April 9, 2009
This may be tad long but it might be helpful.
I've been around computers for a very long time and one of the persistent problems that has fascinated me is computer viruses. It amazes me how after all this time that computer viruses are still around and still causing problems. There are different types of programs collectively called "virus": trojan horse, worm, rabbit, slave, etc. and add to that: adware, spyware, malware, and plain old junky software.
I believe that most, if not almost all, viruses these days are created by corporations (or governments). The reasons for this are clear. The software business is very competitive. The software business is very lucrative. Computers are easy to hack. Software companies employ people smart enough to create viruses, including me. Hackers have little reason to target you (but not no reason). Governments spy on each other.
For the longest time Microsoft paid no attention what-so-ever to security and that made Windows the most hacked OS on the planet. It still is, despite MS's attempts to stop it. This stems mainly from competitors of Microsoft (especially ones not in the US) and would be hackers trying to prove themselves (to get a job). Other companies' products and other OSs get hacked too though. We've just seen a massive, and successful, hacking attack on the US government's infrastructure, demonstrating the extent of coverage. No computer is safe. But Windows has gotten better (depends on who you ask).
Just a recent example from me: About 2 years ago I installed what I thought was a screen saver related to NASA. This screen saver was supposed to show Hubble images or something like that. Turns out that the faceless company behind this software has nothing to do with NASA, not even American, and they are a front partner for a European company that creates "game middleware". The "screen saver" which never worked, also contains a trojan horse: "Downloader.Zlob.WFH" which allows ANYONE who knows that your computer is infected with it to install ANYTHING they want, including key loggers, password scrapers, internet trackers, screen capturers, malware, etc.
So this "corporation" 😉 acts as a supplier of "hey look at this neat software for free" which attracts people to download it, which also contains the trojan horse, which once installed allows the other "corporation" 😉 to hack into your computer. The reason these "corporations" 😉 do it this way is that if they get caught the little front "corporation" 😉 gets sacrificed and the giant billion dollar back end partner gets off scott free. So its low risk for the company that has something to lose.
In the case of this screen saver it is apparent to me that the back end "corporation" 😉 meant no harm to my computer and were probably just trying to judge the market for their own products. At least that is what I hope. But I did not detect this trojan horse for 2 years so no telling how many of my accounts and credit card numbers they have. And of course you have certainly heard all the hubub about identity theft, which is now a thriving industry, imagine that. The real problem here isn't the companies behind this trojan horse, at least in this case. Its the fact that ANYONE who knows that you installed the "screen saver" 😉 can now hack your computer. 🙂
There is more to this. The companies who employ these trojan horses may not be the actual originators of the code; I doubt they hardly ever are. By using "off-the-shelf" trojan horse code they can hide their activities. If people find the trojan horse on their system it is difficult to prove who created it. I'm sure the "corporation" 😉 has degaussing equipment handy. Even when commercial products have been found containing trojan horses the company claims innocence and is hardly ever prosecuted since how do you determine the damage? These cases have usually been when the product was downloaded over the net. Companies just claim THEY were hacked. Yeah right. But by using code in the public domain they are opening a door for any would be villain. Then you get into that whole white hat, black hat, brown hat, red hat thing.
Corporations worldwide know all about this, have traditionally kept it quiet, now-a-days are the main participants in it and employ hackers, as do governments. They get away with this because most of the time they don't mean any harm to you or your computer. They are just trying to sell you stuff. But the problem is that once the barricades are down, other bad guys who do mean you and your computer harm are given an open door. Hope to remain invisible.
And what is the government doing about any of this? Apparently nothing. Good job!
It amazes me how tolerant the public is of the old "technology glitch" excuse. And that excuse is employed so often by companies doing evil things with computers. "Its just a flesh wound." But in the end it constitutes theft. If its ok for you to hack my computer then its ok for me to hack your computer, or your company's, or your government's, irregardless of any stupid law that is un-enforceable. Having said that, I believe most hacking today in the US is caused by entities outside the US. That is what's being reported anyway.
So what can you do? Barricade, barricade, barricade. And then do it again. Research computer security. Use firewalls and learn to configure them. Use virus scanners that are up to date (all of them). Use anti-spyware/malware. Might add anti-Adware but adware is just a nuisance. Never download anything from the internet ever again. Ever! There is no such thing as a free screen saver. Don't give your kids admin privileges. And you won't be helping just you. If viruses can't spread then they can't spread. Isolate the victim.
April 9, 2009
Yep, still the most hacked OS on the planet. I think someone has installed a rootkit on my box. They've gone after the bluetooth, which is severely hackable. The BT keyboard acts like it won't connect but for some odd reason I can log in to the Administrator account only. Then I "re-connect" the BT keyboard. Then I can log into other accounts. Nice trick! Bluetooth is crap, not to mention that these devices burn thru batteries faster than any devices I've ever seen. I have the Logitech diNovo KB, Mouse, Keypad combo and I don't recommend it. Its a PITA^2! And you must use rechargeable batteries.
With Bluetooth someone can hack into your computer sitting in their car outside with a laptop.
Virus scanners help but there are too many things they don't catch. The hackers have gotten more sophisticated.
I had a similar problem with my wireless access point. It was discovering my neighbors networks, even though I didn't want it to. I had to learn how to lock it down. But a hacker would do the opposite. Another problem with home wireless networks now is that you've got all these idiots out there buying wireless signal "boosters", to detect networks for 1000 mile radius I guess, and they are interfering with their neighbors networks. I've had to abandon my WAP completely. Wireless boosters should be outlawed (not to mention that they are a scam to being with). Isn't that the jurisdiction of the FCC?
We need to promote people going back to wired networks. They're faster anyway. Wireless is great for McDonalds or Starbucks but not for your house or apartment.
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