; ; September 2011 | Computer & CellPhone TIPS, TRICKS, TWEAKS

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Maintaining your Mac

Mac and the OS X are very stable and reliable. However, if you want your Mac to work perfectly you have to maintain it properly. Most of the errors and glitches that happen to your mac are caused by incorrect permissions table. Mac OS X as a UNIX based system has a UNIX way of handling the files. UNIX as a multi-user system has a special way of manipulating file access. (More about file permissions you can read here). When the new software is installed on your Mac or you did some other system tweaks, it's very likely that permissions will mess itself up so you wont be able executing applications or it may happen that your mac is acting weird. The easiest way of fixing permissions is by using Mac OS X "Disk Utility" which can be found in /Applications/Utilities folder.

Fixing permissions is recommended before and after installing any software to your mac as well as installing any software updates. There are various software available on the Internet to help you keep your Mac maintained and in a "good health". Software such as Onyx or Cocktail are doing a great job by not only repairing and verifying permissions for you but also cleaning the internet history,cache,temporary files and running optimization scripts.

If you for some reason are unable to boot your system,before you do anything like re-installing the OS, try pressing command + S on the system boot-up and it will get you into console mode. Type in /sbin/fsck -fy and hit enter. Do that couple of times until it doesn't say "System Modified". Before you use "fsck" command, I advise you to open terminal, type in man fsck and read the manual page carefully. Not all software errors are as easy to fix by using methods above. Some errors and system misbehaving can indicate serious hardware failure so if the problems persist, the best is to take your mac to an authorized Apple service for a check-up.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How to Dual-Boot Windows 7 and Windows 8 On the Same PC

If you want to try out the new Windows 8 but don’t have a CPU that supports virtualization, check out our guide on how to get all the goodness of Windows 8 along side Windows 7 by dual booting.

The scenario: you are in a situation where you have Windows 7 installed and you really want to try out Windows 8, but your PC does not support virtualization and you don’t want to have to format since Windows 8 is still in pre-beta and the chances are that there are some things that are broken. The only option you have here is to dual boot. The only thing that is required in order to dual boot is a hard drive with at least 20 Gigs of free space, it will work with a bit less but this is the minimum we recommend.

Dual Booting Windows 7 and Windows 8

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

7 Tips For Buying Cheap Laptop

Laptops are gaining in popularity these days. Almost everyone is carrying one now either for work or entertainment. Laptops with the latest technology are introduced to the market everyday and these new laptops come with a huge price tag. However, that does not mean you cannot get a good and cheap laptop. I have put together a guide that may help you out in your hunt for a cheap and good laptop.

Buy cheap laptop with older technology
Rapid advance in technology makes it meaningless to buy the latest technology at a high price. When laptop with wireless capability first came to the market, a unit with this technology can cost up till US$2500. NOw after 2 years, you can get a relatively fast centrino laptop for less than US$1000

Buy used or refurbished laptop
The depreciation of a laptop value is so high, that after one year in the market, a laptop can easily lose half its value. So if you are looking for a cheap laptop, look for one which is close to one year old. Not all used laptop are in bad condition. You will be surprised to find that some used laptops are still in good condition because their owners are power users or gamers.

Buy laptop from power users or gamers
I like to buy electronic gadgets including laptops from hard core power users or gamers. Let me share with you why. Gamers or power users usually require the latest and most powerful technology to run their games or power hungry applications. They often will not settle for second best. They also have the tendency to chase after the latest technology. So after one year, they will be bored of what they have and will look to sell off their laptops so that they can buy a new one. Now if you are looking to buy cheap laptops with up to date technology and you happen to have friends who are gamers, do ask them if they are looking to sell off their laptops. Who knows, maybe you can buy a good and cheap laptop from them.

Scan through gaming forums and local gaming community
if you do not already have friends who like to play computer games, then scanning through gaming forums on the internet is another way to get good and cheap deals for used laptop. Internet makes it easy for you to do this. Go to google.com and start searching for gaming forums. Visit each and everyone and see if they have a Trading Section. You will definitely find many post from gamers looking to sell their gaming laptops.

Scan through local bulletin boards
Do scan through local bulletin boards near you for cheap deals on laptop.Especially if there are software companies around the area. Software companies do offer their used computers or laptops for sale when their software projects end. I personally had gotten a few good deals for my family and friends.

Look for cheap laptop with at least 512mb memory
This is especially important for used laptop. If the processor speed is slow, then having more memory can compensate for the lack in speed. In fact, The size of memory plays a big part in determining how fast a laptop runs an application. Just by increasing the memory size, you can see a huge difference in speed. A cheap laptop with at least 512mb memory can run most non graphic intensive application easily.

Get cheap laptop from reputable manufacturer
This is very important because if you are buying used laptop, then the chances of requiring servicing is higher than a new laptop. So if you buy from a reputable manufacturer, you will save alot of trouble and time if your laptop do require servicing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

5 Reasons To Purchase Desktop Computers

If you are in the market for a computer, there are a number of factors to consider.  Will it be used for your home, your office or perhaps even your home office combo?  First off, you will need to set a budget for your new purchase before deciding whether to shop for notebook or desktop computers.  Many offices use desktop computers because they are not intended to be moved around a lot.  In addition, affordability often plays a large role in someone’s decision as to whether to purchase notebook or desktop computers.

While you are shopping around, it’s important to keep in mind some of the benefits that go along with owning different types of computers.  To that end, this article provides five important reasons to purchase desktop computers.

1 Desktop computers are typically much more affordable than notebook computers.  With notebooks, you are paying more for the convenience of portability.  For as little as $299.00, desktop computers can be purchased from one of the leading manufacturers and a notebook computer for as little as $499.00.

2. Unlike notebook computers, replacing a keyboard, mouse, speakers or even a monitor does not require having your computer serviced by a professional repair shop.  Because notebook computers have everything built in, including the aforementioned features, it is more difficult to replace a keyboard or monitor as opposed to desktop computers, which operate on external connections.

3. In the event of an unlawful entry into your home, desktop computers are not as likely to be stolen because of their weight and bulk.  Notebook computers, on the other hand, are small and portable.  This, alone, makes them more appealing to a thief than desktop computers.

4. Desktop computers are stationary by nature.  Unlike a notebook computer, which can easily be moved from room to room, they are less likely to be dropped or broken because they are not moved as often.

5. The vents on desktop computers are located on the back of the tower, which allows for proper ventilation that will help to prevent the computer from overheating.  Notebook computers, on the other hand, feature only one vent on the back with the remaining underneath the base.  If placed on a table, the air vents can become blocked and the computer may overheat.  If prolonged use leads to overheating, damage may result.

When choosing from the many desktop computers on the market, always make sure that you purchase from a manufacturer who has experience in creating computers.  Even though they are more affordable than notebooks, desktop computers are not cheap.  With an investment that involves several hundred dollars, you will want to consider the length of time the manufacturer has been in business, their reputation with customers and their warranty. 

Additionally, when choosing any system, including desktop computers, always look at the potential for future upgrading.  As you grow, you will want your computer to grow with you and a part of that will include a slight upgrade from time to time.  This is the only way to get the best use of your desktop computers and make sure that your investment is one that lasts for years to come.

A Safer Way to Recover Damaged Partitions

Repairing damaged partitions on is a risky business. Even if you use the best toolkit and are absolutely sure in what you are doing, you are still risking your files shall something go wrong. Changes made to the damaged partition are irreversible; it is just too easy to overwrite an important system structure that holds vital information about your disk, files and data. Bottom line: it's good to backup before performing data recovery. But is this really the best way to do it?

There is a different approach to do data recovery that is even safer. No need to backup and restore during the recovery. Instead of making a backup copy of corrupted data, you can simply take a binary snapshot of the partition being repaired, and attempt the recovery with different settings as many times as you need on this snapshot instead of the actual disk.

SoftAmbulance Partition Doctor by http://softambulance.com/ is one of a few data recovery tools that allow recovering a virtual image of a damaged hard drive instead of repairing the hard drive directly. The data recovery tool lets you create a binary image of the damaged hard drive, and works with the binary image instead of the real thing. The binary image is a big file stored on another hard disk, CD, DVD or other media. The technology is similar to making an .iso image of a CD or DVD disc, only SoftAmbulance Partition Doctor extends it to partitions or even entire disks.

The hard drive copy may be virtual, but any data you save from it is for real. SoftAmbulance Partition Doctor can recover your files, documents and other data from the binary image and put it on a healthy media. After that, you can attempt fixing the damaged system structures of the corrupted hard drivewithout taking any risk at all. Any modifications will be performed on the virtual image.

Don't rush the recovery. Don't take the risk of losing or corrupting your data. Create a virtual snapshot of the hard drive being repaired, and work on that snapshot instead of accessing the corrupted hard drive. This procedure keeps your original data safe, and ensures the highest level of safety during the recovery process.

SoftAmbulance Partition Doctor recovers files from damaged and corrupted disks and partitions and fixes damaged hard drives. The disk recovery product supports all 32-bit versions of Windows, and recovers FAT and NTFS formatted hard disks, memory cards, CD and DVD media, and USB flash drives. The evaluation version is available for free at http://softambulance.com/

Protect Your Data with an External Backup Drive

Computers are a very important part of our society, both in a business environment and personally. Having a home computer has been very common for both fun and work purposes. It is common to have pictures saved on your computer as well as some of your financial information. Losing data due to a virus or computer crash can be devastating. The process of recovering all that information is very time consuming and expensive.

In many such instances the data is simply lost forever. If you have important information that you don’t want to be without you need to protect yourself now. Too many people wait to invest in an external backup drive until after they have experienced such a loss. You will find them readily available for desktop and laptop computers.

With an external backup drive, the data isn’t physically stored on your computer system. You will use a type of zip disk to store the information on. Make sure you label the disks accordingly so that you know what is on each one of them. Should you not be able to retrieve the original information that is on your computer you will be able to pull out these disks and continue using your data.

The cost of the hardware for an external backup drive depends on what brand you purchase. It also depends on the amount of storage space you need it to have. Generally you want it to have as much storage space or more than your computer does.

However, the investment is generally very minimal and you will find it to be well worth it. Just one problem with your computer will cost you more than a backup drive for data retrieval and the time to try to piece together or redo the information that you have lost.

It is a good idea to invest in good quality disks for the external backup drive as well. You don’t want to purchase cheap disks and then realize that the information can’t be retrieved from them either due to poor manufacturing.

Take your time to find an external backup drive that is affordable, offers plenty of storage space, and is easy to install and use. In most instances you can install the external back up drive in less than an hour. This includes downloading and installing the necessary software for it to operate. Once it is in place you can just make a few clicks to save information to the disks as a back up resource.

Being able to rely on your computer for a variety of tasks is what makes them such an important part of our society. Be prepared for the unexpected though and always use an external backup drive to protect your data. This is a much easier process than having the nightmare of trying to piece back what data you can retrieve and having to do without the rest of it. You never know when your computer will experience a problem or be the target of a virus. Don’t let these issues cause you time, money, or frustration.

What To Do When Your Keyboard Fail

Do you think the keyboard is important? Try using your computer without it.Your computer will be almost useless without the keyboard.And like all other PC peripherals,the keyboard can and will put you down.

The keyboard is a simple peripheral and when it does go on the blink,you will be much better off pyrchasing a new one rather than considering repairing it,unless the problem is something simple like a stuck key.


As we look into problems with the keyboard,remember the check the obvious first and as with all problem solving procedures,don't be tempted to take shortcuts. Follow these procedures to resolve common keyboard problems.


1st. Restart the computer. This sometimes will resolve a computer that has froze or locked up during the first boot up.

2rd. Look behind the system unit and check to see if the cable is fully inserted into the connector. Check to see if it is in the keyboard connector and not the mouse connector.

Shut the computer off and remove the cable from the system unit.Check to see if any pins or connectors have been bent or broken.

If all pins and connectors are good.Try connecting another keyboard and restart the computer. If the new keyboard works,replace the old keyboard.


If the new keyboard should fail as well,check the resource conflicts if your operating system is Windows 98 or Me.Click on Start,Settings,Control Panel,System, and Device Manager Tab in System Properties.

Windows displays your devices attached to your PC. Click the plus sign and scan the list for the keyboard. If you notice an exclamation point or a red X beside the keyboard,the keyboard has a problem.

Now highlight the keyboard,click the remove button, and click OK in the confirmation window. Close the Device Manager and restart the computer. The operating system will reconfigure the keyboard.


You have restarted the computer and the keyboard still does not work.Its now possible you have a faulty keyboard port.This may prove true if the second keyboard failed to work on your computer as well.

Though it rarely happens,an error message will appear if the keyboard get hot.Stuck keys are also causes of error messages appearing on your monitor at bootup.


Keeping the keyboard free from dirt and dust,is essential to good keyboard performance. Liquid spills are common and can be cleaned with a can of compressed air.

Your settings in Windows may also be the culprit in poor keyboard performance.To check your keyboard performance,click on Start,Settings, Control Panel,and double click keyboard.

On the Speed Tab,you have the option to control the Repeat Delay,Repeat Rate,and the Cursor Blink rate.The Repeat Delay is the delay between the time you press a key and when it responds. The Repeat Rate controls just how fast the key repeats after it begins repeating.

Windows give you the ability to control features of your keyboard which will boost its performance, allowing you to perform your tasks quicker.

While the keyboard is replaced rather than repaired, it is imperative that you learn troubleshooting steps to correct most keyboard problems.You may have problems with the keyboard late at night and you may need to get it working to complete a document you may need for work.Know how to correct problems and help others that may experience keyboard failure.

Friday, September 9, 2011

5 Reasons to Choose a Notebook Over a Computer Desktop

Many of us are so used to working on a computer desktop that when it comes time to purchase a new computer, we don't consider other options. Today, computer notebooks - which were once called laptops - offer a number of advantages over a computer desktop. Here are just five reasons why you should take a second look at notebooks.

1. Mobility

You might be used to pulling up a chair to your computer, but it makes much more sense to pull your computer up to your chair. Laptops can certainly be used at your desk, but you also have the option of bringing them to the spot where you're most comfortable. Maybe you'd like to surf the Web in the evening out in the living room or catch up on your favorite blogs before bedtime. Notebooks with wireless connectivity can travel with you throughout your home, so you can check your email or do your Internet shopping anywhere.

Of course, notebooks also make sense for those who are on the go. Students can take laptops to class and to the library, while businesspeople can take them along while traveling. With WiFi so widely available, it even makes sense to have a notebook while on vacation. With the right notebook, it's easy to take photos with your digital camera, upload them, and email them to friends and family before you even get back home. Or you can use it to write a vacation blog and include those pictures from your digital camera.

2. Better Displays

The size and quality of computer notebook displays has improved so dramatically that there's little difference between laptops and a computer desktop. For example, you can get Apple's MacBook with a 13.3-inch LCD widescreen (1280 x 800 pixels), a 15.4-inch LCD widescreen (1440 x 900 pixels) or a 17-inch widescreen (1680 x 1050 pixels). Similarly, the Compaq Presario has a 15.4-inch display.

3. Lighter Weight

Just a few years ago, even the lightest notebook was a pain to lug around. Today, though, laptops are increasingly easy on the back. The MacBook is slightly over an inch thick and the Toshiba Portege weighs in at about four pounds. While that's still heavy compared to come of the new ultralight convertibles (Fujitsu's LifeBook U810 weighs only a pound and half), it's a significant improvement over the old seven-pound laptops.

4. Better Computing and Battery Power

Historically, two drawbacks of notebooks were their limited RAM, limited space on the hard drive, and short battery life. Times have changed, though, and laptops now have as much power under the hood as their computer desktop cousins. The MacBook, for example, has 1GB of memory (configurable up to 4 GB) and a hard drive that's configurable to 250GB. This means that your software will hum right along and you'll be able to zip through programs as quickly and as easily as you do on your desktop. Likewise, batteries in today's notebooks don't heat up and don't conk out.

5. More Features

In older laptops, the computer's size and weight limited the number and types of features available. Today, with smaller processors and other components, there's room to pack more features into notebooks. For example, the MacBook has a DVD player, built-in webcam, built-in wireless capability, two USB ports and a FireWire port, built-in microphone, and audio and digital input/output.

There are so many advantages to owning notebooks that, before you buy your next computer, it's worth your while to take one for a spin.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cell Phone Etiquette You Need To Know

Owning a cell phone can be a lot of fun. It’s portable, convenient, and is comforting to have when driving alone late at night. But now that there are millions of people who own cell phones, proper cell phone etiquette is becoming a concern.

Owning a cell phone doesn’t give a person a right to be rude or inconsiderate of others. It may be okay to take your phone with you and have it on while you are in business settings, with the exception of business meetings, but it’s not okay in some social settings.

People in a movie theater aren’t going to appreciate it if your cell phone is ringing during a movie. They’ll be even more annoyed if you answer it and talk during the movie. A nice leisurely dinner at a restaurant can be ruined if someone at the table next to you has their phone on and is taking calls. I’ve even been in church near someone who apparently thought it was okay to take a call during services. I was close enough to hear what was being said and it definitely was not an urgent call.

Yes, sometimes it may be necessary to have your cell phone on even if you are in a restaurant, theater, concert hall, or meeting. In those situations, put the phone on vibrate. If the phone goes off, discreetly check to see who is calling. If it is necessary to talk to the caller, excuse yourself and go to a quiet area out of earshot of the other diners, theater patrons, etc and return the call.

In some parts of the world wireless phone jamming devices have been installed in public places so that your phone just won’t work. In many other places, signs are starting to pop up telling people to turn off their cell phones in both public and private buildings. Not turning off a cell phone can even cost a person money. In New York City, there’s a $50 fine for breaking a bylaw that prohibits the use of mobile/cell phones at all indoor performances.

A person can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. If people demonstrate consideration for others there won’t be the need for more jamming devices, more “no cell phone” signs, and more laws being passed to fine users who don’t obey the “no cell phone” rules.

Make sure the voice mail is set up on your phone. Encourage people to leave a message for you if you are not able to answer the phone. Then return the call as soon as you can. But make sure to return the call. Just as it is inconsiderate to take a call in a restaurant or theater, etc. it is also inconsiderate to not return a call in a timely manner.

Monday, September 5, 2011

10 Tweaks that will make your Windows Vista fly

1. Speed Up Windows Vista Start Menu Search
As you execute a search you will be using the search box located in the start panel. Then Vista will start searching the file index without any prompting. Keep in mind that the file index will be very big due to the fact that it has all files included on your hard drive. If you are looking to speed up your searching methods then you can try this. Go to your Start Menu and narrow down the scope of the search. In other words try to narrow down what you are looking for. Instead of a general term use something more specific. There are two ways in which you can do this.

The first way is called the Registry hack and for that this is what you have to do.
  1. Step one: Open up the registry editor using the word regedit.
  2. Step Two: Guide to HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Software > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion > Explorer and then choose the Advanced key.
  3. Step Three: Locate and then right click on the Start_Search Files and then select the Modify key.
  4. Step Four: You now have to change the Value to Zero.
  5. Step Five: Then restart your Explorer.exe or you can simply just reboot the computer.

If this method does not work for you then you can try this:
  1. Step One: Using your mouse right click on the Start button and then choose the Properties key.
  2. Step Two: then click on the button that says Customize.
  3. Step Three: Then see all of the checked items, uncheck the Search Communications.
  4. Step Four: Then reset the search files to the setting Don’t Search for files.
  5. Step Five: Click the Ok button.

2. Increase your SATA Disk Drive Performance
If you are looking to increase your SATA Disk Drive Performance you can definitely do so. What your first step is in doing so is setting up your write caching. But keep in mind as you do that there is a risk of data loss and corruption in the event of a power loss. This loss is only significant in a personal computer, the risk is a lot less in a lap top because, it runs on batteries.

To increase the SATA Disk Drive performance you can follow these simple steps:
  1. Step One: Start by clicking on the Start Button and then enter the Device Manager and then hit the enter key.
  2. Step Two: Expand the Disk Drives so they are not carrying too much information which will slow them down.
  3. Step Three: Then right clock on the hard disk drive and then choose the Properties key.
  4. Step Four: Then where it says Policies, you want to have checked off the Enabled Advanced Performance key.
  5. Step Five: The click the Ok button and then close the device manager and you are all set.

3. Speed Up your Windows Vista Aero
The way Windows Vista is set up is really just for show. But because it is a new systems it can decrease the speed of your system. There are really only two ways to increase the speed of the Aero interface that is on your Vista system.

The first way is to Disable the Transparent Glass Effect:
  1. Step One: Click on the Desktop icon on your screen and then choose Personalize.
  2. Step Two: Choose the Windows Color and Appearance of your choice.
  3. Step Three: Make sure you remove the check from the enable Transparency key.

The second way to speed up the Aero is to remove the Windows Minimum and Maximize the Animation key. You can do this by:
  1. Step One: Start by clicking the Start Menu and then enter the System Properties Performance and then hit the enter key.
  2. Step Two: When you see the Visual Effects section, remove the check mark from the Animate Windows When Minimizing and Maximizing.
  3. Step three: Click Ok.

4. Windows Powered Smart Display
What is the Windows Powered Smart Display ?
What this is, is part of the Windows XP Professional Desktop. It is used in conjunction with the Remote Desktop Connection which is used through a wireless LAN link. This link is then used to get into your XP desktop from anywhere in the wireless range. So in other words, it is a remote wireless connection that your computer can use as along as the computer sits in the range of the wireless access.

Here are some other features that the Smart Display has:
The Smart Display has some great features, there is an on the screen keyboard which actually uses handwriting recognition software. It will allow you to use a USB mouse and keyboard if you are not used to the onscreen device yet . It can be used with a docking station and a mouse and keyboard. It is like using a small desktop computer from anywhere in the house or office. You have to keep in mind that the Smart Display itself does not have any file storage at all but the information that you use on the Smart Display will actually be stored on your desktop.

5. User Access Control
The User Access Control, this does not have to be used and can be turned off by simply clicking the Start button and then click the new Tools Menu and then scroll down and then when you see the access control key click it off. Then reboot your system.

6. Run as Administrator
You have to check because there is some software that you will not be able to install, even though you are logged in as an Admin. Simply right click in the mouse in the setup file and simply choose the Run as Administrator.

7. Added Wi-Fi Security
Added Wi-Fi Security, When you are looking for more security, go into the Network and Sharing menu and then click on Customize and choose the Public key . This will tighten up your Wi-Fi security when you are on public Wi-Fi.

8. Add Copy as Path
Simply hitting the shift key and then right click on a folder or you can choose any icon adds Copy as path and Open as command window here, you can edit them to the Windows Defender. Open up the Windows Defender and then click on the Tools key and then click on the Software Explorer and then take off the
programs that you don’t want to run.

9. Keyboard short cut secret
Using a left to right format give the icons on your Quick Launch bar a number, this way you can launch the icons in order of preference.

10. Free Up More Space on your computer
In order to do this you can use the Windows Disk Cleanup . This will get rid of files that you don’t use, it will also get rid of memory and other operating system that contain files of unwanted material. By getting rid of the junk you can free up a lot of space for the important things you need.

Finding the Security Suite that meets your needs

Before proceeding to read this article, it is important that we state something up front.    It is essential for the reader to understand and appreciate that there is no such thing as a secure operating system or web browser.  While the use of security suites and other complementing products can significantly reduce your risks, they are not magic wands that you can wave to eliminate 100% of your risk.  Any product claiming they can do this should be viewed with great skepticism. 

With that being said, let’s talk computer security and security suites.  There are numerous ways in which the security of your computer can be breached.  The most common threats come from worms, viruses, Trojans, phishing, hackers and crackers.  Potential security breaches can come in the form of downloading unfamiliar email attachments, being monitored by spyware, maliciously attacked by malware, or probed through port scanning.

Dshield.org (www.dshield.org), a non-profit company, functions as a “dominating attach correlation engine with worldwide coverage”.  In short, they work with people and companies to track, among other things, port scanning violations.  Port scanning involves a person (referred to as a hacker or cracker) who attempts to break into you computer through the open ports in your system.  Once an open port is located, the individual attempts to collect your personal data or install a malware program into you computer.  On average, Dshield.org logs over 1.1 billion reported attempts of port scanning each month.  What is even scarier is that this is just based on their program participants.  You can imagine how many more incidents are occurring each month to the general population of computer users.

Dshield.org also reports on survival time.  Survival time refers to how long it will take before an unpatched PC is attacked or infected.  Below is a snapshot of their current operating system breakdown:

Current OS Breakdown
Adjusted Survival Time
128 min
3648 min
1203 min
1591 min
5432 min
Source:  Dshield.org – Survival Time History (11/8/05)

In short, if you have a Windows-based operating system and an unpatched PC, you will be attacked or infected in a little over 2 hours.  When looked at in these terms, securing your computer becomes a mission.

Here are a few easy steps you can take to immediately protect your computer. 

1.         Don’t run unfamiliar programs on your computer. 
It sounds like common sense, but many of the most prominent attacks have involved spyware and email attachment worms such as Bagle and Netsky.  If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t download its attachments.
2.         Don’t allow unrestricted physical access to your computer. 
If you have sensitive or proprietary information on your computer, allowing other employees or family members to use your computer can lead to potential         breaches in your computer’s security.
3.         Don’t use weak passwords.
Use passwords which are difficult for someone to figure out.  People frequently use the names of children, pets, anniversary dates, or birthdays.  Because there seems to be a password needed for everything, it is not uncommon to see many people using the same password for everything.  Big mistake!  The use of only one password provides a hacker with easy access to a smorgasbord of personal information.  If you have to write your passwords down, it is best not to leave them on a post-it, attached to the screen of your computer.  You may chuckle at the absurdity, but it happens more than you think.
4.         Don’t forget to regularly patch your operating system and other applications.
Many industry experts believe that most network security attacks would be stopped if computer users would just keep their computers updated with patches and security fixes.  Too often, we forget to do this on a regular basis.  Remember that every day, new viruses, worms and Trojans are being created and distributed.  They are looking for the weaknesses in your computer system.  Having outdated software is basically the same as holding the door open and inviting them in for a visit.
5.         Don’t forget to make regular backups of important data
Always keep a copy of important files on removable media such as floppy/ZIP disks or recordable CD-ROM disks.  Store the backups in a location separate from            the computer.

In most cases, Windows desktop and screen-saver passwords provides adequate protection for normal security concerns.  However, if you feel more comfortable taking additional security measures consider obtaining a comprehensive security suite. 

Selecting a Antivirus Software
The next question is how do you pick the best product for your needs?  You start by asking yourself a series of questions.  Do you need password protection for individual files, your desktop, a network, or to block someone’s access to the Internet?  Is your computer used only by you or do multiple users have access to the computer?   How many users in total do you expect on your computer? What are your system requirements?  How much do you want to spend? 

Once you are able to answer these questions, you can begin to research which security suite will best meet your needs.  Product reviews and user statements provide a great starting point.  PCMagaine (www.pcmag.com), Zdnet.com (www.zdnet.com), and Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org) are just a few informative sites that offer research on various computer software products.

There are numerous security suites available on the market.  Take the time to choose the one that meets your specific needs.  As a starting point, we’ve listed a couple of the more popular programs:

1.         Kaspersky Personal Security Suite
Description:  A comprehensive protection program package designed to guard against worms, viruses, spyware, adware and other malicious programs.  The program offers five pre-defined security levels and is convenient for mobile users.  System requirements:  Window 98/2000/XP; Internet Explore 5.0 or higher, Memory: minimum of 64 MB RAM, 100 MB free on hard drive.

2.         Shield Deluxe 2005
Description:  This program provides protection from viruses, adware, spyware, and privacy threats while using very low system resources.  Additionally, the maker, PC Security Shield offers ongoing free technical support.  System requirements:  Windows 98 or higher, WinNT, WinXP, WinME; Internet Explorer 5.1 or higher, Memory:  32MB ram or higher, 65 MB free disk space.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Who are the Players in the Antivirus Industry?

Everyone in the United States has heard of the leading antivirus vendors Symantec, Mcafee, Computer Associates, and Trend Micro. These companies have market-leading presence in the United States.  Microsoft, as well, has plans become a key player in this market.  Microsoft acquired intellectual property and technology from GeCad software in 2003, a company based in Bucharest, Romania.  They also acquired Pelican Software, which had a behavior based security as well as Giant Company Software for spyware and Sybari Software, which manages virus, spam, and phishing filtering.

A lot of discussion has centered on whether Microsoft with come to own a dominant position in the antivirus market by simply bundling its technologies with its operating systems at no charge.  This is a similar technique applied in other markets such as word processing and Internet browsers.

Of course there are a number of antivirus vendors who also play in this market. There are many companies with great market presence in other countries that are beginning to become more widely known. These vendors include GriSoft out of the Czech Republic, Sophos in the united Kingdom, Panda Software out of Spain, Kaspersky in Russia, SoftWin in Romania, F-Secure in Finland, Norman in Norway, Arcabit in Poland, VirusBuster out of Hungary, and AhnLab in South Korea.

It is not clear where the industry is heading and everyone in this market faces a rapidly changing landscape. The amount of effort to find and provide fixes for viruses is staggering. Malicious programs are getting more complex and the number of them is increasing.  Many companies may find themselves without the resources to match the efforts of those truly bent on creating havoc.  Some virus companies are getting of hundreds of new samples a day! Moreover, the new viruses are getting "smarter" in that they propagate themselves quickly and they often hide themselves and are smart enough to move around in a system by renaming themselves in an effort to make it hard to remove them.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why Do I Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me?

Spyware is one of the fastest-growing internet threats.  According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, spyware infects more than 90% of all PCs today.  These unobtrusive, malicious programs are designed to silently bypass firewalls and anti-virus software without the user’s knowledge.  Once embedded in a computer, it can wreak havoc on the system’s performance while gathering your personal information.  Fortunately, unlike viruses and worms, spyware programs do not usually self-replicate.  

Where does it come from?
Typically, spyware originates in three ways.  The first and most common way is when the user installs it.  In this scenario, spyware is embedded, attached, or bundled with a freeware or shareware program without the user’s knowledge.  The user downloads the program to their computer.  Once downloaded, the spyware program goes to work collecting data for the spyware author’s personal use or to sell to a third-party.  Beware of many P2P file-sharing programs.  They are notorious for downloads that posses spyware programs.

The user of a downloadable program should pay extra attention to the accompanying licensing agreement.  Often the software publisher will warn the user that a spyware program will be installed along with the requested program.  Unfortunately, we do not always take the time to read the fine print.  Some agreements may provide special “opt-out” boxes that the user can click to stop the spyware from being included in the download.  Be sure to review the document before signing off on the download.

Another way that spyware can access your computer is by tricking you into manipulating the security features designed to prevent any unwanted installations.  The Internet Explorer Web browser was designed not to allow websites to start any unwanted downloads.  That is why the user has to initiate a download by clicking on a link.  These links can prove deceptive.  For example, a pop-up modeled after a standard Windows dialog box, may appear on your screen.  The message may ask you if you would like to optimize your internet access.  It provides yes or no answer buttons, but, no matter which button you push, a download containing the spyware program will commence. Newer versions of Internet Explorer are now making this spyware pathway a little more difficult.

Finally, some spyware applications infect a system by attacking security holes in the Web browser or other software.  When the user navigates a webpage controlled by a spyware author, the page contains code designed to attack the browser, and force the installation of the spyware program.

What can spyware programs do?

Spyware programs can accomplish a multitude of malicious tasks.  Some of their deeds are simply annoying for the user; others can become downright aggressive in nature.

Spyware can:
1.            Monitor your keystrokes for reporting purposes.
2.            Scan files located on your hard drive.
3.            Snoop through applications on our desktop.
4.            Install other spyware programs into your computer.
5.            Read your cookies.
6.            Steal credit card numbers, passwords, and other personal information.
7.            Change the default settings on your home page web browser.
8.            Mutate into a second generation of spyware thus making it more difficult to           eradicate.
9.            Cause your computer to run slower.
10.        Deliver annoying pop up advertisements.
11.        Add advertising links to web pages for which the author does not get paid.  Instead, payment is directed to the spyware programmer that changed the original affiliate’s settings.
12.        Provide the user with no uninstall option and places itself in unexpected or hidden places within your computer making it difficult to remove.

Spyware Examples
Here are a few examples of commonly seen spyware programs.  Please note that while researchers will often give names to spyware programs, they may not match the names the spyware-writers use. 

CoolWebSearch, a group of programs, that install through “holes” found in Internet Explorer. These programs direct traffic to advertisements on Web sites including coolwebsearch.com. This spyware nuisance displays pop-up ads, rewrites search engine results, and alters the computer host file to direct the Domain Name System (DNS) to lookup preselected sites. 
Internet Optimizer (a/k/a DyFuCa), likes to redirect Internet Explorer error pages to advertisements. When the user follows the broken link or enters an erroneous URL, a page of advertisements pop up.
180 Solutions reports extensive information to advertisers about the Web sites which you visit.  It also alters HTTP requests for affiliate advertisements linked from a Web site.  Therefore the 180 Solutions Company makes an unearned profit off of the click through advertisements they’ve altered.
HuntBar (a/k/a WinTools) or Adware.Websearch, is distributed by Traffic Syndicate and is installed by ActiveX drive-by downloading at affiliate websites or by advertisements displayed by other spyware programs.  It’s a prime example of how spyware can install more spyware.   These programs will add toolbars to Internet Explorer, track Web browsing behavior, and display advertisements.

How can I prevent spyware?
There are a couple things you can do to prevent spyware from infecting your computer system.  First, invest in a reliable commercial anti-spyware program.  There are several currently on the market including stand alone software packages such as Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware or Windows Antispyware.  Other options provide the anti-spyware software as part of an anti-virus package.  This type of option is offered by companies such as Sophos, Symantec, and McAfee. Anti-spyware programs can combat spyware by providing real-time protection, scanning, and removal of any found spyware software.   As with most programs, update your anti virus software frequently. 

As discussed, the Internet Explorer (IE) is often a contributor to the spyware problem because spyware programs like to attach themselves to its functionality.  Spyware enjoys penetrating the IE’s weaknesses.  Because of this, many users have switched to non-IE browsers.  However, if you prefer to stick with Internet Explorer, be sure to update the security patches regularly, and only download programs from reputable sources.  This will help reduce your chances of a spyware infiltration.
And, when all else fails?
Finally, if your computer has been infected with a large number of spyware programs, the only solution you may have is backing up your data, and performing a complete reinstall of the operating system.