Archive for the Security 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.

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.


GDrive – Google Hard Drive – 2GB, Searchable, Backup Space…

Posted in Disk and File Mgt, Download Management, Google, Security, Utilities on September 15, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

When Gmail really opened up their doors and allowed anyone to sign up for an account I created one for each of my children and another one for me. This meant I had 5 gmail accounts each with 2gb storage limit (total 10gb) and I remember thinking that it would be a real asset if I could use it. I’ve found a freeware program that really makes gmail accounts efficient for file storage. gmaildrive

All you do is install this and it creates a gmail hard drive. So it shows up in explorer as C:\My Computer\GmailDrive. Click that drive and it asks you to login to your Gmail account and you check the box that tells it to keep you logged in. Then you can just drop files on that gmail drive and it takes care of sending them to your gmail address as an email (totally transparent to you) and it works pretty quickly. I have not tried it with super large files, I think Gmails new attachment cut off is 20mg so I’m sure it will not work with a file much larger than 20mg. It does not move the file that is dropped on it, so that file still exists on your PC, it just copies it and sends it to gmail behind the scenes.

I normally wait to write about new freeware until I have the opportunity to test it for a while but this is such an important breakthrough for everyone that I thought I should tell you about it right away. This program will really improve the home user’s ability to backup important files easily and quickly and then having a great way to search for those files on the front end is truly wonderful. The fact that you don’t have to deal with setting up where to save the files to and how to retrieve them or deal with any of part of that is a really wonderful thing. All you have to do is have a Gmail Account, install this program, and start dropping files on it and everything is free of charge to you! I can’t say enough good things about this program and what it means to myself as a home user.

ps – If you don’t have a Gmail account yet I really think you should sign up for at least one. Even if you don’t plan on using it for email, you should grab it for the space. You’ll also have access to blogger and picassa (photo storage) and a whole bunch of other Google stuff (Google Groups, Google Reader (newsreader)…. Just go to and sign up… it is quick, easy, and very beneficial.

Lost Your Cookies – Password Exporter Saves Day

Posted in Firefox, Firefox Extension, Security, Utilities on September 12, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

password-exporter.jpgIt makes a lot of sense to be able to view, export, and archive the passwords you have put into all the different websites you’ve visited. I’ve run into situations where I’ve deleted my cookies by mistake with one of those ‘cleaners’. I’ve done the same thing with products that advertise themselves as utilities to preserve your ‘privacy’. To sum things up, there are a variety of ways you delete your cookies and once you’ve ‘lost your cookies’ you’ll loose your temper unless you can find your passwords.

Luckily, it is an easy thing to resolve. Download this extension and know that you’ve got your rear end covered.

When it Comes to Firewalls – Tried is True – Sygate Returns

Posted in Disk and File Mgt, Download Management, Network Monitoring, Security, System Monitoring, Utilities on September 12, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

I checked out Comodo, ran it for over a month, and in that month I had to de-install it 3 times and I went through at least one Comodo required reboot every week and when I was having trouble sometimes I would do three in a day, but today I was in a rush and had to get some things done so when I got the dreaded message about my session being reset I’d had enough and I quickly de-installed it and reinstalled Sygate.

Maybe Comodo is technically a better firewall at keeping out everything you could possibly run into on the net but maybe the effort that goes into attaining that rigid level of security is too much. You have to draw the line somewhere and Comodo requires too much management. Those tasks eat into productivity and spending all day working on your firewall defeats the purpose of being secure. I really wanted Help MeComodo to work and I tried very hard to stick to my selection but I wouldn’t want my readers going through the hassles that I’ve had to. I’ve never had a problem from Sygate letting something bad through and I’ve never had to de-install it because I’d answered “no” to one of it’s approval prompts. I’m going to keep looking at firewalls because Sygate has ceased development on the product but for now I’m going back because it works 99.99% of the time and that is good enough for me and just about everyone else too. The thing that is really annoying is that Comodo’s GUI tells makes it look like I’ve corrected the issue and things should run but the only way to get my Internet connection up and running again was to de-install it and that just isn’t acceptable.

I’ve had a long history with Sygate, for those of you who are new to my issues with Firewalls please continue to read below. Or if you just want the to download the most practical Firewall I’ve been able to find you can just download it from this link.

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CYA – Get Cozy With Mozy – Have You Been Saved Yet?

Posted in Disk and File Mgt, Security, Utilities on September 11, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

mozy.jpgThose who read my blog regularly know (because I mention it too often) that I went through a hard drive crash about 6 months ago.  It was a nightmare but it was made a little easier by the fact that I had been running Mozy against ‘my documents’.  I didn’t get back what I expected.  They don’t replace your image files but they did save my butt by replacing all my spreadsheets and text documents.  Not bad for a free service.   You get 2GB of free backup space and that goes a long way if you are just backing up ‘my documents’.  Especially if you fence off your Music and Photos.  It is true that most people require more than Mozy’s free service to adequately backup their PC’s but Mozy is sure better than nothing and it is enough to limp along on if you don’t want to spend some pretty significant bucks on another hard drive or a fee based backup service.  Especially when you consider the free space that is available on the Internet now.  You can push important image documents out to Picassa, Flicker, or Microsoft’s Live Space.  I’m working to scan and store most of my important files on the Internet.  So even someone who should know better, like me :), can get along without spending any money for a backup solution if they are anal about keeping up with a plan.  A word of caution, even if I am careful, I don’t have any way to backup my program files but the good news is that I’ve got all the download locations saved on this site and all my software is free!!  So I’ve got that covered as well!  

Mozy will install 2 processes that run all the time but it is just a scheduler and I shut them both down frequently.  I reboot enough to stay reminded about turning the service back on.  It notifies you if you have not backed up your files in 7 days.  The download and setup are painless and the backup isn’t too bad on your resources either.  All things considered, Mozy is a great service.  They saved my butt so I owe them one.



Pirate Talk – Avast Ye Matie – The Best Anti-Virus Package in The World

Posted in Download Management, Network Monitoring, Security, System Monitoring, Utilities on August 27, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

I am truly amazed and appreciative of the quality that Avast provides to it’s home users free of charge. The Avast suite is a “first class” anti-virus package. I know no better and I’ve seen most. Being an anti-virus vendor, you must establish and continually provide a vigilant relationship with your customer and Avast constantly updates their virus database and they do it as transparently and efficiently as possible for both fee and free customers. I can’t thank Avast enough for the value they provide to us free users consistently. Every home and business user should run Avast. I have no doubt, they are the best, so install their software and put your Virus troubles behind you.

More information from Avast

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Breedlink: Download avast! 4 Home Edition FREE Download.

Wipe Your Disk Free of Clingons

Posted in Network Monitoring, Security, Utilities on August 27, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

SpyBot Search and Destroy

Spybot is a very popular adware and virus scanner. Spybot is an essentialBlueface - Spybot part of any home computer system. The GUI is pretty intuitive so download it, learn what it does, and your computer will benefit. I don’t spend much time protecting my PC from all the crap that is out there. If you take a few precautions (running spybot 1 time a month is one of them) you shouldn’t have any trouble either.

The latest version (1.4) of Spybot has a ‘tea-timer’ which is a process that runs in your system tray and notifies you of any changes to the registry and allows you to approve or deny them. It’s a small process that is worth the cycles. Spybot also ‘immunizes’ your system against a lot of the spycode that is out there. It’s common sense to for any computer connected to the Internet to be running Spybot.