Archive for the Red Alert Category

Protect Yourself – A Black Network of Corporate Vigilantes Are Connecting to Your PC, and Stealing Data, To Incriminate You

Posted in Network Monitoring, Privacy, Red Alert, Security, System Monitoring, Utilities on December 14, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

There is a gap between today’s technology and legislation to protect your privacy. Technology has moved so quickly that the Internet is a largely ungoverned place, and most of us would prefer it to stay that way. However, this new frontier may expose computer users to an invasion of our privacy that could end up costing us a bundle or possibly even land us in jail. It is likely that today your computer will be queried by over a dozen computers who are downloading copyright data (and who knows what else) from yourLiberty computer without your knowledge or permission. But these are not hackers or criminals, at least they are not organizations that you would normally consider hackers. I was shocked when I saw who the corporations that owned the list of blocked IPs. It is a who’s who of the computer industry and it bothers me that they are taking establishing what I would call a “covert connection” to my PC and downloading data from me. I’m willing to bet that nearly every PC has a few files on them that technically belong to someone else and contractually speaking, are illegal for you to have. You might not be using these files or you might not even be aware these files exist on your PC but you are responsible for having them and if they get redistributed you could be on the hook for more dollars than you care to think about. I’m not comfortable interpreting this “movement” or “trend” as being related only to copyrighted music either. It could reach into video clips (Youtube, Google…) , software evaluations and shareware programs, pictures, articles… anything that has the potential to be copyrighted. When the going gets tough, cash is tight, and companies will look to whatever source of income they can find. But the real issue isn’t whatever scenario I can come up with or whether you think you could possibly be liable for something, the real problem is the invasion of privacy and the question if search and seizure laws apply. I consider the data on my PC as my personal property. I’ve taken measures to lock it down and secure it. It disturbs me that corporations can establish a “hidden connection” to my PC and steal my data. But the straw that “breaks the camels back” in this situation is that they can use that data to incriminate you in a court of law! It is unthinkable that our society considers this process legal and it has to change. An equivalent example in the physical world would be if a private organization (not even the police) could break into your home and look for information to prove that you are guilty of something against the law and use that information in a court of law to incriminate you. In the real world this isn’t just trespassing and a violation of your privacy but it is a criminal activity and in most cases it would be classified as a felony. Our privacy laws exist to protect you from a person or an organization, old glorywhich may have self serving motives, from becoming too powerful. As discussed, in cyberspace organizations are breaking into your private area (your computer) and gathering whatever data they can (without your permission or knowledge), with the intention of using that data to incriminate you in a court of law. Unfortunately it is perfectly legal for them to gather this data now because our laws have not caught up to the unique environments the Internet has created.

So we need to protect ourselves and luckily there are organizations working to keep track of these issues and building programs to enable users to stop the offending sites from connecting to your PC. I tried several programs and the best solution I found is Peer Guardian2. These programs work from a large list of IP addresses and the need to update and process those lists can be resource intensive. Most of the other programs I tried took an enormous amount of resources to run but Peer Guardian2 ran well and didn’t max my system out even when it was updating the lists (which is the most intensive cycle). There are some issues in compatibility with some of the popular firewalls (specifically Outpost and Macafee’s Black Ice). However, it runs well with the Sygate firewall which is my Best of Breed pick. If you have questions about compatibility you should check out their FAQ. Peer Guardian2 also has a lite version that takes even fewer resources to run. Regardless of the resources I’m recommending that everyone download, install, and run Peer Guardian2. If you need to use a different firewall, make the change. If you need to spend 70 bucks and add some RAM it’s worth it (you probably need it anyway). It would probably be pushing it to run Peer Guardian on a PC with only 512k of RAM on it and I’m guessing it would choke on a CPU with 256k. However, If you’ve got more than 512k you will be fine.

One minor issue: I am currently having trouble getting the primary P2P list to update but I hope to resolve the issue and I don’t want to my readers to wait. Protect yourself! We all owe the developers working on Peer Guardian2 a thanks for developing the software. They do accept donations so if you really value the work they are doing please support them.

You can download Peer Guardian2 from the link below. It is in BETA but it is working well.

http://phoenixlabs.org/pg2/

If you are interested in reading about copyright infringement or if you have received a letter from a recording company you can check out this FAQ.

http://wiki.phoenixlabs.org/wiki/Infringement_FAQ

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RED ALERT – SoftwarePile – PCwin – Program = Icon Editor

Posted in Download Management, Graphics, Red Alert on September 9, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

RED ALERT: SOFTWAREPILE and PCWIN

SCAM SITES – Scam sites that are too well done.

http://www.softwarepile.com

PCWIN is also part of the scam and the website is not quite as convincing. I’m mad at myself for downloading the original file from them if you read the descriptions of the product on their site you can tell it is fake. It did raise a red flag to me but I went forward because of the website url that I thought was strong name and the site had extensive formatting.  

http://pcwin.com/

I would stay away from both sites. If you want to see how creepy these sites are go a head and visit them but I’d make sure your ‘noscript’ extension is on and don’t download anything from them.

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I just had a bad experience with a product named ‘Icon Editor’ which I originally downloaded from

http://pcwin.com/Audio/Icon_Editor/report.htm

Which is a download site named PC Win. When I installed it my desktop went blank, I thought it had crashed, and after about a minute it slowly came back. Then my web browser started (I did OK it through my firewall, but every product now requires me to OK it) and it brought me to a site named ‘Pando’. After reading through some of the information I figured out that Pando is a peer to peer application. I was angry that it had installed it on my PC without me asking for it and I was worried about what else they may have installed on my system. I scanned all files associated with the download and install with avast and they all passed (thankfully). Then I tried to run the program I originally wanted but I got an error saying:

‘component actsplash.ocs or one of its dependencies is not correctly registered: one of its files is either missing or invalid.’

I decided to go to check out the application at the developers page and I was surprised to find a nice looking, well designed web site at this address:

http://www.softwarepile.com/icon_editor.html

So I downloaded the product again. The file I downloaded had a slightly different name and when I installed it I was given an option that asked me if I wanted to install Pando, when I selected no it told me that some of the features of ‘Icon Editor’ may be disabled. Of course, when I ran Icon Editor I got the same error. I doubt they really even have that type of product.

Both products have now successfully uninstalled from my system (I think) and I hope that they have not placed any malicious files on my CPU. I am concerned because these are the signals that scream SCUM BAGS THAT WILL CHEAT AND STEAL IF YOU LET THEM. So I’ve got to check my system out really carefully. Even if I find out they didn’t put any other files on my CPU I’ve still got a problem with them because they cost me a couple of hours of work.

This company SoftwarePile has a lot of other products. I’m not sure if they are real products or not. What makes these guys so dangerous is the quality of their website. They truly look like a reputable company. Usually you can spot hack jerks by the quality of the website because they don’t normally invest the time necessary to create something good just for a temporary scam.

So watch out for these people. I just found the installation file name and it is siicoe.exe.

Oh great… I went back to their site to see what other products they offered and found the following ‘spy software’:

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:: Free Spy Message ::

The Spy Message is easy-to-use, reliable and powerful tool for protecting important information that you don’t want others to see.

With SpyMessage you can encrypt and hide your text message into an image without any changes in its resolution or size.

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I guess I’ve got a lot of work to do. 😦 I’m angry at myself for falling for these guys but they have such a polished scam I’m afraid that nearly everyone would make the same mistake. So I want to make sure I spread the word to my readers.