computer security Archive

Edward Snowden Reveals Backdoors Planted by NSA Can be Leveraged by Outsiders

Whistleblower Edward Snowden is still captivating us with information that the NSA allegedly hides from us and one of the latest findings is what backdoors planted by the NSA can be leveraged by others. This information comes to us as Snowden uses a Beam telepresence robot at the TED Conference in Vancouver.

Snowden documents that were published back in September of 2013 uncover the “Bullrun” classified program, which is said to have a goal to break the encryption that is used to protect internet communications. Through such a program it is claimed that the NSA intentionally misleads corporate partners so they can safeguard the system but it is actually bad advice as it may degrade the quality of service.

In reality, as reports have recently said in regards to Snowden’s documents, backdoors are being built that not only the NSA can exploit, but others who have the proper resources and time can do also. This means those with the right tools could ultimately attack companies who are left vulnerable because of backdoors leveraged by the NSA.

“The NSA has traditionally worn two hats; it’s been in charge of offensive operations and defensive operations. Usually, it prioritizes defense over offense; American secrets are worth more,” Snowden explained.

Just the other week reports published by The Intercept showed that the NSA has processes that could enable them to plant malware on millions of systems around the world. With the use of backdoors leveraged by the NSA it could open up all sorts of outsiders to perform these malicious actions against companies potentially collecting private data that could allow cybercrooks to infiltrate online systems including banking systems.

The vast uncertainty and unknown realm of the NSA perpetuations almost everyday as Snowden documents are sifted through and other classified information is leaked.

Popularity: 7%

What is this Nagging ThinkPoint Rogue Anti-Spyware Program and How to Remove It?

thinkpoint-rogue-anti-spyware-programLast week when I booted up my Windows 7 machine I noticed this program called ThinkPoint displayed on my screen and started to get worried because it said I had several ‘files infected’. After further investigating, the situation I found out is that ThinkPoint is a fake security scanner or also known as a rogue anti-spyware application that was more than likely installed from a malicious download.

Little did I know, ThinkPoint was some type of malware that installed itself on my computer possibly from downloading harmful files from the Internet. I later discovered that the file ‘hotfix.exe’ listed in my task manager was related to ThinkPoint. Other security sites were able to confirm this finding. After my failing attempt to remove ThinkPoint from the ‘Programs and Features’ option in the control panel, the ThinkPoint application started to display another popup message that read:

Microsoft Security Essentials Alert
Potential threat details
Microsoft Security Essentials detected potential threats that might compromise your privacy or damage your computer. Your access to these items may be suspended until you take an action.
Click ‘Show details’ to learn more.
Detected items: Unknown Win32/Trojan
Alert level: Severe
Recommendation: Remove
Status: Suspended

By removing ‘hotfix.exe’ manually it did nothing to resolve those annoying popups from ThinkPoint. I knew that if I did not resolve this issue, I would have the biggest headache in attempting to restore all of my system files in the case that my PC became damaged. Basically, I resolved the issue by scanning and removing ThinkPoint and all related files with a trusted spyware remover. Not only did it detect ThinkPoint right away, but it was able to clean my PC of other spyware that I had no idea was on my computer. I was going to attempt to manually remove Think Point but my latest experience in deleting registry entries took up the better part of my day and having to restore my whole hard drive from last months full-system backup.

What is a rogue anti-spyware program such as ThinkPoint?

This is what I learned: Rogue Anti-Spyware programs are essentially fake computer security applications that are designed by hackers to trick us into thinking that the program has detected several parasites that must be removed by a full version of the program. In my recent case, rogue anti-spyware program was ThinkPoint and it offered a chance for me to purchase the full ThinkPoint application as a resolution to the popup notificaitons. The truth of the matter is that by purchasing ThinkPoint, you would not have given ThinkPoint the ability to remove any type of threats that may exist on your computer. Basically, Think Point is not able to remove computer parasites. It is more or less a sham used to extort money from you just like any other rogue anti-spyware application.

Have you experienced a similar situation or noticed the ThinkPoint application installed on your computer? Have you been successful at removing ThinkPoint from your PC?

Popularity: 11%

Video: Credit Card Skimming, ATM and Debit Skimming – It Happened to Me!

Do you ever fear that your credit card information can be stolen the next time that you use it? Well, I didn’t fear it much until today when I discovered that someone at Olive Garden charged up $170 after me and my daughter had dinner for Father’s day yesterday.

Somehow someone was able to clone or skim my credit/debit card that I used at the restaurant. The charges did not show up on my account until this morning and I have spent all day trying to get it resolved with my bank. The video below reminds me of what may have happened. It seems this is an epidemic across the country that could easily happen to anyone who uses a credit card.

Popularity: 5%

Trojans, Spyware, Worms, Viruses and other Malware: What is the Difference?

viruses-worms-trojans-spyware-malware-difference-1So you are just like everyone else and you are concerned about protecting your computer from malware parasites but you really do not know what the difference between a virus, Trojan, worm or other malware is.

You are not alone, the majority of computer users to not know what the difference in a virus, worm or Trojan is. Understanding what the difference between malware parasites may help you in avoiding them by selecting the right security application to detect and remove them.

What is Malware?

Malware is a term for malicious-software. Malware is a generalized term to describe different types of parasites such as viruses, worms, spyware and even Trojans. Malware can be anything that is designed to cause harm to your computer but not too specific to call a virus, Trojan or worm.

What are Trojans?

Computer Trojan programs usually appear to be one thing but have secret coding that instructs the computer to do something unexpected. In some cases a Trojan will open up a computer allowing remote access. This may present a case where the infected computer can be controlled remotely and instructed to perform illegal activities over the internet. Trojans can easily be removed with a detection tool provided that the definitions of the tool are up to date.

What are computer Viruses?

A computer virus can be described as a variation of malware but the main difference from any type of malware is viruses are known to copy themselves and be spread from one PC to another relatively easy. Viruses are usually attached to executable files targeting specific areas of your computer such as the master boot record. Viruses are usually created to damage your computer in that it can prevent stuff from running or operating correctly. Viruses can also block an anti-virus application and go undetected for large amounts of time while it wreaks havoc.

What are Worms?

Computer worms are a variation of a Trojan parasite that can ‘slither’ its way onto your computer through a network. The worm parasite gets is name because of its ability to sneak onto your system without notification through a network infecting every computer it is path. Worms also are able to exploit network vulnerabilities or holes within a network allowing outside access.

What is Spyware?

Spyware is a combination of software that is usually installed without notification or permission and clever coding that can either steal personal information or lead you to a source of monetary theft. Spyware is like its name, it is software that basically spies on you. Spyware is sometimes disguised as software designed to detect and remove other spyware but in reality it is a dangerous parasite that uses deceiving methods to trick you out of money. Those types of spyware programs will ask that you purchase a full or licensed version of the application to remove other spyware. This is a common trick for software that we refer to as rogue anti-spyware.

Does it every bother you when people call a malware by the wrong name?

Popularity: 25%

Facebook Faces Privacy Failures and Backfires

facebook-privacy-issuesI use to think that Twitter had all lot of privacy issues but lately it seems Facebook has become king of privacy backfires.

If you use Facebook’s chat feature then you may have noticed that today it was down due to maintenance. Well, I had to find out what was going on because I like to chat with my geeky partners via facebook chat from time-to-time and low-and-behold, Facebook was fixing a security hole that allowed others to view pending friend requests and chat history of friends.

A few sources including TechCrunch posted this issue today along with a demonstration video below. Among other security issues that Facebook has had blow up in their face lately, are issues that lets people view others events that they are attending via Facebook’s Graph API. That’s right, any old Joe Schmo could go to and search for anyone and view upcoming events that a specific person has accepted to attend.

As more and more people join Facebook, currently over 400 million members, they will start to find other security holes. Remember, nothing online is full-proof. There is always a way for a hacker, or your friend, to get a-hold of personal information. If you post it online, then you better be sure that you do not mind sharing it with the world.

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Targeting Hackers via Google Earth: Mapping Spam and Malware Hackers

SophosLabs, a security company that gets all types of malware and spyware information from around the world, has used Google Earth to map out where the latest spam and malware campaigns have initiated. I have to say, this is quite an unusual way of putting Google Earth to use. I can never recall a time that I actually used Google Earth for something other than my own personal enjoyment.

The map below, although it may look rather gross or like a bunch of red ants crawling over European countries, is an actual representation of locations of zombie computers according to SophosLabs.

photo credit: SophosLabs click for full-size image

I thought that this was worth sharing because SophosLabs took the effort to compile all of this data from other a years’ time to actually pinpoint the areas of zombie computers or those that have been taken over as a result from a malware or spyware infection. Usually these types of parasites are used to steal information from a computer arming hackers with enough data to log into computer user’s online banking accounts or even steal their personal identities. Crazy isn’t it?

SophosLabs even went as far as to create a video and upload it on YouTube demonstrating where spam comes from, mainly home machines located in UK and Europe. They even show examples of zooming into areas on the Google Earth map of where they suspect a piece of malware has originated from and then redirected to a website.

What do they do with all of this data? Who knows! Hopefully security companies can use this type of data to actually catch the perpetrators instead of notifying the public on where these hackers are located. Unless they plan on doing some house raids to confiscate the hackers’ computers, I really do not know how we will greatly benefit from this data right now. Nonetheless, this is pretty darn interesting.

Popularity: 11%