Archive for Information Security

Search Google More Safely

Search Google more safely

We all use Google, quickly finding everything we need on the Internet. It’s replaced dictionaries, encyclopedias, instruction manuals, newspapers and in many cases, even doctors (not such a good thing!).

However, sometimes your search results aren’t the real thing and can be downright malicious. For example, we regularly find that customers search for, say, a printer driver software update and they type in something like “XP442 printer driver” . A close look at some of the results shows things like ‘ epsondrivers.org ‘ or ‘ printerdriversforyou.com ‘ – not the manufacturers official website – so you may get a driver but you are very likely to get something unwanted too!

Here’s how to search more safely: –

Pay attention to the URL in Google

Below every result title there’s a URL (website address) in green. No matter what the title says, this URL is where your mouse click will take you. Unfortunately, cyber-criminals will often list their site with a familiar and trusted title but link you to their scam/malware pages.

Another example can be the title of your bank name (eg, Example Bank), which seems legitimate, but the URL could be www.baabpjhg.com which is obviously not your bank. Sometimes they’ll attempt to trick you by putting the real site into the link too, eg www.baabpjhg.com/examplebank.com which makes it even more likely to catch you out when skimming through results quickly. When you visit the page, it might look exactly like your bank’s site and ask for your login details, which are then harvested for attack.

Whilst jibberish in the link is pretty easy to spot, sometimes they’ll take advantage of a small typo that you can easily miss. For example, www.exampebank.com (missing the letter L).

Notice Google search results v paid adverts

Google does a pretty good job at making sure the most relevant and legitimate sites are at the top of the list, however paid adverts will usually appear above them. Much of the time, these paid ads are also legitimate (and you can quickly check the URL to verify), but occasionally cybercriminals are able to promote their malicious site to the top and catch thousands of victims before being removed.

Similarly, well known businesses can pay for adverts, even though much of their software is classed as ‘Potentially Unwanted Programs’ and technicians remove them from computers every day.

Believe Google’s malicious site alerts

Sometimes Google knows when something is wrong with a website. It could be a legitimate site that was recently hacked, a security setting that’s malfunctioned, or the site was reported to them as compromised.

When this happens, Google stops you clicking through with a message saying “this website may be harmful” or “this site may harm your computer”. Stop immediately, and trust that Google has detected something you don’t want in your house.

Turn on Safe Search

You can filter out explicit search results by turning on Google Safe Search. Whilst not strictly a cyber-security issue, it can still provide a safer Google experience. Safe Search is normally suggested as a way to protect browsing children, but it also helps adults who aren’t interested in having their search results cluttered with inappropriate links, many of which lead to high-risk sites.

Switch Safe Search on/off by clicking Settings > Search Settings > Safe Search.

These are just a few tips to make your searching safer, but the most important is you – never take your internet security for granted and always be cautious when using any search engine, as they can only display what they find out there on the internet – good and bad.

Need some help securing your system? Give us a call on 01455 209505.

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How to tell if your Computer has a Virus

How to tell if your computer has a virus

Sometimes computers do strange things that ring alarm bells and the next thing is that you’re running virus scans and demanding everyone come clean about their browsing habits. Fortunately, not all weird occurrences are caused by viruses – sometimes your computer is simply overloaded, overheating or in desperate need of a reboot.

Here are some tell-tale signs of a malware attack:-

1. Bizarre error messages

Look for messages popping up from nowhere that make no sense, are poorly worded or plain gibberish – especially if they’re about a program you don’t even have. Take note of anti-virus warnings too, check the warning is from YOUR anti-virus software and also that it looks like it should.

If a message pops up that isn’t quite right, don’t click. Not even to clear or cancel the message. Close the browser or shut down the computer instead, then run a full scan.

2. Suddenly deactivated anti-virus/malware protection

Certain viruses are programmed to take out the antivirus/antimalware security systems first, leaving you open to infection (this is why we advise our customers to always have all the system tray icons visible on the taskbar, on the bottom right-hand side). If you reboot and your protections aren’t back doing their job, you may be under attack. Attempt to start the anti-virus manually.

3. Social media messages you didn’t send

Are your friends replying to messages you never wrote? Your login details might have been hacked and your friends are now being tricked into giving up personal information or worse. Change your password immediately, and advise your friends of the hack.

4. Web browser acting up

Perhaps you’ve noticed your homepage has changed, it’s using an odd search engine or opening/redirecting to unwanted sites. If your browser has gone rogue, it could be a virus or malware, usually one intended to steal your personal or financial details.

Skip the online banking and email until your scans come up clear and everything is working normally again.

5. Sluggish performance

If your computer speed has dropped, boot up takes longer and even moving the mouse has become a chore, it’s a sign that something is wrong – but not necessarily a virus. Run your anti-virus scan and if that resolves it, great. If not, your computer possibly needs a tune-up or quickie repair.

6. Constant computer activity

You’re off the computer but the hard drive is going, the fans are whirring, and the network lights are constantly flashing? Viruses and malware use your computer resources, sometimes even more than you do. Take note now of what’s normal, and what’s not.

Got a virus? Give us a call at 01455 209505.

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CCleaner program hacked

Popular Ccleaner program hacked

 

Many people use the free CCleaner program which is used for computer maintenance and file cleanup and it is so popular that millions of downloads take place very week.

Unfortunately Piriform, the company which makes the program, has announced that one of the program versions downloaded by millions of users over a four-week period, had been hacked and has been used to install what is called a ‘back-door Trojan’ virus on people’s systems.

The versions which are affected are CCleaner v5.33.6162 and CCleaner Cloud v1.07.3191 for 32-bit Windows – which were downloadable between 15th August and 22nd September.

The hack allowed the program to cause the download of further unwanted software, possibly including keyloggers and ransomware and initial investigations show that that the program was hacked at the company, before being released to the public using their normal download servers.

Information relating to the infected computer may also have been sent to the hackers servers during this period.

CCleaner users with the above versions should immediately uninstall the program and download the latest version as soon as possible. Although the company states that only the above versions are affected, we recommend uninstalling any version downloaded between those dates before reinstalling, just in case investigations later show that more versions were affected.

We also recommend that if you have the one of the versions mentioned above, you should take the usual common sense precautions such as full scanning of your computer with a good security product, as well as keeping an eye on your bank statements, etc.

This incident is not only potentially serious for users it is also embarrassing for the parent company that now owns Piriform – the antivirus security company Avast. Although further investigations are taking place to find out how this happened, many people may now lose confidence in the CCleaner product.

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Equifax Data Breach and UK Customers

Equifax Data Breach and what it means for UK customers

Recently, Credit reporting company Equifax has revealed that its databases were hacked in a large-scale breach affecting millions of customers across the US, UK & Canada and personal information was leaked. While no hacking event is ever good news, some are easier to ignore than others – but unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. Major UK companies such as BT and British Gas use Equifax services as well, so there may be UK customers affected too.

Equifax is one of the three main organizations in the US that manages & calculates credit scores. To do that effectively, they have access to almost every piece of financial data for adults – social security, tax file numbers, drivers’ licence, credit card numbers…the big stuff. On July 29, Equifax disclosed the breach, stating that hackers had repeatedly gotten in through a vulnerability in their systems from mid-May to July of this year.

Equifax, cyber-security experts & law enforcement officials are on the case, working to minimize the long-term damage and it may be that the number of customers actually affected in the end may well be small. Also, the UK Regulator – the Information Commissioner – has asked Equifax to inform all UK customers that may be affected.

Whilst you do not need to panic, there is a risk of personal information being in the wrong hands. You should consider that risk, particularly as this type of personal information can circulate for a long time due to the fact that these hackers also sell the information on to others.

Here are a few ideas to protect yourself against possible future compromise: –

Keep a close eye on your finances and accounts.

Check for notifications of new credit applications, monitor your statements and bills, and immediately report any suspicious activity or sudden change in billing.

Change all your passwords to be strong, unique and long.

The stolen data may give hackers a free pass into bank accounts, email and personal information. Add two-factor authentication where possible – this is when an account demands a second layer of authentication before allowing access or changes – so just getting the password correct isn’t enough, the hacker would also need to get the special code sent by SMS text.

If you believe that you have been compromised, consider freezing your credit report.

This makes it harder for identity thieves to open accounts under your name, as access is completely restricted until you choose to un-freeze.

BT have provided the Equifax UK telephone number 0800 014 2955 for customers that have a query over their credit file and they can also be contacted via their website www.equifax.co.uk.

If you need help with your passwords, give us a call on 01455 209505.

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