP address in the place of URL and you have complete access. One of the major advantages of this technique is that you can obtain multiple IP addresses and until the server IP address is the same, you can use the ones you generated.

One of the major drawbacks of this system is that you will have to generate the list of IP addresses before the site is DNS censored. Otherwise, all the addresses you generated will become invalid.

Command Prompt

This is like getting back to the basics. Before Windows was introduced, MS-DOS was the operating system which most people used. You can use the same old command prompt to get over the DNS block. Without going into too many complex details, here is the basic procedure you need to follow. Open command prompt and obtain the IP address of the DNS censored site. Type ‘ping <domain name>’ and you will have the IP address of the site. Even after it is blocked, you can access the site by using the obtained IP in place of the URL.

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Techniques to Bypass the Protect IP Act – PART 1

July 23, 2012 Leave a comment

The ‘Protect IP’ act has been raising a lot of concerns amongst the internet community, because of the  implications it has. True, it is a move to protect the copyright and intellectual property of some of the best creative minds. But the methodology adopted by it is not sound. Some have gone as far as saying that it is curbing the right of free speech, is politically unsound and also unconstitutional. But the fact of matter is that the act is not doing much to protect the copyrighted material online. Online pirates have found ways to successfully bypass these measures and piracy continues to thrive. The people who are affected are small and medium businesses who are just innocent bystanders.

To ensure that you are not affected by the ‘Protect IP’ act, here are a few legal ways to  bypass it. You will be able to access most of the DNS blocked sites using these techniques. Do not worry even if you are not technologically inclined. These techniques are fairly straightforward and easy to understand.

Virtual Private Network

A virtual private network or VPN is probably the easiest and the best way to bypass the protect IP act. The concept this technology is very simple and there lies its USP. A VPN will create a tunnel between the source (your computer) and destination (the URL you enter) so that no one can gain access to the data flowing back and forth. Although there are a lot of complicated details involved, the basic idea is that it will create a network path which cannot be intruded. In addition to that, the data flowing back and forth will be encrypted so that even if someone does gain access, it will be junk unless they have the decryption key.

This  is one of the most widely preferred techniques for protecting your online privacy. There are a number of VPN providers and you can choose the one which is within your budget and meets your requirements. The reliability of the service and the associated costs are a couple of things you have to keep in mind. Some providers also impose bandwidth restrictions on their users after they exceed a certain limit. So, make sure you iron out all these details before choosing your VPN service provider.

Hosts File Usage

Using the hosts file is a way of accessing the site without using the DNS server. This will allow you to access any site even though its DNS is blocked, because the DNS will never pop up in the access routine. Hosts file will be present on the computer of a majority of users but most of you are not aware of how you can use it to your advantage. You will have to directly key in the name of the domain you are trying to access and the site will appear in spite of its DNS being blocked. This technique is very popular among people who are using anonymous social media accounts to hide their real identity online.

Even though hosts file usage will completely eliminate the usage of DNS while accessing sites, there are a few issues you might face, the foremost being the maintenance of the file. You will have to keep updating and finding an IP address you have to use. Also, you might face some trouble while accessing sites even if there is a slight mistake on your part while setting up the service.

The two techniques mentioned above are, by far, the most efficient and risk free ways of bypassing the DNS block. The second part of this article will give you more ways on bypassing the DNS block and accessing sites which are blocked by the new protect IP act.

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