Category Archives: Security

Keeping your safe online

Ransomware: Another Reason for Back-Ups

Among the many kinds of wicked online traps that users must beware, one of the most vicious kinds is called “ransomware“. This is a generic term for a type of malicious software that encrypts all or the most useful of the victim’s files, making it impossible to open or do anything until a ransom is paid to the cybercrooks. As in many kidnapping cases, their demands can greatly escalate if not paid quickly. But even if the ransom is paid, the victim very often does not get what was taken back. Fortunately, this last summer, a particular nasty specimen called CryptoLocker was finally broken open by two Internet security firms, FireEye in California, and Fox-IT in the Netherlands. Once they recovered the encryption keys, they put up a free site, decryptcryptolocker.com, to help victims get their precious files back. The details of how they were able to do this are sketchy, but the opportunity apparently arose after an international effort by law enforcement agencies, Operation Tovar, successfully took down the GameoverZeus botnet. Since then other tools and policies to avoid infection have been developed. CryptoLocker is usually spread by email attachments but can also be spread through by malicious websites exploiting outdated browser plug-ins. More information about how it works can be found here. Though the malware itself is surprisingly easy to remove, decrypting files is not so easy. Thus the tools. There is, however, an easier way of dealing … Continue reading

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What Does Apple’s New Privacy Policy Mean?

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has recently been touting the company’s new privacy policy. In a letter to customers, he said that while the company collected user data, that was not the basis of their business model. In an obvious swipe at Google, he claimed: Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple. More importantly, he went on to write: I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will. In fact, Apple now claims the company is making it impossible for them to turn over data from most iPhones and iPads to police even with a warrant. They claim to have reworked encryption for iOS8 so that they no longer have the keys and thus cannot help authorities. In other words, only users have the passcodes to their accounts (which means if they forget them, they’re in real trouble). But is this truly as radical … Continue reading

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Dangers of Public WiFi

[Note: This is derived from articles originally published in the July and August editions of the SWCP Portal, our monthly newsletter. Due to the importance of the security information they contained, we're republishing them here for everyone.] Ars Technica tech news site recently warned that public WiFi hotspots can post a security risk to users. It’s not that the hotspots are themselves insecure. It’s the way most computers, tablets, and phones implement WiFi logins that poses a danger. AT&T and Comcast, among others, are promoting large networks of WiFi hotspots which are free for their customers to use. For example, AT&T’s free WiFi hotspots are available at McDonald’s and Starbucks. When you see the “attwifi” network at any of these places around the country you can log in with your AT&T login. The same goes for Comcast’s “xfinitywifi“. It’s as convenient as it is dangerous. The trick is that once you have logged in to one of these networks, your computer or tablet saves the login information so you can reconnect to these networks without entering a password the next time you are near one of their hotspots. This is the window that can let the bad guys in. What the criminal can do to the unsuspecting device owner is set up his own WiFi hotspot using the network name “attwifi” or “xfinitywifi“. But the crook’s hotspot has some tricks up its sleeve. First, it allows you to connect regardless … Continue reading

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