File sharers move to VPNs to beat bans on The Pirate Bay in UK

Pirate BayOne of my massive interests in the tech arena is the battle between copyright holders and the warez (illegal software or media) suppliers/search services. Today some news being reported, is the increasing use of VPN (Virtual Private Networks) in sharing illegal material between users.

However VPNs are not a new thing and definitely not a new area that illegal sharers have used, however I do personally feel if the media companies like the RIAA etc. are to try and have ISPs (Internet Service Providers) ban VPNs then they are entering a very grey area as VPNs are used in industry to share secure information.

“Young people are increasingly turning to virtual private networks (VPNs) to anonymise their free sharing of music and movies, a new study has suggested.

Sweden’s Lund University indicated that there had been a 40% rise in the number of 15 to 25-year-olds using such services since 2009.

Many believe a clampdown on piracy is behind their rise in popularity.

The Pirate Bay has advised visitors to make use of VPNs. It would be illegal to do so to download pirated files.”

It will be interesting to see how this information and news pans out over the next few weeks or months and what the media industry decide to do as to be very honest, if they use the courts to force ISPs to block a specific download route, at least two or more routes will pop up, it’s a never ending spiral.

If the media companies put more effort into developing digital services that do not cost a fortune they will reduce the need for some users to resort to illegal downloads (warez).

 

Read the full article at BBC Technology News HERE

The Apple Mac–Flashback Trojan could have netted $10k per day for it’s creators.

Mac MalwareThe Flashback Trojan which has been one of the most talked about pieces of malware which has affected Apple’s OSX  Operating System, may have for the creators of this malware, netted them $10K per day, according to a report from security and anti-virus company Symantec.

“We’ve been busy in the labs reverse engineering the various components of OSX.Flashback.K to determine the true motivation behind the malware. Let’s take a look at this Mac Trojan in more detail.

The Infection
It’s now well-known that the latest OSX.Flashback.K variant was being distributed using the Oracle Java SE Remote Java Runtime Environment Code Execution Vulnerability (CVE-2012-0507), which  was patched by Oracle in February. Unfortunately for Mac users, there was a large window of exposure since Apple’s patch for this vulnerability was not available for six weeks.

Ad-clicking Trojans are nothing new and in an analysis of W32.Xpaj.B last August a botnet measuring in the region of 25,000 infections could generate the author up to $450 per day. Considering the Flashback Trojan measures in the hundreds of thousands, this figure could sharply rise to the order of $10000 per day.”

Read the full article at Symantec Security Blog HERE

Windows Phone Apps removed from Zune

Windows PhoneThis was something that I noticed at the weekend just gone, in I wanted to download an album off Zune, and was presented with the popup message that “features have changed” and the feature that has changed is the ability of downloading Windows Phone 7 apps from the Zune software.

I first thought oh great another feature removed, but then actually stepped back and asked myself, “did I ever download a WP7 app from inside Zune”, the answer was a resounding NO, never in the past year of having my WP7 had I downloaded an app from Zune, so its not a feature I will miss.

Do read the below quote from Mazhar Mohammed and visit the full blog article linked below.

“Hi everyone. Today I want to tell you about two changes we’re making to Marketplace to help pave the way for new store features and new apps in the months ahead.

First, we’re removing the option to shop for Windows Phone apps from the Zune PC software. Second, as part of a larger Marketplace improvement effort, you’ll soon need Windows Phone 7.5 installed on your phone to buy and download new apps, or update existing ones.

As you’ll see in a moment, most of you likely won’t even notice these changes. Let me elaborate.

Focusing on phone and web

Until today you could shop for Windows Phone apps and games in three places: on your phone, on the web, and via the Zune software on your PC.

But we know—probably not a huge surprise here—that most Windows Phone owners browse and buy apps on their phones. The web Marketplace, which debuted last September on the Windows Phone website, has also become a popular place to shop, since it’s available from any Internet-connected PC or Mac.”

One thing I would say is that some of the games can be large to download via your mobile  connection and especially if you have a data cap, so either you have to connect via WiFi or as in this Q&A HERE you can still use Zune for large apps (those over 20mb).

Read the full blog post at the Windows Team Blog HERE

SkyDrive vs XXX a Comparison Chart

SkyDriveThis is a nice and interesting comparison chart, albeit produced by Microsoft so will be geared towards their product SkyDrive, but they do have to be accurate so its a good gauge of what you are getting with the various “cloud” storage services around.

SkyDrive Comparison

View Full Comparison Chart HERE 

Note: data is subject to change by the various developers

Microsoft rushes out a password bugfix for Hotmail

HotmailMicrosoft today have fixed a password bug in their Hotmail email service, in which a hacker could gain access to an account and change the users password, thus not only locking the user out of their account, but potentially stealing sensitive data.

“Microsoft says it has fixed a serious vulnerability in Hotmail, that was allowing hackers to reset account passwords, locking out the account’s real owner and giving attackers access to users’ inboxes.

News of the critical bug spread rapidly across underground hacking forums, and Whitec0de reported earlier this week that hackers were offering to break into any Hotmail account for as little as $20.

It appears that the vulnerability existed in Hotmail’s password reset feature. Hackers were able to use a Firefox add-on called Tamper Data to bypass the normal protections put in place to protect Hotmail accounts.”

Read the full article at NakedSecurity blog from Sophos HERE

Microsoft Security Report highlights Conficker Worm alive and well

The Conficker worm malware infection has been a real pest for a while now and Microsoft have released their latest security report (July – December 2011) highlighting how many times this malware variant was detected worldwide.

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“Microsoft Corp. today released the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report volume 12 (.pdf file), which found that the Conficker worm was detected approximately 220 million times worldwide in the past two and a half years, making it one of the biggest ongoing threats to enterprises. The study also revealed the worm continues to spread because of weak or stolen passwords and vulnerabilities for which a security update exists.

According to the SIRv12, quarterly detections of the Conficker worm have increased by more than 225 percent since the beginning of 2009. In the fourth quarter of 2011 alone, Conficker was detected on 1.7 million systems worldwide. In examining the reasons behind Conficker’s prevalence in organizations, research showed that 92 percent of Conficker infections were a result of weak or stolen passwords, and 8 percent of infections exploited vulnerabilities for which a security update exists.

“Conficker is one of the biggest security problems we face, yet it is well within our power to defend against,” said Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing. “It is critically important that organizations focus on the security fundamentals to help protect against the most common threats.”

As I will always stat is that you need to use an Antivirus application, it can be any of the major brands free solutions, but do use one (Microsoft have released the updated Security Essentials 4.0 this week, and you can download it HERE) and keep it updated. Keep your Windows OS fully up to date and be weary on what sites you are viewing and downloading from, if in doubt, check a sites reputation with the likes of WOT.

 

Read the full article at Microsoft News Centre HERE

Old Hard Drive’s and left over data

Hard DriveSome new information out today from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in that they found out of the Hard Disks that they tested, about 11% still held data on them and a lot of this data was personal/private information about a person. This data if pieced together from other data on a Hard Drive about a person, could actually help a criminal create a bogus identification (ID).

“One in 10 second-hand hard drives still contain the original user’s personal information, suggests an investigation by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

It purchased devices from auction sites such as eBay and computer fairs.

Of the 200 hard disks collected, 11% contained personal information.

At least two of the drives had enough information to enable someone to steal the former owners’ identities, the watchdog said”

Read full article at BBC Technology News HERE and the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) information on data issues and destruction HERE

My Suggestions

However we do have a few options here, in that you can securely erase any deleted or specific folder locations on your daily production/used PC or if you are selling your PC or are RMAing you can erase the whole Hard Disk Drive (HDD) so that  no data can be recovered by conventional data recovery means.

Disposing of or Dead HDD

If you have a dead HDD or are just disposing of a HDD then you can do two things depending on if you can access the HDD, if you cannot access then HDD then I would get a good power drill and tungsten bit and drill through the HDD, this should damage the platters that hold the data. Warning is that this is a potential dangerous task, so use any protective clothing you can (goggles, protective gloves etc. or get someone else who is handy with tools to do this.

If you have access to the HD then you can use a drive erasing tool such as Secure Erase to erase the HDD securely, but do note that the best erase methods as in “7 pass secure erase” will take some hours to run its course, depending on size of HDD, plus these methods need a little bit of tech knowledge as you will need to either know command line or how to create a boot disk.

Some may say you can also if you have access to a high powered magnet, run it over the HDD and this will corrupt the data, but not everyone has access to these magnets. (thought I would throw this one in as a random)

Current PC you are still using

At times we all have personal or sensitive data we delete and think that it’s gone, but sadly the normal delete in Windows does not securely delete this data, it can be recovered (if not overwritten by new data, as deleted data is only flagged as delete and not actually deleted) by a wide range of free Data Recovery Software.

So what you can use to securely delete the deleted data is something like CCleaner as it has a secure delete option build in, just needs to be setup. Start by downloading and installing CCleaner from Majorgeeks (do also have a video guide on the site on how to use all the functions of CCleaner) or Piriform.

Once installed and run, click Options > Settings and in the Secure Deletion settings click “secure file deletion (slower) and choose at least “7 Passes” option, the “35 Passes” option will take many more hours than 7 Passes to complete.

    • 7 Passes is the U.S. DoD 5220 method
    • 35 passes is the Peter Gutmann method

CCleaner SE01

Then once set to the option you want, just click Cleaner menu option and Run, then this will securely deletewipe any files you have deleted as well as removing Internet History, Temp files etc, so do watch the Majorgeeks video guide to help with settings.

You can also with CCleaner if you add the old or due to be sold as 2nd hand HDD as a slave option in a Desktop PC, then run the Drive Wiper option in CCleaner, found by clicking Tools > Drive Wiper and once chosen an option Wipe.

CCleaner SE02

There are other applications both free and retail that can securely erase data, and I have only covered a few methods, so please feel free in the comments section to tell us your own methods or applications used.

WARNING – Secure data deletion is permanent so be very sure that the data you want erased is not needed. Always create backups of your data on external devices just in case of accidental deletion as well as hardware failure.

Reset Microsoft Internet Explorer

IE9 logoThere are times when internet browsers start to run sluggish and do not perform as they should do, it could be due to Malware, a rogue or incompatible browser add-on or that it is just slow. So the below FixIt tool can allow you to automatically try and fix IE or also on the page are the manual instructions, personally I would always start with the automatic option.

“Is browsing always slow in Internet Explorer? Does it frequently stop responding (hang), or stop working (crash)? Do you receive error messages that indicate that Internet Explorer has “encountered a problem and needs to close”? Or that a Visual C++ “runtime error” has occurred in Iexplore.exe?

If so, then you might want to try resetting Internet Explorer. When you reset Internet Explorer settings, all add-ons and customizations are deleted, and you basically start with a fresh version of Internet Explorer. This article helps you reset Internet Explorer.”

 Run the FixIt tool from HERE

Microsoft SkyDrive

SkyDriveMicrosoft have updated SkyDrive not only now adding a Desktop SkyDrive local application for Windows (which I will cover a little later with a quick install and features guide) and MAC OSX but also they have updated the Windows 7 Phone and iPhone apps for SkyDrive, which is really very welcome as these updated “apps” for mobile devices add well needed options as in allowing you to delete files.

Download the Desktop and Mobile versions of SkyDrive  HERE 

SkyDrive Desktop (local) application adds the following features, which when I first read and watched a video about this desktop application from the SkyDrive team involved I thought wow, why have we not had this before as its perfect for my data needs and likely prefect for many home and business users also.

Features
  • Access your SkyDrive directly from Windows Explorer – photos, documents and all your other important files.
  • Quickly add new files to SkyDrive by dragging them to the SkyDrive folder.
  • Easily organise your files and folders in SkyDrive, just like any other folder.
  • Connect back to your PC if you forget to put something in SkyDrive.

To install the Windows Desktop version download from the earlier link, then once downloaded, double click the setup file to start the install procedure.

Skydrive01

Next we are not quite there yet, once you see the “Welcome to SkyDrive” screen (below) click Get Started and you will be presented with the SkyDrive Sign In page, here just add the Windows Live ID account you wish to use (your email and password) and click Sign In.

Skydrive02 Skydrive03

Once signed in you are given the choice to change the default location of the local SkyDrive folder (this is the one where files added to SkyDrive are saved locally to your PC), once you have chosen a new folder of your choice or kept the default suggested folder click Next. You can also make files on your local PC also available on other devices, such as Mobile devices, so tick the box if you wish this option then click Done.

Skydrive04 Skydrive05

Then the app will start to sync your SkyDrive files to the local folder, which as you can see below on my Windows 8 preview PC, is also integrated into Explorer, so easily accessible like any folder.

Skydrive06

Do not worry if your files do not appear straight away, as the syncing between SkyDrive and your PC may take a while as it depends on how many files you have stored on SkyDrive or how quick your internet download speed is, but just hover over the System Tray SkyDrive icon and you can see how many files are left to download/sync.

Skydrive07

So all you need to do now is either create new folders to save files to or just drag and drop (copy or cut and paste) a file/s to a SkyDrive folder to sync it to the “cloud”.

Mobile SkyDrive has changed a little and for the better I feel, the below are some screenshots from my Apple iPhone/iPod version, I do have a Windows 7 Phone (not as easy to do screenshots as the iPhone/iPod) but its options are the same.

2012-04-24T17-48-47 2012-04-24T17-49-34 2012-04-24T17-49-45

Clicking the top right arrow icon in the 1st screenshot gives you the options in the 2nd pic, which allows you to add/edit etc. and in the 3rd pic if you click a file/picture now you can as you see on the bottom menu bar, the options to Send in email, Delete, Move and Rename or Download to your Mobile device.

Do read the System Requirements for SkyDrive HERE

I will be doing at some point soon a write up of SkyDrive built into Windows 8 and its options, but likely more around the time the Release Preview of Windows 8 is released for testing in June.

Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs released

Intel Ivy-BridgeI have to say I have been awaiting this release of CPUs and Chipsets from Intel over the Sandy Bridge chips, these Ivy Bridge CPU’s are based off Intel’s latest Tri-Gate transistors.

 

The Ivy Bridge CPUs are to give us 20% more computing power with 20% less power usage, thus lower temperatures for CPU and system.

“Today marks the release of Intel’s third-generation Core i ‘Ivy Bridge’ processors, which the latest test results suggest will increase CPU performance by around 10 percent and integrated graphics by 75 percent. See also: Intel launches Ivy Bridge processor family.

This improved graphics power pushes Intel closer to rival AMD. You can see the effects in our first Intel Ivy Bridge PC review.

With nine desktop models in the i5 and i7 series and six i7 variations destined for the portable market, these processors are the first batch of what will eventually be a complete refresh of Intel’s CPU line-up.”

Read more: HERE at PC Advisor UK