Sunday, February 07, 2010

Hack Me

Well it has been an interesting couple of weeks, my friends and some customers have found something quite concerning.

Once the result of wading through porn or clicking through spam emails to assist some poor African soul who just needs a small investment, the malware exploits are now coming to website near you.

One of my customers was the first to be blighted by this problem. This nice artist was merely searching a website to view some artists when they were confronted with a pop up window which came up centered on the screen notifying her that there was not any Anti Virus Software installed on the computer. In trying to close this window, a full screen browser window popped up showing a view of the computer being scanned with a bar showing the degree of completion of the scan which the computer was going through.

My customer called me and and asked for help, as this was early in January, I did not know how pervasive this exploit was in the wild so visited their home to try to help with this problem.

I looked at their computer and could not find any traces of true malware, but likely the security solution that I had installed helped to ward off the intrusion. They remarked that clicking anywhere on the window did nothing - which was good because the ports of entry for the exploit were probably blocked and the offending site was not able to penetrate the computer.

Subsequent to this issue, I have have had others come to me with a description of the same thing. Actually my girlfriend went to a local site to view the manicure pricing at a salon and got the same thing. Popup windows which indicated that the computer needed additional security software to make it run properly.

I then tested this exact site with our Macbook Pro, which runs snow leopard and indeed received the same popup. This would indicate that the hack is not related to specific operating systems, instead it is a browser exploit.

Last year I remember cleaning our Mac because a site was viewed when we used firefox on the mac and it was jacked.

So here is what I am recommending for base level security:

For Windows: use an anti virus program. This is the first step, although nearly unnecessary due to the way that malware is introduced to your computer today, the scanning functionality is helpful if you do get penetrated. My top favorite now is Microsoft Security Essentials which is a free application from microsoft if you have a legal version of windows (XP, Vista or Windows 7).

Install that as long as you can remove your existing anti virus program. If you have Norton or McAfee or AVG - you will need to uninstall using the tools which those manufacturers have on their websites as standard uninstall procedures will not remove all the tools that are packaged within.

Alternatives which I like are Avira, Avast and AVG. These are all free and seem to work pretty well. For the pay to use AV programs, I suggest Nod32 and Bit Defender. I have been able to be free of virus with these two programs but I am not sure that for most people it is necessary to buy these.

Secondly, you need a utility which will secure typical ports of entry for known malicious sites. My favorite there is Advanced System Care by IOBIT software. You can download this free from This fabulous tool has the ability to secure the aforementioned ports, clean your registry, clear your internet cache and history, defragment your hard drive and finally offers a suite of admin tools one of which, the start up manager is very helpful.

They make a pro version for around $20 but again for most users I find that the free version is all you need. This software will find basic worms, tracking cookies, and more, making it a very useful tool for typical windows users.

For Mac users, the typical exploits are more a nuisance and there does not exist much in terms of tools to eradicate malware. Snow Leopard (OS10.6) does offer malware resistance and likely this all that Mac users need.

Finally, it is necessary to update your security solutions regularly because the way they catch malware is by comparing known signatures (traits) and flagging them in your system. Also, update your operating system files as needed (pertains to windows, Mac as well as linux)to allow the OS patches to be applied.

Finally for Windows, make sure you have your firewall turned on. Typically this is a biggest defender for you that you have.

If you have any questions or need service let me know!

No comments: