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Category Archives for Security

Registry Mechanic Download and Review

Cleaning the registry of your computer is vital to its health and reliability. Manually going through and cleaning out your computer’s registry can be a nightmare! Deleting one listing in your registry can disrupt and even remove several other things on your computer. This is just one of the reasons you should get a registry cleaning software. The choices are endless when it comes to locating such a program, but finding the one for you might be easier than you thought. A popular, helpful and easy-to-use program to consider is Registry Mechanic.

Registry Mechanic is a PC Tools product and the most recent version is Registry Mechanic 8. This version is compatible with Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista 32-bit versions and Windows Vista 64-bit version. They also have a separate downloadable version of it for Windows 98.

www.pctools.com/registry-mechanic/

Download Registry Mechanic

Registry Mechanic’s download runs quick and very easily for even those new to computer using. You simply click the download button, select Run, pick the options you want installed with the program and follow the wizard to get it installed and running.

This is a well designed program for registry cleaning. I cannot stress enough how great it is for beginners and experts alike. Like other PC Tools programs, once Registry Mechanic has completed installation it will run an update to insure you have the latest version installed. Once you get that taken care of you are free to run the registry scan and repair anything found with a click of the mouse!

Registry Mechanic runs a thorough scan of your computer’s registry locating anything that could be harmful or suspicious. Along with locating these errors, Registry Mechanic locates missing or invalid references in your registry. Everything this program finds is listed on the results page with details and the option to view manually for further details. I trust this program because it is from PC Tools so I go ahead and use the Repair All button every time. This saves a great deal of time and effort.

Download Registry Mechanic

Registry Mechanic is an award winning program for several reasons. I give it 2 thumbs up and recommend it highly.

Botnets

Spammers and hackers today are very sophisticated when it comes to covering their tracks. Instead of sending spam or using their own computers to attack an orginization or individual they now employee Botnets.

 A Botnet is a collection of computers (that have been hacked and taken over) which a remote user can use to execute operations such as spam, DOS attacks and other types of mailicious activities.

To quote another article I recently read: “Joe St. Sauver, manager of security programs at the Internet2 networking consortium and the University of Oregon, said there are 5 million to 5.5 million botnets in active rotation at any time.”

Article: Botnets Running Rampant Neal Weinberg, Network World care of PC World

The best way to help prevent this from occuring for an end user is to keep your operating system up to date; Always have an updated virus software running (with a scheduled scan enabled weekly); Employee a good firewall.

I understand many of the computers that are part of Botnets are generally not an end user machines, but rather machines hosted in a public environment such as libraries, campuses and other public domains. Is there no IT staff available to monitor these networks?

Generally speaking the case is that the IT department is so understaffed, overworked, and under budgeted they simply don’t have the time or the money to implement the proper equipment which can detect and prevent this from occuring. That is if they have an IT department at all.

Look…We all know how to prevent most of this from occuring. I am by no means saying it will ever stop, because anything that can be secured can be hacked (it’s all a matter of time), but lets atleast try to secure our own computers.

If you would like more information on how you can secure your computer please follow this link to a previous article over best security practices I previously wrote. I hope it helps.

Windows Vista Sp1 Released

You may or may not have read my previous article over Vista sp1, but as a quick refresher I will outline a few entries.

The below portion is pulled from my previous post on the Sp1 subject. I just wanted to keep this information fresh in your mind if you are thinking of downloading Sp1 before other people have had a chance to feel the pinch (Beta testing). 

The word on the street (and in other articles) is the fact that Windows xp is faster at more operations than Vista sp1. According to Principled Technologies Inc. (Whom performed the testing at the request of Microsoft) Windows xp is faster than Vista sp1 at 61% of the operations grouped in a consumer test suite and in 46% of the operations in the business-oriented in a head-to-head competition on duplicate computers.

Aside from the performance factors another issue to consider is Microsofts’ service pack track record. Once again any admins will understand where I am coming from. It is not often Microsoft puts an extensive service pack out that doesn’t cuase issues with compatability.

Let it ride for a while! What I mean is you should allow others to install it first: then watch the forums for issues that have been discovered by other people after implementing Sp1. I can gurantee you feel a whole lot better knowing you weren’t effected. I’m not saying that you should never install Sp1, I am just saying you should wait a while. As with many service packs and patches provided by Microsoft they are there to plug holes that intruders may use to gain access to your computer.

If I could I would wait, unfortunately I have to endure the pain to find out if there are any compatability issues that need to be reported to clients. Thank goodness for my test bed of computers.

Microsoft Security Hole In Windows Vista and XP

  Microsoft is currently addressing newly discovered holes in the security of their Vista and xp operating systems. Most importantly a security vulnerability in Windows Vista and XP that could expose a computer to an early-season bite while you are connected to the Internet.

How it works is a hacker can broadcast rogue TCP/IP packets to any range of IP addresses. The rogue packets have the ability to circumvent Windows’ security and hijack a computer turning that computer into part of a Bot net. Bot nets are designed for spamming as well as launching self replicating worms and even worse ICMP attacks which can shut down servers.

Currently there have been no attacks using this vulnerability. Microsoft scrambled to make available a patch to secure this hole and it is currently available using the link below. The patch may already be applied to your system if automatic updates are turned on.

Click Here for The Microsoft Security Patch

Old Ploy-New Virus

Last seen in 2006 another virus known as “Ransomeware” is trying to extort US $300 from users. The virus apparently encrypts your personal files.

After your files have been encrypted the virus then copies a file named read_me.txt  to the PC. This text file simply contains a ransom note which demands the user buy their software for $300 in order to decrypt the files.

The virus states that it uses a RSA-4096 algorithm with a 4,096-bit key. This is surely just a ply to extort money, but apparently the files do have some sort of encryption.

As well the virus seems to only have a limited shelf life from July 10 to July 15, but knowing the past actions of the hackers that create of these viruses it is likely we will see another variant.

Apparently Kaspersky is working on a decryption scheme to save these files. If you are ever infected by such a variant remember it is vary unlikely that paying the ransom will get the hackers to release your files.

Always keep your virus software up to date and run a frequent full system scan. Backing up your data to a secondary location can save your files as well. 

Selecting a Proper Password

How secure are the user names and passwords you have selected? In this article we will outline a few things to consider when selecting passwords for computer or online accounts.

Here are a few guidlines to consider.

Do NOT use the same password for multiple accounts. Ideally you should not use the same user name or password for any account.

Use long passwords which employ at least eight characters with a combination of numbers as well as lower and uppercase letters.

Often hackers use utilities designed to randomly generate letters and numbers. These utilities try different combinations of letters and numbers and will attempt to randomly guess passwords in multiple attempts over a selected time period until the password and user name are found.

Do not use common names such as titles, well known names or nicknames. This includes the names of your children, pets or the model of your vehicle.

The biggest mistake I see is people using default passwords such as “password”. If your account has a default password change it immediately.

When selecting numbers to use do not select birthdays, social security numbers or any easy to remember number that may be associated to you.

The best practice would be to randomly generate unique user name and passwords. There are many programs available which can generate and store user names and passwords, and then store this information in a password protected database. Once again if you use these types of software be sure to make your initial password at least eight characters with upper and lower case lettering and include numbers.

Back To Work

Does anyone else find it hard to pick up work after vacationing? Having completed a weeks worth of vacation I am back to the grind….well….sort of.

I am using this day to read up on new stories and technologies for new content on the site. Please bare with me while I compose myself and get my head out of the vacation cloud. Of course this is not easily done…

As you can see from the last post we are now taking posted questions to better serve our users. As well I would like to add if there is a new technology or concern you would like for me to address please post a comment to this blog. I would be happy to research and address topics for our users.

After all….It is you the end user for which we create the content.

Windows Live One Care

Windows Live One Care is a utility designed by Microsoft to scan your computer for several different issues. Live One care scans your computer for unnecessary temporary files, invalid registry entries, open ports, malware, and even checks your hard drive to see if defragmentation is necessary.

The service is free for ninety days after which time there is a required yearly fee of $49.95 to maintain a subscription. Microsoft has deployed this utility to help users maintain security and functionality of their computers.

If you decide to acquire use of this utility they do require you uninstall any third party virus or firewall applications. If you have already purchased one of these types of applications this can be problematic as you will lose the use of the paid subscription to the third party service.

Overall this utility seemed to work well. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any detailed information as to what the scan has found. When trying to review the registry entries that were flagged as errors I could not locate any detailed information on the entries and what they may relate to.

Microsoft seems to counter this by stating if you have any undesirable effects to use system restore which will reverse any registry changes. This seems to be counter productive.

Before deciding to use this service you may want to read the installation requirements document by clicking here.

Windows live One Care may be a useful utility if you do not own software that already performs these functionalities. To review more detailed information concerning this product you may visit the Windows live One Care web site by clicking here.

Vista Parental controls

Finally Microsoft added a feature that is much easier to use than previous utilities to help parents monitor youth activities.

Although features such as this have previously been embedded into the Windows operating system it is not until now that they have been so easy to use. If you have ever configured the Internet Explorer content adviser you know what I am talking about. Another aspect to these utilities that were previously not available are the reporting features.

Microsoft has embedded all the previously available utilities into an easy to use interface and added some new unique features.

With the release of Vista you now have the following abilities to monitor and control how your children interact with the computer and the Internet.

Web restrictions.

 You can restrict the websites that children can visit, make sure children only visit age-appropriate websites, indicate whether you want to allow file downloads, and set up which content you want the content filters to block and allow. You can also block or allow specific websites.

Time limits.

You can set time limits to control when children are allowed to log on to the computer. Time limits prevent children from logging on during the specified hours and, if they are already logged on, they will be automatically logged off. You can set different logon hours for every day of the week.

Games.

You can control access to games, choose an age rating level, choose the types of content you want to block, and decide whether you want to allow or block unrated or specific games.

Allow or block specific programs.

You can prevent children from running programs that you don’t want them to run.

Finally you don’t have to purchase a third party application to monitor and control access to content. Being a father myself I can definitely say I will be interested in learning more about how well parental controls work. I hope Microsoft continues to develope this new utility.
 

Another Feature of Vista

Here as of late I have been writing about some of the features of Windows Vista. This article reviews the bitlocker feature.

Although this utility is not entirely new as it was released previously with Windows 2000 and has been improved upon.

The bitlocker utility can encrypt a hard drive so that if your computer or drive has been stolen the data is less likely to be accessed by prying eyes.

Although no one is quite sure how secure this utility may be as it has not been fully tested by the rest of us. Of course Microsoft will document it as a secure feature they have done so in the past.

Once the general public gets their hands on it thats when it will really be tested. As we know with previous supposed secure features this isn’t always the case.

Just like the SAM database which is supposed to secure user accounts and passwords it as well has been fooled before with those nifty Linux boot disks…The bitlocker utility may as well fall victim of such a utility.

I do have to say kuddos to Microsoft for adding the feature because it can atleast protect your data some what and may reveal itself as a well built security utility.

If you have any experiences to share about this utility…Whether it be good, bad, or otherwise please post a comment and share your experience.