An Easy Way to Stay Safer on the Web, with OpenDNS

Since this post is going to be a little technical, I’m going to start by defining some of the things that will be discussed.

DNS – Short for Domain Name System (or Service or Server), an internet service that translates domain names into IP addresses. Because domain names are alphabetic, such as askbillfirst.com, they’re easier to remember. The Internet however, is really based on IP addresses. Every time you use a domain name, a DNS service must translate the name into the corresponding IP address. For example, the domain name http://www.askbillfirst.com might translate to 208.109.14.108.

Domain Name – A name that identifies one or more IP addresses. For example, the domain name microsoft.com represents about a dozen IP addresses. Domain names are used in URLs to identify particular web pages.

URL – Abbreviation of Uniform Resource Locator, the global address of documents and other resources on the World Wide Web (www).

When you access the internet and type in a URL, the name you entered is sent to servers that translate the letters you typed into the corresponding IP address for that site. Generally, those servers are set by your internet provider. There is no filtering involved with these servers. Therefore, any website that you attempt to go to will pass back to you whatever it has on it, both the good and the bad.

Now, there is a way to set up your computer, or your network router, to protect you from visiting sites that may cause you problems. One company that allows you to filter web content, protects you from phishing sites, and other things is OpenDNS. OpenDNS is used for content filtering. It filters content based on categories of sites, such as gambling, pornography, social networking, humor, and more. These sites may not be malicious, but they could be considered unacceptable types of content. OpenDNS is often used in place of parental control software.

To set this program up you’ll need to modify your network adapter settings. If you use both wired and wireless connections, you’ll need to modify both adapters. If you want to set this up so it protects everyone on your network, you can make the settings in the router and they will filter to everyone on the network.

You can find the instructions for OpenDNS here.

These settings will work on both PC’s and Mac’s whether you set it at the pc level or the router level.

Do not use this in place of a good anti-virus, but use it along with a good anti-virus for an easy way to stay safer on the web.

UPDATE – Laura from OpenDNS informed me that ” OpenDNS actually works as a security filter as well. It protects you from phishing websites, as well as blocking Malware like the Conficker virus. We’re seeing a lot of users — both home and business — choose OpenDNS specifically for the security it provides.” Thank you Laura for that update.

Internet Explorer Compatibility with Chrome

If you use  Chrome as your primary browser, you may have run into an internet page that works best under Internet Explorer, or actually requires Internet Explorer. I ran into this the other day when I was helping someone with a problem they were having in Yahoo Mail, in which the right-click copy/paste function wouldn’t work in Chrome but worked fine in IE. In researching it, I found that this problem has existed for quite a while. A day or so later, I was logging onto a site and it wouldn’t load, only to find out that Chrome wasn’t a supported browser.

The answer to these problems is a  Chrome extension that works wonderfully – http://www.ietab.net/home (you’ll also see the link to the Firefox Add-In on this page). With this tool, you right-click on the page to have it rendered in Internet Explorer. When you right click, you’ll see a menu option for “IE Tab Options.  Under IE Tab Options, you can set which version of IE you want to emulate, from versions 7 to 9.

Email: Spam, Virus or Clean?

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot of emails being received that have a few lines of gibberish followed by a hyperlink, and often times a nice motivational quote. Many times, these emails are coming from someone you know. How are these emails getting past the spam and virus filters you have in place? Why isn’t your antivirus program stopping them?

Well, first, most of these emails are coming through as plain text, with no formatting like HTML emails have. Spam filters usually are looking for key words, phrases, or graphics. With these emails, often times there aren’t any “key” words that will trigger the filter. As for the virus, there usually aren’t any attachments, just a hyperlink, again, nothing that will trigger the filter.

The following is a sample of a text based email with normal words and a hyperlink. Also note that it’s not addressed to me but I received it anyway so it must have gone out to a group. Click on the examples that follow to see them full screen. They will open in a new window so when you’re ready to move back to the article, just close the image window.

It’s a lot more difficult getting an HTML formatted email through spam filters but some do get through. The following is an example for comparison sake between an HTML format and Text Only format:

And then there is the email trying to convince you that it’s okay to open the attachment to print or verify the information they’re telling you about in the email. In this case, the email is stating that I paid property tax on property in King County, where ever that is. Since I don’t remember doing that, maybe I should print the document to see what they’re talking about. Well, wouldn’t you? Except for the fact that none of the reference numbers match up, from the payment confirmation to the reference number to the number on the attachment, none match. Notice also that the attachment is zipped. This is a common method of hiding a virus to get it past the filters.

 

Well, I didn’t open it. It forwarded it on to scan@virustotal.com and in less than 5 minutes, I received the following report. Note that virustotal scanned the file against 40 some antivirus engines and most came back with no virus found…but 4 of them did find something. That was good enough for me. I deleted the email.

Image

I hope this helps clarify those emails you’ve been getting.

Oh, and by-the-way, if you get an email similar to the ones above from a friend, have them change their email program’s password as it’s possible that their email program has been hijacked.

25 “Worst Passwords” of 2011 Revealed – Yahoo! Finance

25 “Worst Passwords” of 2011 Revealed – Yahoo! Finance.

If you see your password below, STOP!

Do not finish reading this post and immediately go change your password — before you forget. You will probably make changes in several places since passwords tend to be reused for multiple accounts.

1. password

2. 123456

3.12345678

4. qwerty

5. abc123

6. monkey

7. 1234567

8. letmein

9. trustno1

10. dragon

11. baseball

12. 111111

13. iloveyou

14. master

15. sunshine

16. ashley

17. bailey

18. passw0rd

19. shadow

20. 123123

21. 654321

22. superman

23. qazwsx

24. michael

25. football

Users report Microsoft Security Essentials removes Google Chrome

By Ed Bott | September 30, 2011, 9:14am PDT – Full Article from ZDNet

Summary: Hundreds of users on Google Chrome Help forum this morning reported that Microsoft security products were identifying Chrome as a password-stealing Trojan and removing it. Update: Microsoft acknowledged the issue, posted a fix.

UPDATE, 10:00 AM PDT: Microsoft has identified the problem as being caused by a faulty definition file. This text has been added to the relevant page at the company’s Malware Protection Center:

On September 30th, 2011, an incorrect detection for PWS:Win32/Zbot was identified. On September 30th, 2011, Microsoft released an update that addresses the issue. Signature versions 1.113.672.0 and higher include this update.

PWS:Win32/Zbot is a password-stealing trojan that monitors for visits to certain Web sites. It allows limited backdoor access and control and may terminate certain security-related processes.

UPDATE 2, 11:15 AM PDT: A Microsoft spokesperson provides the following response via e-mail:

On September 30th, 2011, an incorrect detection for PWS:Win32/Zbot was identified and as a result, Google Chrome was inadvertently blocked and in some cases removed from customers PCs. We have already fixed the issue – we released an updated signature (1.113.672.0) at 9:57 am PDT – but approximately 3,000 customers were impacted. Affected customers should manually update Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) with the latest signatures. To do this, simply launch MSE, go to the update tab and click the Update button, and then reinstall Google Chrome. We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused our customers.

The response does not provide any guidance for Forefront customers who have been affected by this issue. I’ve also asked for clarification on the “approximately 3,000 customers” figure. If a Forefront installation covering hundreds or thousands of users is counted as a single customer, the actual number of affected PCs could be considerably higher.

Maybe My Password Isn’t As Strong As I Thought It Was

For years, we in the computer industry, have been telling people to create cryptic passwords that include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. We’ve been saying that if you replace certain characters with others, such as @ instead of “a”, or 3 instead of “E”, or ! instead of l, that chances of getting your password stolen are remote. Well, it would be remote, but with today’s technology, someone trying to break that password would have it figured out in 3 days with 1000 guesses/second, which is probably faster than you trying to remember what the password actually is.

A far better and safer way to create passwords is to string words together. Four random words, such as dogsbakewoodseat, would take 550 years with 1000 guesses/second to break, and would be much easier to remember if you use words that have meaning to you. The reason isn’t so much in the letters you use but is a combination of length as well as content. Most cryptic passwords are shorter than 8 characters because they’re hard enough to remember as is without them being longer. By using the word combination, you can make your passwords long and still be easy to remember.

I still recommend you using a different password for every site so with all of those passwords to try to remember you may want to use a password manager. I recommend RoboForm which allows you to save your passwords to your computer, or to the internet where they’re available just by clicking, when you need to log-in to a site.

If you want to see how safe some of your passwords are, or passwords similar to what you use, try them here, and see how long it would take someone to hack your password.

Fake Antivirus Industry Down, But Not Out — Krebs on Security

Fake Antivirus Industry Down, But Not Out — Krebs on Security.

Many fake antivirus businesses that paid hackers to foist junk security software on PC users have closed up shop in recent weeks. The wave of closures comes amid heightened scrutiny by the industry from security experts and a host of international law enforcement officials. But it’s probably too soon to break out the bubbly: The inordinate profits that drive fake AV peddlers guarantee the market will soon rebound.

During the past few weeks, some top fake AV promotion programs either disappeared or complained of difficulty in processing credit card transactions for would-be scareware victims: Fake AV brands either ceased operating or alerted affiliates that they may not be paid for current and future installations.

On July 2, BestAV, one of the larger fake AV distribution networks, told affiliates that unforeseen circumstances had conspired to ruin the moneymaking program for everyone.

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