This week in Malware

– recommended audiences: Home-user to Tech

I would like to have a weekly recap of Malware news on my blog. I think this would be useful to raise awareness a among home-users and maybe help inform a few fellow techs out there. This is my first edition. Feel free to give me your thoughts on this idea.

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Why do you care? If you are running Windows XP you are vulnerable to a staggering amount of exploits including rootkits, and buffer overflow attacks. Many malicious programs will use these exploits to get into your systems without your (or your anti-virus’s) knowledge. One of the best ways to prevent Malware is to use a sandboxing program to isolate your system. Sandboxie is one such program. Check out these excellent posts about Sandboxie:

What is Sandboxie, and remembering to use it:

Recommended settings:

Remember: be safe out there.

Scare-ware and Rogue Anti-virus

A good read:

Guess what I’m doing this weekend? That’s right, I’m already booked-up to remove malicious fake anti-virus programs from peoples computers. A problem that I’ve seen more and more in the last 18 months or so. Programs like these are often designed to trick you into paying for the removal of viruses and malware that aren’t even on your computer. Furthermore, they might disable your real anti-virus. Even if your current anti-virus recognizes one of these rogues you may still be at risk. They are craftily deployed to trick most users by with pop-up warnings like, “click here to remove infections.” The well meaning computer user wants to keep his computer virus free, and these rogues take advantage of this fear. While anti-virus, firewalls, and sandboxes help, education is key in helping people avoid these problems. Know what your AV’s user interface looks like. If in doubt, ctrl-alt-delete to kill a pop-up instead of clicking the X. And of course steer clear of the shadier sides of the web.
If you want more information on scare-ware and rogues, there are tons of websites out there that address these threats (but some of them are themselves malicious). One of my favorites is

-Be careful out there-

Firefox Add-on of the Week

So you’ve Googled for that latest song, software, screen saver, whatever, and you’ve got a long list of search results. But which of those websites are safe? Enter WoT.

WoT stands for Web of Trust, and it is a community-based rating system for websites. These ratings are then used to place a color coded dot on the WoT tool bar indicating whether or not a website is safe. WoT also intrigrates with many search engines and other websites as you can see here:

Colored dots on WoT

look at all the pretty colors......

Websites are ranked on 4 criteria as seen here:

Site rankings

Site Rankings

The little silhouettes indicate how many people have voted on the site (0-5). Furthermore community members can leave comments about a site such as “spam” or “contains Malicious ads.”

My recommendation is to stay away form websites with red, yellow, or gray (unknown) ratings… in fact, WoT will block the “poor” sites for you. Note that this “poor” website is grayed out (a la UAC). At this point you can not interact with elements of the site and should just close the tab/window.

WoT blocks sites with a poor rating.

Blocked Website

To install WoT simply download and install the add-on from their website. Please note that it is available for Internet Explorer too. Once you restart your browser you’ll be presented with a screen to configure your settings. I recommend the basic setting. If you want to provide ratings to the community you should also create a profile now. From this point on WoT will be providing you with rating information for the websites you visit. To get more info on a site (such as comments) , and to provide your own feedback, just click on the corresponding WoT dot. (For more information see this video tutorial.) I think this is a particularly useful add-on for “grandma” as it greatly reduces  the need for web savvy and paranoia while surfing. So, what are you waiting for? Try out WoT today.