All That New Christmas Technology

OK, so I am writing an update of my post from 2009 that was titled “So You Got A New PC“. I will finish it and get it up soon – updated to deal with newer versions of Windows and Mac and iOS and yes, maybe even Android. Until then though, please go read the original post and make sure you have working anti-virus software installed on your Windows machine and for all devices – backup, backup, backup!


Twitter requirements and best practices from the CDC

CDC TwitterThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a nine-page guide to Twitter entitled, CDC Micro-blogging Requirements and Best Practices. This is a fantastic document. Not only does it give specific examples on how to use Twitter and how to get those tweets to get retweeted and spread, but it also includes a good history of Twitter and some insight into security concerns that might be involved.

Additionally, if you are planning on using Twitter as an official means of communication from a business or organization, The Center’s Guide will give you a good place to start in creating your own policy and procedure guidelines.

So You Got A New PC …

Congratulations, you got a new PC for Christmas. Or maybe you bought a new one for your business before the end of the year tax season runs out.  Either way, do you know what the first thing you should do is? I mean after taking it out of the box, admiring its awesome shine and plugging it in.  That’s right, you should make sure the anti-virus software is in place and up-to-date.

If your machine didn’t come with any protective software, or if you don’t like what it came with, there are some great alternatives available for free download. Note that most of these have both free and paid versions. Even if you would like the extra features available from the paid version, I would recommend trying out the free editions first. You may find out that the software doesn’t suit your exact needs or that the free version would do everything you want.

VirusAVG Antivirus – “No-frills protection to meet your basic security needs.” This is the AV software I recommend most often and the one I use on my own machines.

ClamWin – ClamWin is a Free Antivirus program for Microsoft Windows 7 / Vista / XP / Me / 2000 / 98 and Windows Server 2008 and 2003. ClamWin is open source, so you can even get the code behind the product. An excellent product that is constantly updated and monitored by the open source community. There is even a similar product available for the Mac.

Microsoft Security Essentials – “Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.” Microsoft finally started producing security software for Windows, and it is actually quite good. Also, of course, coming from Microsoft it integrates quite well into the Windows environment.
Continue reading “So You Got A New PC …”

Securing Your Personal Computer

One of the key elements in making sure your computer remains a productive tool is making sure that it is running smoothly. While software patches and routine maintenance take care of some of this, there are other threats that need to be addressed in a more active manner. Of course I am referring here to viruses, spyware, and other malicious software that all fall under the generic term “malware”.

securityDoing things such as ensuring that you use secure passwords and are not clicking on unknown attachments in your email will help reduce the risk of attacks from malware. But, there still a real need to run third-party security software. Not only will that software help to protect your machine and its data, but it will also aid in preventing your machine from becoming a carrier and infecting other machines.

The first form of protection you need is an anti-virus program. Good AV programs, as they are called, will scan you email, your disks, and even the websites you visit. One very good AV program, with a free starter version, is AVG by Grisoft. You can easily download it from their website and have it scanning within a matter of minutes. I have used AVG for a number of years and it will often catch threats that the big boys won’t. Additionally, since you can try it out for free, it is basically a no lose proposition. If you don’t like the way it performs, you can always turn to the programs from TrendMicro or McAfee.

The second type of protection you will need is something to protect you from spyware. Spyware is slightly different from a virus in that it usually doesn’t do your machine harm, but it can compromise your security, record passwords, and steal information. Windows Defender is built into Windows Vista and is a free add-on for Windows XP. While it is a good start, it is not nearly as powerful as either SpyBot Search & Destroy or Ad-Aware by Lavasoft. Either of those two programs can, again, be downloaded for free from the Internet. Although it is not a good idea to keep more than one anti-virus or anti-spyware program running at the same time, you can switch between them from time to time to make sure you catch everything.

There is a lot of debate on whether or not Macintosh owners need to run anti-virus software. Due to the nature of the Mac OS X operating system and the complete lack of viruses out for it at present, I do not recommend running anti-virus software. I do however recommend making sure that some filtering is done on email, either locally or by your provider, to make sure that viruses are not simply passed on to other users. This is especially important for people who exchange files with Windows users on a regular basis. If you insist on using one, give the freeware ClamXav a try. Of course this situation may change in the future.

Next time we will talk a little about the reverse side of security – making sure that users, be they young or old, don’t use your computer to access Internet sites or other resources that may be inappropriate.

Security thread masquerading as UPS email

Over the past several weeks, virus researchers worldwide have been tracking a high volume of fake emails purporting to come from UPS. These emails include an attachment, with a zip file that includes a malicious executable typically named something like “UPS_Invoice.exe”.

This Trojan was highlighted in a recent article in Security Center Magazine:

The emails typically include text similar to the following:

“From: United Parcel Service
Subject: UPS Tracking Number xxxxxx

Unfortunately we were not able to deliver postal package you sent on July the 1st in time because the recipient’s address is not correct. Please print out the invoice copy attached and collect the package at our office

Your UPS”

Generally, anti-virus engines have been able to keep up with this threat through new definition updates or heuristics. However, ongoing analysis of this Trojan shows that it continues to propagate in the wild due to highly aggressive methods used to evade detection. Test have also seen a marked increase in propagation over the past 24 hours.

Do not open or forward these emails! If your virus software is up to date it should catch them, but that is no guarantee. The best course of action is to be on guard.

I have already received at least one copy of this, so it is out there. If you have any questions, please ask!