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Smartphone Security: It’s Time to be Smart About It

Posted on: September 6th, 2011 by under Computer Security | No Comments

Smartphone SecurityAs the News International (Rupert Murdoch) phone hacking scandal proved, hacking into cell phone voice mails systems is not particularly difficult. Many people never change the default password or use easy-to-guess passwords. Unless you’re a celebrity, though, voice-mail hacking shouldn’t be a great concern. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other Smartphone Security issues to worry about.

First, there’s the issue of privacy. Just last April, a security researcher revealed that Apple iPhones were tracking user’s locations and transmitting the information back to Apple. Apple called it a “bug” and quickly fixed it in their next update and gave users the option to opt out of location services. This however, gave pause to many as they were left to wonder what other information is being collected by their cellphone providers. Government officials are wondering also, having opened a federal grand jury investigation looking into mobile apps and whether they are illegally collecting users’ private information.

Secondly, there is the growing concern over the appearance of mobile trojans and malware. Many business professionals use their mobile devices like portable PCs, yet they take few if any of the security measures they use on their PCs.  Apps containing trojans have appeared in several online marketplaces, including Android’s own.  Google had to remotely remove these rogue apps from user’s phones using Android’s “kill switch.”

Just as millions of smartphone owners have begun to regularly use their devices for business and banking, criminals are finding cracks in mobile security practices. The primary targets are online banking accounts, credit card numbers, email communications that may contain confidential information, even photographs.

What can you do? Here are some tips from F-Secure, a well-respected international security research and software firm:

1. Keep your system updated

Don’t take this for granted. Keeping your mobile operating system updated not only allow you to enjoy the latest offerings, but also helps to protect your security. Similar to a good practice with your personal computer, having your system up-to-date could prevent malicious attacks that take advantage of unpatched security holes or vulnerabilities.

2. Install a security application in your phone

As your mobile device functioning more like a mini computer, it becomes an increasingly attractive target for attacks or theft. And that situation calls for a need to protect your physical device and the data it contains. Our Mobile Security application for instance, offer features that help to safeguard your data, protect against threats and locate your lost or stolen phone.

3. Watch where you click and land

We anticipate that scams and phishing to obtain personal or credit card information will be the most active attacks on mobile users. Social engineering methods would be used to lure users into clicking on malicious links or to trick them into surrendering valuable information. So, check out if a website starts with “https” before you enter sensitive information.

4. Refrain from doing transactions on a public network

A public network is useful and may help you save on data charges. However, keep in mind that the public Wi-Fi that your phone is connected to might not be secure. Just to stay on the safe side, limit your activity to browsing and avoid committing any important transactions.

5. Install or obtain applications from trusted source

Part of the fun (and convenience) in having a smartphone is making use of various applications which let you do a lot of things. There are plenty of applications out there, and some are offered through independent, unmonitored channel. Be careful of what you installed and watch out for the source. Some of the sources may contain repackaged apps that contain malicious content.

6. Make it a habit to check each applications’ data access on your phone

Some applications may have access to your data or personal information. Be wary of the access that is outside of the scope or purpose of the applications. For example, a game application that has the access to SMS (read, write and send), calling, phonebook entries, and system files should trigger your suspicion for why it requires such access. If you have any doubt about an application, do not install it.

 

The days of worry-free mobile phone use are over. You are most vulnerable when connected to unsecured wireless networks. I highly recommend against doing any online banking or making credit card purchases under those conditions.

Don’t Think Hackers Target Small Business? Think Again…

Posted on: August 22nd, 2011 by under Computer Security | 5 Comments

Don't Think Hackers Target Small Business? Think Again...There’s a dirty little secret in the hacking community. While the “big score” can be had by going after Fortune 500 and multi-national companies, the odds of success without getting caught are slim. The easy money is had by going after small businesses.

Hackers Target Small Business:

Hackers know that small businesses often don’t have the resources or expertise to properly secure their systems. Whether it’s  your own network or your hosted website, they are being scanned non-stop by potential thieves looking for weak passwords or security holes. Once they gain access, they will often install difficult to detect software that will intercept all data being transmitted and forward it on to their own site.

Stealing credit card information that can be re-sold or used to make purchases is the primary goal. Identity theft and gaining access to online bank accounts are  close behind.

A 2010 survey by the National Retail Federation and First Data Corp. of small- and medium-size retailers in the U.S. found that 64% believed their businesses weren’t vulnerable to card data theft and only 49% had assessed their security safeguards. Talk about nice, ripe low-hanging fruit for the hackers…

On the web site front, current statistics estimate that every .65 seconds, a web page is infected with malware.

An agent in the FBI’s cyber division says that hackers targeting small businesses are a “prolific problem.” And, “It’s going to get much worse before it gets better.”

Proper security is all about creating multiple levels that have to be broken through. Think of a burgler approaching two houses. One is protected by a ten foot wall. The other has a ten foot wall, a ten foot barbed wire fence and a moat with man-eating piranha swimming in it. Which house will he try to break in to?

So, if you own or manage a small business, what do you do?

1) First priority should be installing a proper firewall, which does not mean a $99 home firewall you bought in the local office supply store. It also means hiring a professional IT technician to install and configure it. This is NOT a do-it-yourself job.

2) Don’t be lazy with passwords. Use strong passwords that are combinations of letters, numbers and special characters.

3) Every system needs to be running anti-virus and anti-malware software. While no one program is perfect, running without it is the equivalent of a hole in your barbed-wire fence.

4) Don’t skimp on backups – back up your systems daily at the minimum. And that includes your web site. Is your site being backed up? How often? Look into a free service from CodeGuard.

5) Talk to an IT security professional. In this technology crazed, always-connected world we live in, many people feel they know enough to  “do it themselves and save money.”  There are many areas where that may be true, but this isn’t one of them.

For the most part, you’ll only hear about computer security breaches when they involve large companies and thousands of potential “victims.” There may only be a handful of these every year. But every day, smaller businesses are being hacked and in many cases, enough damage is inflicted to close down the business. Don’t let that happen to you.

If you would like to read some more about this topic, including some real world examples of small businesses under siege, here are some good articles to check out:

Hackers Shift Attacks to Small Firms – Wall Street Journal

New Cyberattacks Target Small Businesses – USA Today

 

How to secure your Facebook and Twitter Accounts

Posted on: June 16th, 2011 by under Computer Security, Software | No Comments

You’ll be disappointed to know it’s surprisingly easy for malicious computer users to get access to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. It’s especially easy if you ever use unsecured wireless networks.

With the help of a program called Firesheep, (details here) anyone on the same wireless network can take over your accounts and cause mayhem. They can send profane messages as you, send links to virus-infected web pages to your friends and business associates, or just make you look like a fool.

While Firesheep requires the hackers be using acomputer, there is now a program for Android phones called FaceNiff (details here)  that will allow a hacker to do the same things right from his mobile device.

Fortunately, there is something very simple you can do to prevent this from ever happening: Turn on secure browsing.

 

How to turn on secure browsing in Facebook:

(Warning: This feature may slow your Facebook browsing experience. So you may not want to use it if you are in a secured network or use a VPN. )
Go to Account.
Go to Account Settings.
To the right of  “Account Security” click on “Change”.
Under “Secure Browsing (https)”, click the box that says “Browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) whenever possible”.

Note that if you use Facebook apps (a bad idea, in my opinion), they do not support secure browsing. So, when you use an app, you’ll see this message:

“WARNING: If you click continue, you are no longer in secured browsing. Whoops.”

When you are done using the app, you’ll have to repeat this process.

 

How to turn on secure browsing in Twitter:

While logged in to Twitter via a web browser, go to settings.
Next to “HTTPS Only ” click the box that says “Always use HTTPS. ”
Click “Save”.

Handy Computer Security Tips From People Who Should Know – the NSA

Posted on: May 22nd, 2011 by under Apple, Computer Security, Microsoft, Operating Systems | No Comments

When it comes to our computer systems, it’s pretty safe to say that everyone recognizes the need to be security-conscious. But how many of us really know what to do beyond setting passwords?

If you work in information security, you don’t need our help. For the rest of you, where do you begin? The task can seem daunting to the average user.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help you, even too many, probably. So where do you start?

Well, how about from the people responsible for securing the nation’s information – the National Security Agency (NSA).

From the NSA Mission Statement:

The Information Assurance mission confronts the formidable challenge of preventing foreign adversaries from gaining access to sensitive or classified national security information. The Signals Intelligence mission collects, processes, and disseminates intelligence information from foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and to support military operations. This Agency also enables Network Warfare operations to defeat terrorists and their organizations at home and abroad, consistent with U.S. laws and the protection of privacy and civil liberties.

Surprisingly enough, this agency that lives and breathes secrecy, publishes a wide range of security guides that are completely yours to use for free.

Whether you are an Apple, Windows or Linux user, there are two guides specifically for you at these links:

Operating Systems.

Best Practices for Securing a Home Network

For the main page where you can browse all of the guides (categories on the left), go to:

Security Configuration Guides

These guides are good starting points. Be proactive – don’t wait for something bad to happen.

 

Creating Private Folders in Microsoft Windows XP

Posted on: December 5th, 2010 by under Company News, Microsoft, Operating Systems | No Comments

Creating private folders in Microsoft Windows XP is a simple, if somewhat limited process. Here is a quick how-to on how to accomplish this.

There are two possible scenarios.

1) You want to make some folders accessible only when you are logged on with your user account.

2) You want to make some folders inaccessible to anyone without a password, including administrator.

Scenario 1:
•Open My Computer
•Double-click the drive where Windows is installed (usually drive (C:), unless you have more than one drive on your computer).
•If the contents of the drive are hidden, under System Tasks, click Show the contents of this drive.
•Double-click the Documents and Settings folder.
•Double-click your user folder.
•Right-click any folder in your user profile, and then click Properties.
•On the Sharing tab, select the Make this folder private so that only I have access to it check box.

Note

•This option is only available for folders included in your user profile. Folders in your user profile include My Documents and its subfolders, Desktop, Start Menu, Cookies, and Favorites. If you do not make these folders private, they are available to everyone who uses your computer.
•When you make a folder private, all of its subfolders are private as well. For example, when you make My Documents private, you also make My Music and My Pictures private. When you share a folder, you also share all of its subfolders unless you make them private.
•You cannot make your folders private if your drive is not formatted as NTFS. For information about converting your drive to NTFS, check here.

Scenario 2:

My Private Folder is a free Microsoft utility that can be used to password protect one folder per user (profile) applying encryption without resorting to full fledged EFS Windows Encrypting File System.

My Private Folder can be downloaded here, and the install is straightforward. The utility places a shortcut to the password protected folder in C:\Documents and Settings\ on your desktop.

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