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What is Trusteer Endpoint Protection and do I need it?

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 00:00:00 +0700

(image) In the tech industry’s ongoing attempts to create better tools to protect consumers, they often come up with software that focuses in specific areas.

Trusteer Endpoint Protection (a.k.a Rapport) is a legitimate program that is specifically designed to help fight financial fraud and is often recommended by various banks for reducing the chances of fraud and identity theft when it comes to online transactions.

Originally developed in Israel in 2006, Trusteer was acquired by IBM in 2013 for an estimated $800 million so any concerns about it being a malware program can be put to rest.

Why Banks Recommend It

The program is specifically designed to prevent many known banking Trojan malware such as ZeuS, Silon, Torpig, SpyEye and others from attacking its users.

Malware designed to attack online banking transactions will attempt to steal login credentials so cyber-thieves can access online accounts or steal the identity of its victims. 

They tend to use keyloggers, screen grabbing and phishing as a means of exploiting users, which is what Trusteer is specifically designed to help protect against.

As such, many banks recommend the free program as an extra layer of protection, because the banks have installed the protection on their side and it works best when both sides are using the same security system (thus the name ‘Endpoint’).

Banks are interested in both security and regulatory compliance, which the Trusteer platform provides, which is why so many have partnered with IBM to promote the program.

The Real World

If the only thing your computer needed to do was interact with your bank, Trusteer would be a no-brainer, but for most of us that’s not the real world.

Despite the fact that it’s designed to work as an added layer of protection to your primary security program, many users have reported a multitude of issues over the years.

Online complaints range from the initial installation process to incompatibility with other programs to a noticeable degradation in performance as well as a complicated removal procedure.

As with any security program, it can prevent you from operating your computer in a normal way because it blocks access to anything it perceives as a threat (false positives), which can be very frustrating.

Should You Use It?

As with any protection system, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, so determining whether you should use the program or not requires some homework.

If your bank is pushing you to install the program, before doing so, I’d strongly recommend that you research the specific issues with whatever Internet security program you have installed by doing a search for ‘Trusteer issues with XXX” (where XXX is the name of your program).

Not only will you get information specifically from the support resources of the Internet security company, you’ll likely get user feedback on their experiences as well.

As an advanced search tip in Google, if you include –trusteer.com

 at the end of your search query, the results will be filtered to exclude anything from Trusteer’s website so you’ll only get feedback from third parties.

Business users should do their experimenting on non-mission critical computers to avoid any compatibility disruptions to workflow.




I have two friends who were recently hit with "ransomware". What are their options?

Wed, 9 Nov 2016 00:00:00 +0700

(image) Ransomware is one of the fastest growing cyber-crimes because it’s working so well for organized crime rings around the world.

Victims of ransomware are essentially locked out of their own private files unless they are willing to pay a ransom to get the key that will unlock them.

Alarming Ransomware Statistics

According to one estimate, $209 million was paid in ransomware attacks in the first quarter of 2016 alone.

Another survey found that nearly 50% of professional organizations were victims of a ransomware attack in the past 12 months. 

The average ransom demanded is just under $700, but as more businesses are being targeted, the ransom amounts are increasing.

To provide some perspective, the average ransom demand in 2015 was around $294

59% of infections come via email as either a malicious link or an infected email attachment.

Malicious social media links don’t account for a large percentage of the current attacks, but cyber security experts expect this approach to grow.

Protecting Yourself From Ransomware

Since this form of attack larger relies on tricking a human into clicking on a link or opening a malicious attachment, educating everyone in your household or business on ways to spot questionable email messages is a good start.

Since cyber-criminals have the ability to use Internet searches and social media to figure out who’s who in just about any business, it allows them to create very clever spear-phishing email messages that can fool employees that aren’t paying attention.

Bad grammar, missing punctuation and strange salutations are just a few of the things that everyone needs to be looking for in just about any message that prompts you to click on a link or open an attachment.

There is a free phishing security test business can use to test and educate their employees from a company called KnowBe4 (https://goo.gl/PGsyHz)

Parents need to understand that cyber-criminals set their traps where they know teenagers go to download free music, games, movies and programs that usually cost hundreds of dollars.

Make sure you have all your security updates installed and have a good off-site backup like Carbonite so you don’t ever have to pay the ransom to get your files back.

Learn More: Are Online Backup Services Safe?

Options For Victims

If you become a victim of a ransomware attack, your options depend on what type of backup you employ.

Traditional backup devices that are attached to your computer when you’re attacked are also attacked, so unless you have a disconnected or off-site backup, you’ll either have to pay the ransom or lose everything and start over.

Fortunately, getting rid of the infection that allowed your files to be held hostage is pretty straight forward, but decrypting your compromised files is nearly impossible for most of today’s attacks.

If you do have a clean backup, you can either disinfect the system by booting to an uninfected device, like a flash drive or CD/DVD to run a scan with anti-virus/security programs or wipe the drive completely and reload everything from scratch.




What protective measures can be taken to avoid having email hacked like what happened in the Podesta case?

Wed, 2 Nov 2016 00:00:00 +0700

(image) There are many lessons that can be learned from the recent high-profile email hacks to several public figures.

The most important lesson is that people, not security measures are the easiest to compromise.

The Weakest Link

As anyone in IT security will tell you, no matter how sophisticated the cyber-security system may be, the humans using the system are always the weakest link.

In most cases, hackers employ what’s called ‘social engineering’ to trick users into divulging critical information that allows them to be exploited.

In the Podesta case, a ‘spear-phishing’ email claiming the password had been stolen convinced both the users and the IT person that it was a legitimate warning from Google.

Spear-phishing refers to a more targeted exploit because the hackers know that you use a specific online service.

In this case, since the recipient’s email address ended with @gmail.com, they created a ‘stolen password’ alert that appeared to be from Google.

Tell Tale Signs

As with most phishing messages, a close examination of the punctuation and grammar would have tipped off an observant reader.

The lack of commas in appropriate places, the relative vagueness of the message and the fact that they ended the message with ‘Best, The Mail Team’ are clear red flags.

The reason social engineering tricks work so well is that the anxiety created by the message causes most people to focus on the salacious subject line and scary claims instead of the message in its entirety.

Another way to sniff out suspicious messages is to use the hover method as described in this video: https://youtu.be/-aay-00BCKE

Thoroughly Read Messages

The IT person also fell for the fake message but in their defense, they replied with a specific link to use to change the password, which the frantic user didn’t use.

Instead, they went back to the original message and clicked on the button that said ‘Change Password’ which sent them right where the hackers wanted them.

Had they followed the instructions from the IT person, even though the message was a fake, they would not have been compromised.

Stolen Password Protection

Another important step that the IT person suggested in his response was to make sure that 2-step verification was turned on (https://goo.gl/SCa64p), which would have kept the hackers out even with the password.

2-step verification creates a second layer of protection in the event someone steals your password.

With it turned on, whenever the site detects a valid login from an unknown location or device, it sends a special code via text message to your smartphone.  

Without the code, the person that has your password won’t be able to get in AND you will have been alerted that your password has been compromised.

Never Click Links

We’ve all heard the ‘never click links in email messages’ a million times, but cleverly crafted messages can scare people into taking immediate action.


Even when you think a warning is legitimate, avoid the links and manually type in the address of the service in question to see if the same warning comes up when you log in.




Is it a good idea to put tape over my laptops webcam or is there something else I should be doing?

Wed, 5 Oct 2016 00:00:00 +0700

(image) With the recent story about FBI Director James Comey admitting to having tape over the top of his webcams at home, this question is making the rounds once again.

Comey isn’t the only one that has tape over his webcams. Another story that took the Internet by storm was a picture of Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg showing that he has tape over both the webcam and the microphone jack on his laptop.

How Possible Is A Webcam Hack?

The technical capability for a remote hacker to gain access to your webcam is absolutely a possibility, so putting tape over your webcam will keep them from being able to see or record anything if they do get in.

But I’ve always contended that just putting tape over your webcam is a little like sticking your head in the sand, if that’s all you do.

In order for a remote hacker to make use of your webcam, they generally start by gaining access to your computer, which gives them complete access to EVERYTHING on your computer.

Protecting Yourself

Making sure you have solid security software installed and paying attention to changes in the performance and startup times of your computer are also critical to sniffing out hidden malware.

Both Mac and Windows users are potential victims of the many social engineering tricks used by malware creators to gain access to your system.

One of the more common tricks is to convince you that you need to update your video playback software in order to see a video, which often presents itself as a convincing but fake pop-up with a link.

Monitoring Programs

If you’re serious about protecting access to your computer’s webcam, you can install special software that monitors, blocks and alerts you whenever a program is attempting to use your webcam.

Windows users can look into using Phrozen Software’s Who Stalks My Cam (https://goo.gl/W5DwIa) which offers free threat detection as well as the ability to setup automatic responses to detected threats.

It also offers the ability to create ‘Whitelists’ of approved programs so applications like Skype that you do want to use won’t be stopped in their tracks.

Mac users can install a free program called OverSight (https://goo.gl/TvcWb1) from the R&D Director at Synack, an information security firm.

The OverSight program will monitor both your Mac's mic and webcam, alerting you whenever the internal mic is activated or whenever a program is attempting to access your webcam.

Patrick Wardle, the author of the program and former NSA staffer recently discussed new ways malware could piggy-back on legitimate webcam sessions, so Mac users shouldn’t shrug off the threat as a Windows-only problem.

Most webcams have an LED that indicates that it’s in use, but some of the more sophisticated attacks can turn off the visual indicator or in the case of the recent proof-of-concept attack on the Mac, simply piggy-back onto legitimate sessions.

Remember, if a remote user can access your webcam, they can generally access everything on your computer, so don’t limit your concerns to the webcam.




Is it safe to have my browser save passwords?

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 00:00:00 +0700

(image) This question illustrates the ongoing challenge we all have to face when it comes to balancing convenience with security.

Having your passwords stored in your browser is certainly a big convenience, but no matter how you look at it, the price you’ll pay is some level of security.

Technically Speaking

If you never save a password in your browser, technically speaking it’s certainly safer, but what you really need to do is weigh the actual risks against the convenience.

How and where you use your computer should also be a consideration as a laptop, smartphone or tablet is much more likely to be lost or stolen then a desktop computer in your home or office.

Saving passwords on your home computer that only you use is far safer than saving passwords on a mobile laptop that you’re whole family shares.

Saving passwords on benign sites that contain very little personal information is also less of an issue than saving passwords for any of your financial institutions.

Built-In Security

Every major browser offers some form of encryption that securely stores the saved passwords on your computer, but we don’t really know exactly how ‘hackable’ their security may be.

The reality for most of us is that we're a lot less likely to be the victim of a hacker that’s specifically targeting saved browser passwords then we are to be the victim of theft or a lost device.

A stolen device loaded with a plethora of saved passwords is a cyber-thief’s dream, so it’s imperative that you setup some form of access code and auto-locking feature to reduce the potential damage should it go missing.

Installing some form of remote tracking and deletion software, such as https://preyproject.com on all your mobile devices is also a good idea, whether you’re saving passwords on them or not.

To Sync or Not to Sync

Another ‘convenience’ feature you’ll have to decide whether to use or not is the browser ‘syncing’ option.

Syncing allows you to share your browsing history and passwords across all your different devices, but in order for it to work, your information has to be stored by the browser company on their servers.

Once again, they offer various levels of encryption and with the exception of one company, Opera, we’ve yet to hear of any breaches of this particular secured data, but you’ve technically added another way to be exploited.

For its part, Google has created a central place that allows you to manage what passwords the Chrome browser saves  which you can also password protect separately with a sync passphrase at https://passwords.google.com.

A Better Way

Security experts all tend to agree that if you’re going to use software to store your passwords, using a dedicated password storage tool such as LastPass, KeePass or RoboForm is more secure than using your browser to store your passwords.


Products that focus solely on protecting passwords instead of relying on browser developers that have to focus on many other things besides security should provide you with a better layer of security.




Is it really safe to use a password management program that stores all your passwords in one place?

Wed, 14 Sep 2016 00:00:00 +0700

(image) If you only had one or two to remember, creating long, complex passwords that you could easily remember wouldn’t be too difficult, but estimates are that most people average between 25-30 distinct online accounts.

This has led to the common, but unsafe practice of using the same password on multiple online accounts, which the security community has warned against ad nauseam.

All Security Eggs In One Basket?

Companies like LastPass, RoboForm. 1Password and Dashlane offer a solution that may seem a bit counter-intuitive: put all your security eggs in one basket.

On its face and from a purely technical standpoint, storing everything in one place seems a bit risky, but you need to compare it to what you’re currently doing.

No process is 100% secure, but if you’re using the same password everywhere, you’re in about the highest risk category that exists.

Password managers allow you to use strong unique passwords for every account, but only require you to remember a single master password.

Encryption Is The Key

Every password manager uses some form of encryption to secure your basket of passwords. This doesn’t make them impossible to compromise, it just makes it more difficult and a less desirable target.

Even when a breach occurs at an online password management service, the stolen data is encrypted, which means the thieves still have to spend the time to crack the security.  By the time they can actually crack the encryption, you’ll have been notified to change your passwords by the breached service, rendering the stolen info useless.

Online vs Offline Managers

There are generally two ways that password managers store your encrypted passwords; in the cloud or on your computer.

Online password managers tend to trade a bit of security for convenience, because there is nothing to download or install and you aren’t limited to using the service on specific devices.  Any device that has an Internet connection can potentially be used to access your accounts, but that also means that it’s potentially accessible by others.

Offline password managers are technically more secure because the only place that your information exists is on your computer or mobile devices, but that also means you’ll only be able to access your accounts from those specific devices.

This can become problematic if your computer goes down or you’re using a computer that you don’t own to try to access your accounts.

Master Password

If you decide to use a password management system, the single most important password you’ll create is the master password.

Making sure it’s long (at least 12 characters) and complex as well as activating 2-factor authentication (https://twofactorauth.org) is critical to keeping everything secured.

Keep in mind, if you lose your master password, most of the services can’t help you recover it because they generally don’t store it anywhere as a security precaution.

Making Your Decision

If you’re not tech savvy, using an online password manager is likely more secure then what you’re currently doing and it’s a lot less complicated.

If not, you can always use my low-tech password management suggestion: https://goo.gl/v8Rvjo




I've been told that my passwords should now be at least 10 characters long in order to be secure nowadays. Is that true?

Wed, 17 Aug 2016 00:00:00 +0700

(image) Passwords tend to be the only thing separating criminals and thieves from our online accounts, which is why they spend so much time creating sophisticated means in which to compromise them.

Just about all the advice you’ll ever hear about creating ‘strong passwords’ is generally designed to thwart sophisticated guessing schemes commonly referred to as ‘brute-force attacks’.

Brute-force attacks, which are generally performed off-line by high-speed computer networks, are a systematic process of trying every possible combination of letters, numbers and special characters until the correct combination is figured out.

Long, complex passwords are the best way to combat this type of attack.


Understanding Brute-Force Attacks

If you were to only use 2 characters for your password, you can see how a high-speed computer could guess every possible combination in the blink of an eye.

In fact, the Gibson Research Password Haystack Tool (https://grc.com/haystack) suggests that any 2-character password can be broken in 0.0000000000354 seconds or less.

Each additional character that you add exponentially increases the number of possible combinations, so the longer your password is, the longer it will take for a brute-force attack to be successful.

Most of you have been trained to use complex 8 character passwords, which are hard for you to remember and easy for attackers to crack. With today’s sophisticated password cracking technology, GRC’s tool suggest it’ll take just over 1 minute to break any 8 character password, no matter what combination of characters you use.

By stretching the password to 10 characters, that 1-minute goes to 1-week, as long as you have included uppercase characters, numbers and special characters.


Use Passphrases, Not Passwords

If you don’t follow the guidance on using all the required characters, the number of possible combinations drops exponentially.

For instance, the time that it takes to crack a complex 10-character password that does not include an upper case letter goes from 1-week down to just over 6 hours.  

The key to creating strong complex passwords that you can remember is to stop using passwords and start using passphrases.

My go-to example of ‘I H8te Passwords!’ is a 17-character passphrase (including spaces) that GRC’s tool suggests would take 13.44 billion centuries to crack.

By creating a passphrase that is personal to you, you have a much better chance of creating a long complex password that you can easily remember.  


For example, I’m Going To Aruba in 2017! is 27 characters long and uses all the required characters.  Some sites don’t allow you to use spaces, but it would still be 22-characters long.


12-Character Minimum

I personally shoot for at least 12-character passphrases these days, knowing that brute-force cracking technology is going to get faster as time goes on.

If time wasn’t a factor, any password of any length can eventually be broken, but time is a factor with cyber-thieves, so make yours long and complex enough so that your accounts aren’t worth their time.




What do I do when I get this message: "There is a problem with this website's security certificate"?

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 +0700

(image) We’ve all been taught to look for HTTPS: (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) at the beginning of a website whenever we’re going to make a purchase online.

This ensures that the information you’re typing on the page is encrypted between you and the trusted website so that your information stays secure.

The warning message you’re asking about typically appears on sites that require this level of security, such as any site that requires you to log in or make purchases online.

A security certificate is a means to ensure that the site owner is who they say they are resulting in the famous ‘lock’ image that helps you know that you’re on a secure site.

Think of them as a way to authenticate the owner of a website much like your username and password are used to authenticate you as a user.

The complexity involved in Internet security can get a bit technical, but for the most part, whenever you see this error on a site where you are being asked to provide sensitive information, you should be very cautious.

When you see this message pop up, your browser is essentially telling you that it can’t verify the authenticity of the website you are visiting because there is a problem with the security certificate.

The causes for this warning message can vary greatly and often times does not necessarily mean that something nefarious is in play, but you should still always be cautious.

Something as simple as your computer’s date and time being off can cause this but so can a slightly mistyped URL that lands you on a scam site.

A common cause is that the website owner hasn’t renewed their security certificate (as in it was once valid, but has since expired) or they’re using a free Certificate Authority service such as CAcert.org (http://cacert.org) that isn’t necessarily trusted by some browsers.

If you know for sure that the website is legitimate, you should alert the website owner of the warning so they can fix the problem on their end.

Keep in mind, this can also be a clear alert that the site you’re visiting isn’t a legitimate site and can’t be trusted.

Creating very convincing duplicate websites is not very hard to do these days, so you’ve got to always pay close attention to security indicators like the picture of the lock and these security warnings that can come from Google, your browser or from your security software.

If you’re not sure about a site, you can use a third-party site checker such as Sucuri’s SiteCheck scanner (https://sitecheck.sucuri.net) to get a full report on the site that will check for known malware, blacklisting status, website errors and out-of-date software.

If you regularly visit a site that you know is legitimate but gives you this error, there are ways to bypass the message for just that site, but I’d only suggest this for tech savvy users (by doing a Google search).




Is there a way for me to see if my Facebook account has been hacked?

Wed, 6 Jul 2016 00:00:00 +0700

 (image) With over one billion active daily users, Facebook increasingly is becoming an attack vector of choice for those with malicious intent.

Target Rich Environment

Facebook is a target rich environment not only because of the huge number of users but because of the sensitive information that so many have provided the network which helps to pull off ID theft.

Birth dates, mother’s maiden name, and using a compromised profile to login to other services is just the beginning of the desirable identity elements for thieves.  

 There are a variety of common techniques that scammers use to gain access to your profile, with many of them focusing on phishing scams with malicious links or fake login requests.

Fake Duplicate Accounts

Another very common practice that gets people thinking that their account has been hacked is actually just a fake duplicate of your profile.

It only takes a few minutes to download your public profile image and publically available information to create what looks like your account to your friends.

Most of these scams will try to trick your friends into accepting a new friend request that looks like it’s from you so they can perpetrate their scam as a ‘trusted friend’.

In these cases, posting a warning to all your friends and asking them to help you report the fake duplicate will generally get the account taken down fairly quickly.

The process for reporting fake accounts is posted at: https://goo.gl/73Kddn

Has My Account Been Hacked?

Certainly there are clear indicators that someone had gained access to your account, like when you see posts that you had nothing to do with or private messages that were sent to your friends that wasn’t you.

The first step to determining if others are actually using your account is to check the ‘Where You’re Logged In’ page in the Security portion of your Settings.

This page will list every location, device and last access time for all your active sessions, so if you see a location or device that you don’t recognize, that could be an indication of a compromise and you should immediately change your password.

If you don’t initially recognize an entry, remember that if you’ve ever borrowed a friend’s computer to use your account, that computer may still have access to your profile and many friends will take the opportunity to prank you.

You can remove any of the entries by clicking on the ‘End Activity’ link next to each session or click on the ‘End All Activity’ to kill all sessions except your current one.

Protective Measures

Keep in mind, with data breaches occurring almost daily, if you’re using the same username and passwords on most of your online accounts, it’s a walk in the park for someone to start using your Facebook account.

My advice to everyone is that you should assume that all your usernames and passwords will be compromised at some point, so activating ‘Login Approvals’ (https://goo.gl/sDqOlF) or ‘2 factor authentication’ (http://goo.gl/X65O1N) on every account is essential.




Will posting a legal notice on my Facebook wall protect my copyright and privacy rights when it comes to my pictures and personal information?

Wed, 22 Jun 2016 00:00:00 +0700

(image) It sounds like you’re referring to a reposting of a hoax warning that started circulating years ago as some form of copyright declaration as Facebook was going public.

There are many variations of this misinformation that tend to have a couple of statements in common:

“pursuant to articles L.111, 112 and 113 of the code of intellectual property, I declare that my rights are attached to all my personal data drawings, paintings, photos, video, texts etc. published on my profile and my page” and “Those who read this text can do a copy/paste on their Facebook wall. This will allow them to place themselves under the protection of copyright”.

The first red flag to any Facebook posting these days is when they encourage you to copy/paste the information to your own wall (it’s like the early days of email – send this to everyone you know!).

Although the wording may appear to be some form of a legitimate legal declaration, it’s absolutely useless and unnecessary based on what every user of Facebook agreed to when they joined the network.

If you review the terms of your use of Facebook, under the “Sharing Your Content and Information” section is this:

“You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. 

In addition: For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

Anyone that claims you need to post a declaration to keep Facebook from using your pictures and information is sadly misinformed.

They don’t own your content, but you gave them pretty liberal use of it when you agreed to their terms and conditions.

If you’re not comfortable with this arrangement, you can delete your account, but when you do, if any of your friends at any point in time shared your content, it’s still completely usable by Facebook until your friends delete it as well.

Facebook’s whole raison d'etre is to share our content, information, Likes and behaviors with advertisers; us users aren’t the customers, we’re the product.

You can certainly control how they use your content to a certain degree through the privacy and sharing settings in your profile (https://goo.gl/tFjdt5), but in reality once you post anything on a social network or on the Internet at large, you should essentially assume you’re giving up control over what happens to it.

If you haven’t spent much time reviewing the numerous options you have for managing your profile, a fairly comprehensive guide is posted at security blogger Graham Cluley’s website.