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Computer Security

Tashah

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If your computer uses an Apple operating system, please check with Apple Products for online updates at:
http://www.apple.com/support/downloads

Users of Microsoft operating systems 95 - XP check for Microsoft Critical Updates online at:
http://windowsupdates.microsoft.com/

If you use a Microsoft XP product, make sure that you have downloaded Security Service Pack 2. If you are unsure go to: Microsoft Updates and click on "View Installation History" in left page frame.

I highly recommnd using Mozilla Firefox as your default web browser. This is a free product and is available at: http://www.mozilla.org

Tips and Advice for Microsoft/Internet Explorer Users

• Scan Disc and Defragment your hard drive weekly

• If you have a DSL (24/7) Internet connection, use a router as an interface between your computer and the Internet. I highly recomend using a Linksys product.

• Always use the latest edition of Microsoft Internet Explorer. Microsoft is about to unveil IE 7.0 and availability can be determined here:
http://www.windowsdownloads.com

• Install a firewall program on your computer. At a minimum download the free Zone Labs firewall. I highly recommend purchasing Zone Alarm Pro. All Zone Alarm products can be found here: http://www.zonelabs.com

• Install an anti-virus program on your computer. I highly recommend Panda Antivirus Platinum available online at: http://www.pandasoftware.com/

• Install a Registry checking program on your computer. I highly recommend using Registry Mechanic available online at: http://www.pctools.com/

• It is critical that you scan your computer often using anti-spyware software. I have found that using one program is not enough, as hackers are sophisticated and move quickly to exploit vulnerabilities. Therefore I recommend a multi-layered approach. To ensure maximum protection it is necessary to use four anti-spyware programs:

1) Microsoft Antispyware for Windows XP available at: http://www.windowsdownloads.com/

2) AdAware Security Edition Plus available at: http://www.lavasoftusa.com/

3) Spybot Search and Destroy available at: http://www.safer-networking.org/en/download/

4) Hijack This available at: http://www.majorgeeks.com/download3155.html

Other Tips and Advice

• Make sure you receive a warning prompt before any ActiveX components, embedded objects, mime objects, scripts, and JavaScript's are downloaded to your computer. Do not put any website into your "Trusted Site" zone unless you are certain of their good-reputation.

• If you are considering using a "wireless" technology such as Bluetooth, be aware of security concerns and address these issues beforehand.

• If you use connect clients such as mIRC, Vincula-Neo etc., understand and appreciate the security issues involved.

• For greater online stealth, obtain a proxy address and alias if you know how to do this.

• Be aware of the possible dangers inherent in certain web-servers that allow peer-to-peer (p2p) connections.

• Always make sure that a webpage with forms and fields which require input of any personal information such as name, address, phone-number, credit card number, passwords, etc., are bona-fide, secure, and encrypted.

• A free online Anti-virus scan is available here -
http://housecall.trendmicro.com/

• You can check to see if you have any unexplained open ports with a free online scan available here -
http://www.dslreports.com/scan

• You can check on your Internet stealth with a free online scan available here -
http://stealthtests.lockdowncorp.com/

• You can download ping software here -
Free - http://www.advtoolware.com/t4e/fp/fp_default.htm
Recommended - http://www.ipswitch.com/products/WS_Ping/index.html?overture

• You can do a "whois" search of an IP address here -
http://www.arin.net/

• You can do a "whois" search for a domain name owner here -
http://www.inww.com/

• This site contains a database of known high-risk websites (blacklisted) -
http://www.spywareguide.com/spywarelist.html

• You can freely post questions about Microsoft/Internet Explorer security concerns and receive replies from Microsoft and industry security specialists here -
http://support.microsoft.com/newsgr...LCID=US&ICP=GSS3&sd=GN&id=fh;en-us;newsgroups

• Techie Note: While the Symantec (Norton's) corporation offers many excellent computer security tools and enjoys world-wide recognition, their software has a propensity to act as a system-administrator and claim unbridled control over the operating system. Just be aware and be a bit wary of this attribute.


Safe Surfing!



 

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In addition to that ^

If you've got broadband, get behind a hardware firewall/router even if you have only one computer in you house.

I recommend secure-it as a hardener. I did many of these manually things for friends and family. But this is a simple wizard type interface.
From the author's site:
Secure-It™ is a local Windows security hardening tool developed by Thierry Zoller, it proactively secures your PC by either disabling the intrusion and propagation vectors proactively or reduce the attack surface by disabling underlying functionality malware uses to execure itself.

It secures Windows desktop PCs against new dangers by blocking the root cause of the vulnerabilities exploited by malware, worms and spy ware . In some cases Secure-it is even able to protect your PC against threats prior to a patch release of the vendor.

If you're patient enough, I also recommend Prevx. It also offers protection against "zero-day vulnerabilities". The only downside of Prevx is that the free version it phones home usage stats.
Review from http://netsecurity.about.com/od/readproductreviews/fr/aapr091904.htm
"Any time that an application attempts to access system memory or critical files or alter the registry the Prevx Home software detects the activity and either blocks it completely or asks the user how to proceed. According to Prevx the software will detect and prevent buffer overflows and overruns, modification of critical files and directories, unauthorized changes to critical areas of the system registry and more.

I removed my antivirus and firewall software for an entire week during my test and still ran into no viruses or other malicious code or spyware. A scan with Ad-Aware found a handful of tracking cookies, but nothing malicious."


http://www.prevx.com/prevxhome.asp

Prevx Home anonymously and automatically sends us threat data each time an attack is made on your PC. We sell this data to organizations such as ISPs and Prevx Enterprise customers. Prevx analyzes this threat data to track the emergence and spread of new security threats. So like our corporate customers, you benefit from the continual improvements made to the security policies that are such an integral part of our security solutions.

Q. Why does Prevx software ‘phone home’? Why is it sending data, what data is it, and where is it going?

A. Prevx is committed to combating internet crime, the abuse of the Internet and unauthorized intrusions into personal privacy. Prevx Home and Prevx Pro are powerful tools in this fight, providing you with strong protection while accessing the Internet and providing information to help fight internet crime. Prevx anonymously reports attempted intrusion events (i.e. the attack data) to Prevx's central database. Prevx does not receive or record any personal data that can be used to identify you. The anonymity of the attack data has been audited. You can read the audit report in full here http://www.prevx.com/PrevxHomeAudit.pdf. It explains the details of the attack data and the purpose to which it is put. Upon receipt of the attack data, it is aggregated into Prevx's central database and used to produce general statistics on attacks, threats, their propagation and overall measures of the level of Internet abuse and crime. You can view a summary of this data by clicking PAWS from the Management Console. We do not use the data for any other purpose other than analyzing and publishing overall threat activity on the Internet, researching threats, compiling statistics and to further refine and improve the performance of Prevx security software. Prevx compiles and supplies summary, near real time, threat statistics to commercial organizations from time to time in return for a subscription fee.
Your Help Prevx appreciates your help in contributing to the fight against Internet crime. This fight cannot be won without the help and collaboration of the end user community. Prevx believes this is essential if the Internet is to be saved from destruction by misuse and crime. Your attack data will play a part in helping with the effort to combat this.
But prevx can be sort of mouthy, and you must remember to suspend it or use the Trusted Installation mode before you can install or update programs.
 

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Stickie'd thread - excellent info here!
 

Tashah

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Kudos to Simon for the excellent info! ... and additional big thanx to vauge. I encourage everyone who is computer savy to post security tips, pertinint links, and complimentary software recomendations here.

Computer security is somewhat like Homeland security... we have to be right all of the time while hackers need to be right only once.

Safe Surfing!
Tashah

PS. I am also competent in chatroom bots (MSN/IRC - ircx/ircn) and can offer some limited assistence in this realm.



 

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vauge said:
Stickie'd thread - excellent info here!
I was going to do that.. looks like you beat me too it.

Beautiful tips and advice. Thanks.
 

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Tashah said:
I am also competent in chatroom bots (MSN/IRC - ircx/ircn) and can offer some limited assistence in this realm.
I've not used any of instant messaging for years. Just a moment ago I found need to use one. Isn't there a generic one that handles traffic from any of them? Or is that just available for Linux?
What's a good safe one?
And what do I need to do to use one securely? I already have all of the standard security precautions in place, AV, anti-spyware, firewalls, shutdown unused services, etc.
 

Tashah

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Simon W. Moon said:
I've not used any of instant messaging for years. Just a moment ago I found need to use one. Isn't there a generic one that handles traffic from any of them? Or is that just available for Linux?
What's a good safe one?
And what do I need to do to use one securely? I already have all of the standard security precautions in place, AV, anti-spyware, firewalls, shutdown unused services, etc.
[Author Note] Chatroom bots are programs/scripts that are inserted into chatrooms to prevent a hostile takeover and moderate the room. The bot's language (ircx/ircn) allows it to communicate directly with the chat-server and set all room parameters. If it is accorded 'ownership status' it can kick a participant out of the chatroom (scrolling, flooding, foul language etc) and ban persistant violators. My bot at MSN (Stargate) uses the Viperbot program, and my bot at IRC (Quintessence) is a variation of Dominator. I use Vincula-Neo as a connect client. (Quintessence currently protects the IRC private chatroom of the Mars Rover Mission).

Simon,
I think what you are asking about above is instant messaging programs. The most widely used Web-based/cross-platform messaging program is ICQ and can be found here: http://www.icq.com/

The large internet providers such as AOL (AIM), MSN (Messenger), and Yahoo (Messenger) also provide instant messeging services and are Web-based (which means that they are viable no matter what connect-client is used).

AOL/AIM is available here: http://www.aim.com/
MSN/Messenger is available here: http://messenger.msn.com
Yahoo/Messenger is available here: http://messenger.yahoo.com

If you should decide to use MSN Messenger, I highly recommend downloading the add-on Messenger Plus! available here: http://www.msgplus.net

Encryption is an option for most of the above services, but all connected parties must have encryption ticked 'on' for this to be viable. Some words of caution... Links are 'live' in messages so be sure that you trust the sender and destination. File sharing is allowed if you 'accept', so be certain of the identity of the sender, and the format of the file to be accepted and downloaded. A good practice is to download any accepted file into a peripheral device such as a floppy or CD drive and then scan with security programs before any transfer to your hard drive.

Hope this helps!


 

Tashah

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Because hackers are becoming ever more sophisticated and adroit, I recommend one final layer of protection. Back-up your hard-drive and do this often!!!

I highly recommend the 'Retrospect' back-up software. It is available for both Apple and Windows operating systems and can be programmed to initiate (on-foreground) when you are sleeping and turn itself off (on-background) when the task is finished.

Although Retrospect will copy your entire hard-drive... this is not enough. To be 100% effective, it is incumbant that this back-up copy be written to either a DVD peripheral, a CDRW peripheral, or a separate hard-drive. I use two hard-drives. One (C) is for the usual operation of my computer, and the second (R) is dedicated exclusively to the Retrospect back-up of (C).

Retrospect (EMC Dantz) is available as boxed-software and here: http://www.dantz.com/

Microsoft announced Friday that its new operating system (OS) will be named 'Windows Vista'. The first beta version of Vista will be released by 3-August-2005 and is primarily for software developers and IT professionals. Vista is scheduled for release to the general public sometime next year. Vista will feature increased security and search capabilities.

Windows Vista: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/default.mspx


 

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Ah man... I have NO idea what you guys are talking about. I'm doomed huh?
 

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Kelzie said:
Ah man... I have NO idea what you guys are talking about. I'm doomed huh?
No, not at all.
Most everything listed here is fairly simple to implement.

If you like, you could post your Operating System, your internet connection type and what meausres you've taken so far, and I'll walk you through a little.
 

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Simon W. Moon said:
No, not at all.
Most everything listed here is fairly simple to implement.

If you like, you could post your Operating System, your internet connection type and what meausres you've taken so far, and I'll walk you through a little.
Umm...I have a Dell Dimension 2400. Is that what you're looking for?

I don't have dial up. Cable maybe? Or broadband? Are those the same?

And I have Norton Anitvirus that I run periodically.

My computer's going to get a virus and die, isn't it?
 

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yeah if theres on thing on that security list you could do its getting firefox.
 

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nkgupta80 said:
yeah if theres on thing on that security list you could do its getting firefox.
Indeed. If your really up for a challenge and some fun - switch to Linux. ;)

There is no such thing as a "virus" in Linux.
 

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agreed, linux handles most of your average security problems and is a lot more powerful than windows. I'd definately suggest switching to it, but for some, setting up and maintaining the system would be a bit too difficult. And it gets a bit more difficult when you gotta work with compatibility issues and so on.
 

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Kelzie said:
Umm...I have a Dell Dimension 2400. Is that what you're looking for?
No, not exactly, but that could be handy info on down the road.

Your operating system is probably Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000 or Windows XP.

Kelzie said:
I don't have dial up. Cable maybe? Or broadband? Are those the same?
If it's not dial-up, the odds are that you have dsl or cable.

Kelzie said:
And I have Norton Anitvirus that I run periodically.
Great! Have you recently updated the virus definitions?

Kelzie said:
My computer's going to get a virus and die, isn't it?
More likely, it'll get loaded with adware, spyware and malware and become so slow you throw it out the window to keep your own head from exploding.
 

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As Tash pointed out these're some of the standard softwares:

Ad-Aware:
"Ad-Aware is designed to provide advanced protection from known Data-mining, aggressive advertising, Parasites, Scumware, selected traditional Trojans, Dialers, Malware, Browser hijackers, and tracking components. With the release of Ad-Aware SE Personal edition, Lavasoft takes the fight against Spyware to the next level."
Download Ad-Aware


Spybot - Search & Destroy
"Spybot - Search & Destroy can detect and remove spyware of different kinds from your computer. Spyware is a relatively new kind of threat that common anti-virus applications do not yet cover. If you see new toolbars in your Internet Explorer that you didn't intentionally install, if your browser crashes, or if you browser start page has changed without your knowing, you most probably have spyware. But even if you don't see anything, you may be infected, because more and more spyware is emerging that is silently tracking your surfing behaviour to create a marketing profile of you that will be sold to advertisement companies. Spybot-S&D is free, so there's no harm in trying to see if something snooped into your computer, too :)"
Download Spybot Search and Destroy


http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/sbdownload.html
Download, install, update and run scans with both of these.




Then download, install and run a scan with this. BUT DO NOT DO ANYTHING BUT SAVE A COPY OF YOUR LOG FILE!

Hijack This!
"A general homepage hijackers detector and remover. Initially based on the article Hijacked!, but expanded with almost a dozen other checks against hijacker tricks. It is continually updated to detect and remove new hijacks. It does not target specific programs/URLs, just the methods used by hijackers to force you onto their sites. As a result, false positives are imminent and unless you are sure what you're doing, you should always consult with knowledgable folks (e.g. the forums) before deleting anything.
A rudimentary HijackThis log tutorial by me is available here.
The official HijackThis QuickStart for posting on the SpywareInfo forums is available here."

"EditorsNote: Hijack This is for advanced users. If you are not familiar with running processes on your computer as well as anything ever installed that could tie into your web browser, it will not be much help to you. Thats ok, were here to help you!
You should have scanned your machine with anti-spyware, virus and trojan tools before using Hijack This. We have written a tutorial that helps remove most known spyware, trojans or viruses, so please, take a minute to read the Basic Spyware, Trojan And Virus Removal tutorial.
If you are familiar with running processes, we also have the official Hijack This Tutorial And How To Post Your Log File which can help you analyze your log file or explain how to post it so we can analyze it for you."

Download Hijack This!


After you have a Hijack This! logfile, you can visit one of the forums, or if you like you may email it or pm it to me.


Then download install and update this:

Spyware Blaster
"Prevent the installation of ActiveX-based spyware, adware, browser hijackers, dialers, and other potentially unwanted software.
Block spyware/tracking cookies in Internet Explorer and Mozilla/Firefox.
Restrict the actions of potentially unwanted sites in Internet Explorer."
Download Spyware Blaster


Then download and install this. After you have it installed email me and I'll send you a step-by-step guide through the wizard. I'll have to ask you a few questions about your system and network (if any) first.

Secure-It
"From the author's site:
Secure-It™ is a local Windows security hardening tool developed by Thierry Zoller, it proactively secures your PC by either disabling the intrusion and propagation vectors proactively or reduce the attack surface by disabling underlying functionality malware uses to execure itself.

It secures Windows desktop PCs against new dangers by blocking the root cause of the vulnerabilities exploited by malware, worms and spy ware . In some cases Secure-it is even able to protect your PC against threats prior to a patch release of the vendor."

Main Features
- Harden your Local Zone Security (My Computer) settings.
- Proactively disable scripting or Active-X controls which proved potential propagation vectors in the past.
- Reduce potential intrusion vectors by disabling non used services.
- Various other protections
- Run files with - untrusted - constrained - normal User rights even if you are logged in as admin. (Right-Click on an exe file)
- Bug fixes.
- Adds Secure links to Outlook and Internet Explorer on your Desktop.
Download Secure-It


That should pretty much do you software-wise except for a firewall. I"d recommend ZoneAlarm for you. I prefer Sygate for various reasons that you prob'ly wouldn't care about.


Also, for anyone interested, I have a hosts file list that's a few thousand long. I can email it to you if you like.
 

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Once again, the basics for computer security:

1• If you have a DSL (24/7) connection, use a Router as an interface.
2• Use an independent Firewall program.
3• Microsoft users... check for Critical Updates.
4• Use an independent Anti-Virus program.
5• Use a mix of Anti-Spyware programs.
6• Use a Registry Checker program.
7• Use a program that makes your browsing Annonymous.
7• Change passwords frequently.
8• Never respond online to e-mails from banking institutions... phone them.
9• Think about possible negative consequences beforehand!

Simon and I have posted active links to essential security programs. Almost all of these programs have a web-update feature that allows you to check for program updates and new definition files and download these updates to your computer. It is critical that you do this at least weekly.

Some of you may feel uncomfortable discussing your security needs or posting techie questions here in a public forum. All are welcome to Private Message me for any assistence in this particular area :smile:

Safe Surfing!


 

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Hooray! Thanks guys. I have the dirt poor version of Norton which just lets you know, FYI, that you have adware and spyware on your computer. I've had to leave them for months cause I couldn't figure out how to get them off. Hopefully this works.
 

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Tashah

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• Anti-Virus Software
· I use Panda Titanium Anti-Virus software. Besides using a database of known viruses, Titanium also has a feature Panda calls TruPrevent Technology. Unlike traditional antivirus solutions, TruPrevent Technologies do not need to have previous knowledge of the viruses that they can detect and block. They offer proactive, not reactive protection. Your traditional antivirus software is still necessary to protect your computer against known threats. They detect and disinfect the threats they are programmed to fight. However, TruPrevent Technologies are designed to detect the threats that can slip past current AV software... the unknown threats. TruPrevent Technologies complement antiviruses and are not a substitute for them.

· Panda Titanium AntiVirus software can be purchased off-the-shelf and is also available online ($49.95 - 1 year license) at: http://www.pandasoftware.com/

· If you cannot afford to purchase Anti-Virus software, AVG Anti-Virus is free to download. I have tested this software and was very satisfied with its performance. It is available online here: http://www.grisoft.com/

•E-Mail Hoaxes
· You receive an urgent e-mail from a relative or friend informing you that a new threat to your computer has been discovered. You are given directions on how to locate a file or files on your computer and advised to delete them immediately. STOP!

· If you look closely you will see that while the e-mail sender is valid, the content of the e-mail is a forwarded document. In other words, it is a chain-letter. This is probably a hoax and many people have damaged their own computer by deleting files that are valid and necessary. DO NOT delete any files on your computer before determining if they are indeed malicious.

· The security programs you have on your computer (ie. anti-virus, anti-spyware etc.) are designed to detect and neutralize harmful programs! In addition, there are online resources that identify and explain new threats:

Security News from eWeek - User friendly.

Sans Institute of Computer Security - For the computer savy.

Microsoft TechNet Security Home Page - Microsoft security bulletins.

Microsoft Technical Security Notifications - Here you can register to receive security notices from Microsoft via either an instant message (MSN Messenger) or your e-mail addy.

· Another way to check on Internet hoaxes are these websites:

Urban Legends Reference Pages

Hoaxbusters

Safe Surfing!


 

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NIS, Panda, Ad-aware, SpyBot. Don´t get too paranoid. No one is interested about You. Except Your neightbour.
 

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I disagree. Knowledge is power and many are interested in acquiring knowledge by nefarious means. If you wish to suspect your neighbor and trust everyone else, then that is your decision. However, I do not personally subscribe to that topsy-turvy methodology... and I seriously doubt that many others will either.


 

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It's not the malware with your name on it. It's the malware addressed To Whom It May Concern.


I know that if someone were willing to, they could crack my little network wide open. However, the value in doing so is vastly overshadowed by the effort rquired to do such a thing. Not so much because I have such great security, but because I have so little of value on my machine.

The serious criminal crackers won't bother with my little network because the rewards are so little. Since I realize that I don't have the wherewithal to keep out the pros, I don't even bother worrying about what would happen if some super cyber pro came after my set up.

However, there's the vast army of script kiddies who have more free-time than they have judgment. Script kiddies engage in vandalism because they can. They seek victims of opportunity. These are the folks I try to keep out.
If you have any doubt simply install one of the firewalls that alert you to ports scans run against you system. The rate of scans can vary from a few every few hours to a hundred of so a minute depending upon where you are and what you're doing on line. Any sort of file swapping, gaming or any other activity that reveals you IP addy to someone other than the webmaster will dramatically up the rate of port scans against your system.

A SK can set up a machine, or a bank of machines to run ports scans all day long while she's at school or asleep or whatever. This way the SK can scan thousands, if tens of thousands of machines a day. Then her computer produces a report of vulnerable machines for the SK to focus on.


It's not that someone "is interested about You." It's a very impersonal matter.


Having a hardware firewall between you and the internet cuts out most of this crap.

The steps that are listed here should be sufficient to deter script kiddies and other meandering, malicious rogues who seek victims of opportunity.

Unfortunately, some of the biggest threats to computers' security happen on our sides of the keyboard. No software or hardware in the world can provide enough protection against our own stupidity.
 
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Tashah

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I agree completely Simon. I am a frequent visitor to IRC chatrooms (Internet Relay Chat) which sports a sort of a Wild West ambiance. I'd estimate that about a third of IRC inhabitants are world-class scriptors... and about half of those are teenagers. The identity of a target is a moot point. All that matters is the results. Why? Who knows. A demonstration of technical prowness? Bragging rights? Another speedbump on the road to infamy successfully negotiated? A simple power trip?

I would advise anyone who is not familiar with IRC, or with scripting and bots to approach this medium with extreme caution. You will be probed and tested almost immediately.

The main point that Simon and I have been addressing in this thread is that it is possible to prevent 99% of all security problems simply by being proactive rather than reactive. Since many security programs are offered free to the general public, anything less than a proactive stance amounts to nothing more than sheer laziness and gross negligence.


 

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For those with a 24/7 DSL connection to the Internet, a router can serve as an interface between your computer and the web. But what about those who still use a dial-up service to connect online?

A new device called the Stealth Surfer II™ just might be the answer. The SSII is a tiny USB device (length=2" - width=¾" - thinkness=dime) that plugs into a USB port on any computer using a Windows ME/2000/XP operating system.

The SSII contains a special edition of the Mozilla Firefox™ web browser, Anonymizer™, RoboForm™ with 3DES encryption, and Mozilla Thunderbird™ e-mail software.

Log in to the SSII with your password and surf the web in safety. The Firefox™ browser is fairly immune to nasty web stuff, Anonymizer™ keeps your IP and DNS identifiers masked, and RoboForm™ has a password manager and encrypts forms etc.

When you are done surfing, remove the SSII from the USB port and all info such as cookies etc. stay with the SSII rather than being left on your hard drive.

No software to download, no setup, and no drivers to install. The SSII comes prefigured with everything. The SSII is available with 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, or 1GB of storage.

I tested the SSII and found both the device and customer support excellent. It is a bit pricey, starting at $99.00 for the 128MB model. Another complaint is its small size... easy to misplace. On the whole though, the Stealth Surfer II™ delivers what it promises. It can be purchased online here: www.stealthsurfer.biz

Safe Surfing!


 
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