Secure IT Foundation

Posts Tagged ‘Blog updated

We have come to the end of the project, Secure IT Foundation. Our goal has been to make home computers more secure, primarily focusing on Windows. Despite some intense lobbying and publicising the cause, we have to admit defeat. Computer manufacturers only care about shifting boxes, computer repair shops only care about how many insecure Windows reinstalls they can do and how many copies of useless anti virus they can sell. Security for all cannot happen using the current Windows model, regardless of form factor.

Our focus is moving over to PrentOS, our vision of a secure OS for home use. You supply the hardware, we supply the software and install it for free at an OS party… The second beta of PrentOS is due to be completed by the end of the summer and many thanks to our current beta testers for putting up with all those errors!

This site will stay online for now, but will no longer be updated. So long and thanks for all the fish.




Well you won’t be alone, there is at least a quarter of a million others as well. If you get the email then do read the explanation from the UK AV company, Sophos and don’t take it personally. Have a read of the stats below from the US and feel lucky it was only your Twitter account, not your bank account or another site with access to your money. Simply put, you have a unique key for each lock for the car, house and work. Do the same with your passwords before your bank or ebay refuses to refund money lost due to user stupidity!
 Hacked Infographic

Thanks to for use of this graphic

While your Windows Security updates will automatically download and install themselves, to date there has been limited options for home computer users to automatically patch all the other applications installed.  Thankfully a nice Danish company has released the home version of their enterprise tool for automatically updating computers. A fully patched computer makes a much harder computer to break into, while you still need Anti Virus software, you are not relying on a single security approach to protect yourself. Most drive-by malware and self replicating viruses depend on your lack of security to work. Much like your teeth, if there is no hole the risk of cavities is much lower.

Secunia PSI is a free tool for home use which checks all the applications on your computer and tells you which need to updated for security. The latest version of Secunia PSI, recently updated to version 3.0 includes automatic updating for many applications like Oracle’s Java, Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader, possibly the worst security offenders in 2012.  We have completed our testing of the product and while it does not automatically update everything it is the best tool out there for home computer security. If they have any sense Microsoft will purchase Secunia and make it a standard security tool on all home computers… At our shop in Rotterdam, Secunia PSI has been a standard addition to all our customer installations of Windows.


As a reminder to use webcams sensibly, given some of the horror stories now coming out in news, a security issue has been identified in many Trendnet IP webcams.

If you have one of the affected models and use a password to prevent other people gaining access to it via the Internet, then you may be at risk of being seen by anyone!

You can check if you are directly affected by typing in your Internet IP address in a browser and adding the text in bold at the end /anony/mjpg.cgi

e.g.  http://X.X.X.X/anony/mjpg.cgi

If you are affected then do apply the update as soon as possible, else there are search engines that can find your camera and you will be come someones public entertainment.

Remember the golden rules for web cams, what is not connected to the Internet cannot be viewed over the Internet and covering the camera may not stop the mic recording from working.

In case you are wondering our shop in Rotterdam‘s cameras are not from Trendnet or use affected Trendnet firmware.


Once upon a time, roughly April 2010, there was a Linux operating system called Ubuntu that was on the verge of becoming mainstream for home computers. Easy to use, easy to recommend. Simple clean user interface that only needed 5 minutes training for Windows and OSX users to get going. What happens next appears to down to one of two things… conspiracy or cock-up.

The conspiracy theory is that other operating system makers placed their own people within the Linux and Ubuntu community to ruin Ubuntu and the immediate future of Linux on the desktop.

The cock-up theory is that the management of Ubuntu are so visionary and looking into the future that they did not see the immediate problems with their track in front of them and just derailed.

Either way, in 2012 the Linux desktop market is so fragmented with multiple versions of Linux that newcomers looking for a stable operating system cannot find anything close to the stability of Windows or OSX and give up reverting to a proprietary operating system, as ‘free’ does not mean better to them.

To highlight this Linux problem, the latest Ubuntu feature is to reintroduce typing in the mouse / touch driven menus system. While the rest of the world moves to touch based computers, Ubuntu thinks the future is in typing in a command line to start a program, just like it was still 1982, 10 PRINT “hello world”.

Their new ‘HUD – Head Up Display’ can be seen here:

You can almost see their train of thought, converting the HUD into a voice driven system in a few years but reliable fully voice driven computers are still mostly science fiction.

Until we all talk routinely to our computers, our own operating system PrentOS under development will be strictly mouse and keyboard. Touch may be added in the future as it would fit well with our ARM based version but typing commands to start a program will always remain in the geek domain.

init 6 please Ubuntu…


Update  – 04/01/2012

Microsoft release a proper patch in the December monthly update release, so if you ran the FixIt then ideally you need to run the remove FixIt tool before updating Windows.

We did test applying the update over the FixIt and it does appear to work successfully but this is not the Microsoft recommended approach…

When you run Windows Update you may notice a new .Net update. This is a new emergency patch issued by Microsoft for another .net security flaw.



You may have heard of a new security problem with all version of Windows, originally identified as a virus called Duqu. What made this virus count is that it uses a previously unknown bug in Windows to install itself.

The Duqu file may come from any source, not just what appears to be a word document as was stated from the initial reports. To protect yourself until there is a proper fix for Windows, Microsoft has made a FixIt, a temporary software plaster, available.

Our advice is to run the FixIt as soon as possible (Do choose the ‘Enable’ FixIt!) and also check that your Anti Virus software is up to date and updated. Eventually a proper fix will be released but that may be too late for some people…


If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck…

If software on computer communicated to third parties like malware, altered settings like malware, behaved like malware, it must be malware. You would think so but there is a threat to computer security that does not get classified as malware.

It gets around being classified as malware by making the user accept the software as part of an installation of other software. For example if you look at the Top 10 downloads from at the moment you will see at number three there is a program called YouTube Downloader, with nearly 800,000 downloads in the previous month.

When you install the software you get a typical install process for Windows, but with an additional option page for a Toolbar:

YouTube Downloader Toolbar Screenshot

YouTube Downloader Toolbar Screenshot

While there is an option to decline (which we strongly recommend you use!), most users do not. There is no informed consent for the user that they are about to install a potentially unwanted program, which will make changes to your computer. But if you click ‘Accept’ the toolbar takes over you browsers and your PC. In nature, this would be called a parasite, as it feeds on the others in a symbiotic relationship.

As the user has clicked ‘Accept’ to the legalese terms they have agreed to allow it control of their computer. Following the trail, brings you to a company called Spigot whose slogan is ‘Turn on the revenue’. In case you don’t realise it, they mean revenue for application developers by using your internet data, mined by the toolbar! You are the cash cow, as they make money on selling marketing information based on your surfing habits.

These terms include:

“The Spigot Toolbar Privacy Policy applies to the Spigot Toolbar only and is independent of any other application(s) you may be installing or using concurrently. Spigot Toolbar is built and maintained by Spigot, Inc. (“We”). We care about your privacy and will never collect personally identifiable information or monitor usage on an individual level.”

The information we collect is for basic reporting purposes only, and includes the following:
a) Date and time of installation
b) Date and time of un-installation
c) Originating IP address and the user’s country at time of installation/un-installation
d) Toolbar status in Internet Explorer or Firefox (i.e. if a toolbar is hidden or displayed in the browser)
e) Partner ID at time of installation
f) Toolbar version at time of installation

Information we collect during Toolbar Usage

We do not monitor the web pages you visit. When you perform a search, your search may be sent through our servers in order to ‘optimize the search result’. This will record the following anonymous usage information:
a) Date and time of search
b) Originating IP address
c) Partner / Channel ID of your Toolbar
d) Toolbar version
e) Search term

In addition, your web browser will communicate to us the same information it gives to every web server on the Internet. This could include information such as your computer hardware and software attributes, cookies for our site, and the URL of web page you are requesting.

How we use the Information we collect

Information we collect from you is used on an aggregate basis and for reporting purposes only. For example, we measure the total number of Toolbar installations per month in order to pay our partners, the total number of Toolbar searches conducted per month to measure growth patterns, the number of Toolbars used in Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox per month to study browser trends, and so on. All information is collected in aggregate and never measured on an individual basis.

Information collected by Third Parties

Search results pages you visit when performing a search using the toolbar are provided by our search engine partners (i.e. Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex, eBay, Amazon). These search engines can track the following:
a) Search term that was entered into the search box
b) Originating IP address and the user’s country or OS language setting
c) Sponsored listings or other advertisements that were clicked on
d) That the search request came from the Spigot Toolbar and its associated revenue tag

The toolbar does not collect personally identifiable information or monitor your surfing behavior.

Use of Cookies

When you conduct a search using the toolbar, our content providers who supply search results (i.e. Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex, eBay, Amazon) may set or access cookies on your computer. The cookies are used for the purpose of measuring referrals from our toolbar on an aggregate basis and are not tied to your personal information. Many browsers offer users the option of declining cookies. If you do not wish to accept cookies, please modify the settings in your browser.

Toolbar Updates

The toolbar communicates with our servers from time to time to check for available software updates such as bug fixes, patches, enhanced functions and new versions. By installing the toolbar, you agree to automatically request and receive updates. If you wish to turn off automatic updates, you can do so from the “Options” menu in the toolbar.

Toolbar Uninstall

You can easily uninstall the toolbar in the traditional Add/Remove programs section in Windows, or from the toolbar by selecting

Options > Help > Uninstall.

Toolbar Deactivation

You can easily hide or deactivate the Toolbar in Internet Explorer or FireFox by selecting View > Toolbars, and then unselecting the checkbox for the toolbar.

Changes to this Privacy Policy

We may update this privacy policy from time to time. We will notify you about significant changes in the way we treat personal information by placing a prominent notice on our site. “

The bold type highlights the problem. It claims it only monitors your search terms without identifying you but your IP address is like a fingerprint. It always leaves a trail on every computer you communicate with and all those in between. The legal issue is that on its own an IP address is not classed as personal data, for example compare the UK stance with the US approach. In reality, every email you send, website you visit or post on a public forum can log your IP address. Combined with your email address or forum username and you can have personally identifiable data.

In addition some toolbars ‘optimise’ the search results to preferred companies whose activities may not be strictly legal or could be classified by some people as scam merchants.

Until these legal issues are resolved, Anti Virus and Computer Security companies cannot classify Toolbars as malware without risk of litigation from the companies involved, says a lot about the money involved here.

So there is a stalemate situation where you know its bad software but your security defences let it through as if it was ok. For now, all we can advise is when you install new software, read the install pages and look out for Toolbars and changes to your search engine and browser settings. If you see one, untick all options and decline it! Weasel words to look for include ‘Community‘, ‘Conduit‘, ‘Spigot‘ and ‘Mybrowserbar‘ amongst many… Clues to look for are those companies who don’t tell you where they are and have no publicly checkable address showing.

Say No to Toolbars and rid the Internet of another parasite by cutting off their revenue stream, namely your information.



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  • Coldwind: Couldn't agree more. I downloaded a piece of software just now, disabled the 'toolbar' 'offer' (which fortunately for me has become a reflex); but co
  • ModemJunki: I only discovered this today - I had updated the firmware to the latest out of habit, and I could STILL access my TrendNet cams on the local network w
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