Secure IT Foundation

Posts Tagged ‘Risk Profile Questionnaire

As usual, whenever the topic of “which Anti Virus product should I use” comes up, people always mention the product they use. Wrong place to start, as you need to focus on which products perform well in independent testing. You would be shocked at the results from some free and paid companies.

Anti Virus is also the last line of defence against malware not the first. When did you last run Windows Update? Have you updated your applications recently? Malware finds holes in your computer using ‘exploits’ and burrows in. The more up to date you are then the less risk of malware. Use a highly recommended free program called Secunia PSI to see how many updates you are missing… In the configuration you can turn on the secure browsing option and see if your browser is even secure for Internet use. We normally recommend people use Firefox with the extensions ‘Adblock Plus’ and ‘NoScript’ for safer surfing.

Not only can exploits be used but the current form of spreading malware is to exploit the user. By downloading files from torrents and file sharing networks, magic fix programs, cracked games etc you are always taking a big risk. If you agree to a install a program then unless your anti virus realises what is going on quick enough, then the malware can install and disable your security before it works. You can read our advice on home computer security and try our risk profiling at our site

Once you have a fully up to date computer, and are using a secure browser then you can think about what will be the way to save your butt when all else fails. Any single Anti anything solution is always flawed as the bad guys know what is popular and write malware around these single provider solutions.

Our recommended layered approach consists of the use of four products. All are free and trustworthy. For computer security you need to think of having a team rather than just a single player.

For your defence you need a strong Anti Virus program that stops almost everything. We suggest Microsoft’s own free Anti Virus called Microsoft Security Essentials . Consider it their gift to Windows users to atone for their other security sins.

There is little benefit for paying for Anti Virus programs as the best they can offer is support once you have a virus. Save your money, and use a computer shop for emergency virus removals when all else fails. You can get two or three visits for the cost of the Anti Virus program.

Your midfield should be a cloud based Anti Virus program called Immunet. This works by checking files in real time and catches items that signature based Anti Virus like Microsoft Security Essentials can miss.  You can choose the cloud only or use the Clam AV database as part of the product for free. By the way Clam AV for Windows is the Immunet product!

Time for some proactive forwards in your team as security doesn’t have to be passive! Spybot Search and Destroy  is a free Anti Spyware program written by one bloke and sadly the user interface looks like it. Be patient with it as its rewards are worth it. Bit like a temperamental star, needs a bit of work but scores well. Once installed, you make a backup of your ‘Register’ for sanity. Then update it, let it restart, immunise your computer and let it check for problems. Remove anything found, reboot and repeat. The tea timer can time tea, but its main function is to stop malware getting on your computer through changing security settings.

If any malware has got past that lot then your fourth program will help root it out. MalwareBytes is a program that offers free and paid versions. For our use, the free version works fine but if you want to use the full version it has our blessing. Once a week run a quick scan after updating the program. Once a month run a full scan over your entire computer and external drives. As each file is accessed it will be checked by your other anti virus programs so you can see if anything is suddenly detected, that way you know if anything had been missed. If everything is clear then it would be a good time to make a full backup to an external drive only used for backups.

Next time you are asked what Anti Virus program to use copy this information or point them here, our free security advice website!



October is Cyber Security Awareness month in the US.

While you may think you have landed in an episode of 24 and the world is on the brink of disaster according to the Department of Homeland Security, just remember that these are Americans and can overplay their hand a little… The sentiment is good though and you would be well advised to read their information on cyber security.

There are leaflets you can read and print on topics including online gaming for kids and security tips for parents. While you are in learning mood, do remember to read our own publications, the Home Computer Policy and Risk Profile Questionnaire plus our older posts on security advice.

The risk of a virus spreading automatically to your computer is much lower than it was ten years, even five years ago, now the biggest online risk to your computer is you! So make yourself security aware and spread the word to the unenlightened…


While there is no magic solution to protect your financial information when banking online, there is a service offered for free called Trusteer Rapport. Mainly provided for US and UK banks to supply to their own customers as an added service, its protection works on other bank sites as well.

Windows users can download it here and Mac users can download it here or you can visit the official page at

Once installed, you get a new button next to your browsers address bar which you click when using your own bank site and it helps give another layer of security to your session.

It starts out with a list of 50-60 ‘partner’ banking sites and is limited to 100 sites in total, but that means that most of your own favourite sites can also added.

Do remember that you need to combine software this with many other security steps in our security guides to be even remotely confident in your computer’s security and secure use.


One of the most popular questions we get asked, is how do I surf porn without my kids seeing what I have done? Goes along with, Which browser should I use from Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome or Opera? How do I cover my tracks from the family, friends, work colleagues, Police? What do I do if I think I saw child porn accidentally?

Although controversial with some theologies and moral compasses, here in the Netherlands it is considered a healthy sexual outlet to view adult material. A short walk around the Red Light district gives tourists an insight into this country’s views. Low teenage pregnancy rates, from educating children about sexual and personal health while still young enough for it to help, seems to be the benefit compared to the UK. Children are exposed to adult material from TV, the Internet and the sex industry at an earlier age, so through desensitisation, sex is taken as just another part of human life and no big deal is made about it. The Secure IT Foundation does not take a moral standpoint on adult material, we are interested from the security point of view. Just like sex, if you are going to do it, then do it safely!

The best advice we give is treat your adult surfing and day to day web surfing as separate activities, especially if you have children in the home or you share a computer. You may not want your children to know you like viewing material featuring teenagers not much older than them, or fantasise about being the opposite sex. Our secure approach to adult material is given below:

First the Don’ts!

  • Never use your home computer to view adult material directly
  • Never store adult material on your home computer
  • Never bookmark / add to favourites  / save web links to adult material on your home computer
  • Never give out your real personal information, family information, credit card details or other financial information
  • Never use Internet Explorer, even with InPrivate mode, as you will still be vulnerable from installing malware
  • Never use Firefox’s private mode as bookmarks may still be visible to other users
  • Never surf adult material in work, unless you are being paid to do it!

Now the Do’s

  • Use a Linux live CD – you boot your computer from the Linux live CD e.g. Ubuntu or Knoppix, not your hard drive. It uses your computer’s memory to run and unless you enable it, will not save any information to your hard drive. Once you shutdown your computer, your browsing session is cleared as the computer memory is lost when you shut down.
  • Use Firefox as your browser, mostly standard on Linux these days.
  • Use an online bookmark service e.g. to save your adult favourite websites for Firefox – register for it, using a new web based email account created purely for this service.
  • Store files using an online file storage service like DropBox and use an encrypted TrueCrypt volume to keep it private.
  • Take care, if you like specialist material as the Internet is widely monitored. If you think you have visited an illegal site or seen illegal material then you should report it to the IWF in the UK, Meldpunt Kinderporno op de Internet in the Netherlands, or see the InHope site for your country. You should do this before you shutdown your current session, as even if you shutdown your IP address will lead back to your home, and you could have law enforcement seizing your computer. They will not find any illegal material directly by looking at your computer, provided that you used a Linux live CD, but your family, friends or work will know you have been arrested. Remember that a one off accidental visit to illegal material that gets reported will be treated very differently to a person who repeats the visit, emails the link, stores the images or videos or pays for a specialist service using their own credit card.

Be safe, have fun but keep it legal and away from children…


‘Defence in depth’. That is what the commercial security world calls having multiple layers of security to protect you in case one fails.

Simply put, your home computer needs to have multiple layers of defences including an up to date browser like Firefox, have Anti Virus software that works, run Windows Update every month and update all your applications at least weekly, as a minimum. Sounds like hard work, no one interested in your computer? Don’t be a muppet!

If your computer is hacked then you could be storing child porn, terrorist training material, or your computer could be used to send spam. Assuming that you never entered any personal or financial information, else that would have been stolen as well, the worst case scenario is that your home gets raided as part of the war on terror and computers seized…

No one can guarantee perfect Internet computer security unless you unplug the Internet.

A recent hacking contest showed that ALL major browsers on the Internet can have security issues including Safari on Macs, iPhones, Windows 7,  and both Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox on any computer. So next time you click on a link sent to you, visit dubious websites, or download a file from the Internet, be sure of your defences and make sure they are deep!


Unlike the default settings in Windows, Linux users have to enter the administrative password before they can install new software. Recently a popular variant of Linux called Fedora introduced a change to alter the security model of Fedora to no longer require the administrative password before installing new software.

On paper it seems sensible, Fedora users could only install applications using the equivalent of ‘Add and Remove Programs / Software’ in Windows, from a list of approved titles. To ensure only approved software is installed, these approved items have a digital signature to prove they have not been altered before they are installed.

Seems reasonable so far, so why is it a problem for the Linux security model? It is a matter of trust. If you have administrative password to an operating system then it is assumed that you will only install software you trust. If you don’t have administrative password or equivalent permissions granted to you by someone who does, then it is assumed you won’t have the administrator’s trust to install new software.

What Fedora did was to move the trust from administrators only, to allowing any user to trust third party software implicitly. Suddenly the only security control to protect an unprivileged user, was the process of getting software added to the Fedora software collection, to get a digital signature.

Windows users may be lost at this point because you are mostly used to a world where you have full control of your operating system. The outcome was that Fedora reverted back to the typical Linux security model due to public pressure. What this shows is that the correct security model for operating systems is not to allow the user to install software without entering the admin password to grant your trust to the software provider. It works for OSX, UNIX, LINUX etc and it can work in Windows XP / Vista / 7.

So why doesn’t Windows come with this security feature as a default, you may ask? One to ask Microsoft…


Just like Fougasse’s propaganda cartoons, Careless Talk Costs Lives, the information you reveal about yourself in public can affect your life. Next time you are in a bar  / cafe / smoking room and would like to make yourself sound interesting to others by giving away information about you and your job, think about who is listening. Those snippets of information about your private life and work life soon add up to enough information to blackmail you or make your life difficult at home at the least.

As an example while in a public smoking room recently, a conversation started among strangers. One decided to reveal he worked in the media for a leading news provider. He worked in the technical division, actually creating and managing news studios around the world and then continued giving away company information that I suspect is not made public. With this information a bad guy could blackmail the person directly, or worse find out about the person in question and contact family and friends to let them out of spite rather than financial reward.

So next you a chatting with strangers just think about what you say and where you say it. You never know I may not be the one listening!



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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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