Monthly Archive: March 2018

Spyware – Why Do I Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me?

spywareSpyware is one of the fastest-growing internet threats.  According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, it 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 originates in three ways.  The first and most common way is when the user installs it.  In this scenario, it 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 program goes to work collecting data for the 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 it 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.

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?

They 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 onto 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
  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.

Examples

Here are a few examples of commonly seen programs.  Please note that while researchers will often give names to programs, they may not match the names the 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 it 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, Malwarebytes.  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 software.   As with most programs, update your anti-virus software frequently.

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.

AI Plays to Our Own Fears

Artificial intelligence tends to play to our fears and keeps us from embracing it completely by our own imagination..What could happen is first and foremost in our minds and in fact is also online everywhere you turn. Even men such as Stephen Hawking (deceased 2018) had concerns and questions about AI. So much so that they’ve addressed it in an open letter to lawmakers.

Find out more about AI and the ramifications as well as the amazing uses at http://sbrconsulting.solutions

All you want to know about Vaccinating Pets

Vaccinating pets is a very important part of a pet’s health. Different types of vaccine shots are to be given at different times. Some people are against vaccination and some are in favor of vaccination, but the assertion is that there are risks involved with both. A firm statement cannot be passed on a broader level, instead, the rules vary from one individual animal to another depending on the needs and tolerance levels of the animal. There are certain factors based on which the decision must be taken.

Young ones which have been separated from their mothers before six weeks and are bottle-fed are at a higher risk of getting diseases. This is because the animals, which feed on their mother’s milk, get maternal antibodies, which protects them until their own immune system has been fully developed. The development of the immune system can differ on the basis of amount and type of viruses they are getting exposed to, the potency of the virus and the body’s ability to face the virus attack. Diet and nutrition also play an important role in preventing diseases.

Animals, which aren’t exposed enough also need to be vaccinated so as to alter the system and help develop it, without causing illness. The quantity is also important, because a little more virus can actually infest the disease in the animal. The amount can be determined by analyzing whether the animal has a weak or strong resistance to the virus.

vaccinating petsAge is also another important factor. Animals, which are older in age, react differently. One of the reasons is that the system will be obviously weaker because of the daily activities, when compared to the younger ones. Since their immune system would have undergone different conditions; there could be a possibility of deposition of toxins in the body. Sometimes the healthier older animal won’t be requiring vaccination at all if it has received adequate shots before.

Before vaccinating pets, their history should be checked. The number of times a particular vaccination has been given should be checked against the records. There are breeders who give a weekly dose of vaccination to their animal, which is for sure an overdose. This leads to many problems such as thickening of blood because of the protein complexes released from the immune system. This can also damage other internal organs and might even result in the failure of the immune system. In worst circumstances, it could even lead to the death of the animal.

Pregnant females react differently to the vaccines when compared to their male and female counterparts. The pregnant females should never be injected with live virus vaccines or even exposed to other animals that have recently received them. Animals, which have been injected with dead-virus vaccines, are safe for the childbearing animal.

Animals, which are already suffering from a disease, should be examined carefully so that the vaccination doesn’t aggravate the problem. Genetics also plays an important role. If the animal stands a chance of getting a disease because of hereditary reason, vaccinations can create an adverse reaction.

The environment also plays a major role. If the animal is kept in a sanitary and clean place, it is exposed to lesser viruses, which lowers it’s chances of getting diseases. A dirtier environment not only spreads viruses and bacteria but also affects the immune system and other systems adversely as toxins begin to deposit in the body. The vaccination plan should be designed after analyzing the lifestyle of the animal.

Another major reason for the difference in the quantity of vaccination is the improvement in the vaccinations itself. They have become safer and more efficient. No tests have proved the effective period of the vaccinations. Every state and country has different regulations about vaccination. Vaccination testing cannot only risk the life of the animal but as well as that of a human. For example, if a dog, which is being tested for rabies vaccination, bites a human, it can lead to the death of the human, in extreme circumstances. Many states in US demand vaccination when owners try to get a permit certificate for their exotic animal. The facility vet decided which vaccines should be given and which should be exempted for the safety of the animal.

The Advancement of the Keylogger

A keylogger is a program that runs in your computer’s background secretly recording all your keystrokes. Once your keystrokes are logged, they are hidden away for later retrieval by the attacker. The attacker then carefully reviews the information in hopes of finding passwords or other information that would prove useful to them.  For example, a keylogger can easily obtain confidential emails and reveal them to any interested outside party willing to pay for the information.

Keyloggers can be either software or hardware based.  Software-based keyloggers are easy to distribute and infect, but at the same time are more easily detectable.  Hardware-based keyloggers are more complex and harder to detect.  For all that you know, your keyboard could have a keylogger chip attached and anything being typed is recorded into a flash memory sitting inside your keyboard. Keyloggers have become one of the most powerful applications used for gathering information in a world where encrypted traffic is becoming more and more common.

keyloggerAs keyloggers become more advanced, the ability to detect them becomes more difficult. They can violate a user’s privacy for months, or even years, without being noticed.   During that time frame, a keylogger can collect a lot of information about the user it is monitoring.  A keylogger can potential obtain not only passwords and log-in names, but credit card numbers, bank account details, contacts, interests, web browsing habits, and much more.  All this collected information can be used to steal user’s personal documents, money, or even their identity.

A keylogger might be as simple as an.exe and a .dll that is placed in a computer and activated upon boot up via an entry in the registry. Or, the more sophisticated keyloggers, such as the Perfect Keylogger or ProBot Activity Monitor have developed a full line of nasty abilities including:

  • Undetectable in the process list and invisible in operation
  • A kernel keylogger driver that captures keystrokes even when the user is logged off
  • A remote deployment wizard
  • The ability to create text snapshots of active applications
  • The ability to capture http post data (including log-ins/passwords)
  • The ability to timestamp record workstation usage
  • HTML and text log file export
  • Automatic e-mail log file delivery

All keyloggers are not used for illegal purposes.  A variety of other uses have surfaced.  Keyloggers have been used to monitor websites visited as a means of parental control over children. They have been actively used to prevent child pornography and avoid children coming in contact with dangerous elements on the web.  Additionally, in December 2001, a federal court ruled that the FBI did not need a special wiretap order to place a keystroke logging device on a suspect’s computer. The judge allowed the FBI to keep details of its keylogging device secret (citing national security concerns). The defendant in the case, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., indicted for gambling and loan-sharking, used encryption to protect a file on his computer. The FBI used the keystroke logging device to capture Scarfo’s password and gain access to the needed file.