The current WorkStation

Upgrading a computer workstation (home or office) can be a real gamble.  Not only is it a good deal of cash the time and energy to move all your data, programs and re-do all your settings is significant.  Sadly, far too often, the performance increase isn’t worth the cost as a clean install will oftne do the same thing and save you nearly $1000.

This however (the machine below) will make a HUGE difference in your performance:

Workstation:
Intel Core i5 2500 Quad Core Processor LGA1155 3.3GHZ
ASUS P8H67-M PRO/CSM Motherboard
Mushkin 8GB 2X4GB DDR3-1333 Dual Channel Memory Kit
OCZ Vertex 3 120GB Solid State Disk Flash Drive
Samsung Black DVD Writer
Antec Three Hundred Case 300 ATX  Front USB & Audio
Sparkle Power Supply W/ 120MM Fan

Samsung S23A300B 23IN Widescreen LCD Monitor
Logitech MK200 Media Keyboard and Mouse Combo USB

Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64BIT DVD OEM
Microsoft Office 2010 Home and Business English

From NCIX this complete computer is less than $1400.  Being one could skip a few pieces if you already have them (OS, screen, keyboard) the price can get down to about $600 for the basic computer.  The SSD and the timed CPU/Memory/Motherboard are the key, it’s runs lightning fast and is rock solid reliable.  The only upgrades needing consideration to this beasty.. add in a mechanical 1TB+ Western Digital Caviar Black for storage and an NVidia video card.

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Server Migration

The web server (and backup mail) is moving from the old DDS (fractional dedicated server) to a newer ‘virutal’ server located in the ‘cloud’.  The advantages are it’s a little more reliable but mostly it cleans up years of alterations and upgrades and it’s far more expandable.

Dec 14th – The old server dies tonight at 9pm, everything I could find to move I moved and it’s been off for a few days and no complaints, one can only hope it all migrated properly.  The new server is faster and MUCH cleaner.  If you have any issues or problem don’t hesitate to call.

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SSL encryption compromised

You know that little HTTPS: we all love to trust when we do online transactions.. well the old versions (TLS v1.0 and earlier) have been compromised.  This means a serious weakness in virtually all websites protected by the secure sockets layer protocol that allows attackers to silently decrypt data that’s passing between a web-server and an end-user browser.

Although versions 1.1 and 1.2 of TLS aren’t susceptible, they remain almost entirely unsupported in browsers and websites alike, making encrypted transactions on PayPal, GMail, and just about every other website vulnerable to eavesdropping by hackers who are able to control the connection between the end user and the destination website.

At this point the hack isn’t usable by the average weenie on some remote country, the processing power needed is extreme but as the code is improved it’ll become more important to rely on TLS v1.1+ to remain secure.  The major browsers will likely soon release a patch to implement TLS v1.2 but it’s up to the website to deploy the other end to ensure secure communication.

Just thought you should know in case you didn’t feel vulnerable enough already.

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You had WHO call you?

In Canada we don’t get the FBI, NSA, CIA, Homeland Security, State Police, Local Cops or a myriad of odd agencies with dubious jurisdictions wanting to know much of anything regarding your computer server.  In Canada you get one of two agencies 95% of the time, RCMP or CSIS, neither is good but both are better than the US alternatives that are often more interested in their goals than preserving your data.

What has been getting the attention lately has been around for over a year now and courtesy of the PRC (Peoples Republic of China).  Few will come right out and say it but state based espionage is the bread and butter of China’s financial machine.. what you can’t develop, you steal.

The target of choice right now is Microsoft Small Business Server 2003.  It’s a good OS and system but if compromised it can be difficult to detect, but here is something you can look for:

C:\Inetpub\wwwroot\iisstart.htm
Examine the file with Notepad and at the very top do you see any ‘funny’ code?  Something like this:

<!–czozNjM=–!>
<html>
<head>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type”
content=”text/html;
etc…

That code at the top.. that’s the signature that not all is right in your system.  Who, what, how and all the rest I’m researching but your machine, though not compromised, is quite possibly working for the bad guys.

I’ll add a comment when I have a name and process for removing this beasty.

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Anonymous – Good, Bad or What?

 There’s a good chance if you’ve been reading or listening to the news you’ve heard tell of a mysterious group called ‘Anonymous’.  They have no leader, answer to no one and for the most part are a complete enigma when one considers how groups work.

The group has been linked from topics as far ranging as ‘TitStorm’ in Australia (the attempt to block pictures of small breasted women) to the freedom uprising in Syria & Egypt with a collection in between.  The US government has a few times been at both ends of the stick and a few over-inflated corporate egos (HB Gary, The Tea Party, Visa, PayPal & MasterCard to name a few) have had a good slap.  You’ll want to read the Wikipedia article that covers some of their history.

So you might ask, why talk about this on LogicITy?  I want people aware of something called ‘False flags’.  The name is derived from the military concept of flying false colours; that is flying the flag of a country other than one’s own.  Governments and corporations do this regularly and it’s a mainstay in political battles.  Malware often tricks you pretending to be from someone you would trust, this is the same principle.

Anonymous has uncovered some very sneaky and dirty stuff going on in the internet, it would serve some governments and corporations to have you not listen to what they have to say.  I’m suggesting you listen to that faceless group before dismissing them as hackers, cyber terrorists or punks.

Oh.. and don’t worry about FaceBook on November 5th.. Anonymous has never been about ‘shooting the messenger’.

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“Hi, this is you computer company”

“Hello, this is your computer company and we are making this free call because you have a computer virus spamming the net.”

Oddly enough you don’t recognize the voice, and they don’t seem to know anything about your computer or anything else.  They tell you it’s really bad and just need to help you fix the problem.  The final hint.. their english is really bad and heavily accented.

It’s a scam.  Most people know it in seconds but those that are less farmiliar with computers tend to fall for it.  Tricked into giving out information that can result in signing up for useless services, programs or at worse let hackers into their machines.  People feel enough the fool after these misadventures to not tell others about their experience, thus hiding how often this really happens.

Warn your folks/kin/parents (the elderly are especially vulnerable) and be vigilant.  It’s an old trick with a new twist and Telus is no help at stopping these scammers from calling (you’d think they’d block the call-centers from calling into Canada at all).

If in doubt, call me.. but you already knew that.

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Gone Phishing?

Sadly the old hacker stereo type of a 13 year old in his basement no longer applies, especially with the latest series of ‘Patriot Hackers’ traced back to China.  Gone are the poorly written spoofs to get you to give personal information and the like, we now have university graduates government funded to steal email accounts and infect computers.

U.S. officials briefed on the incident said the Obama administration isn’t going to raise the matter directly with the Chinese government until the facts become more clear. “Law enforcement needs to dig into this over the very short term so we have all the facts and procedures set out—then diplomacy,” a .S. official said.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304563104576361863723857124.html#ixzz1OBHGdUkQ

What this means to the average computer user (this means you) is that you can trust less and less of what you see on the internet and especially email.  If it has an attachment you best be suspect, type in URLs yourself (don’t trust links) and when in doubt.. use the phone and call someone to verify.

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McAfee got you down?

Minding your own business and all of the sudden you are told your system is insecure and needs a scan.  Problem is this isn’t a program you installed it’s ‘McAfee Security Scan’ which is just this side of malware.  You got it thanks to Adobe bundling it into their products and if you have FireFox you got it as an update without even being asked (thus the malware opinion).  Here’s the spin:

McAfee has made a free diagnostic tool, McAfee Security Scan, available as an optional download to customers when installing Adobe® Reader® and Adobe Flash® Player software from Adobe.com. The McAfee tool enables consumers to easily check for anti-virus software and firewall protection on their computers. When the scan is complete, users see a report detailing the presence and status of security protection, and are presented with special offers for McAfee security software, including McAfee Anti-Virus, McAfee Internet Security, McAfee Total Protection, and McAfee Family Protection – Adobe

So you get free advertising but little else (the software will ALWAYS say you need McAfee products).   Since Microsoft Security Essentials is free, works with Microsoft operating systems and updates regularly there is little point in buying an inferior product.  Install Malwarebytes as a recovery system (also free) and 98% of the bad things out there are blocked or recoverable.  So how do you rid yourself of McAfee?

  1. Uninstall McAfee using the Add/Remove Programs
  2. Consider changing from Adobe to another PDF reader
  3. Uninstall the PDF plug-in from FireFox or it’ll infect again

You will probably get McAfee with Flash, AIR and perhaps a few other Adobe products if you don’t UNCHECK the option.  Reminds me of Rogers Communications and thier idea of negative billing.. we’ll give you more stuff and charge you more unless you tell us not to.

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SBS 2011

Having put in two of these beasties I’ve got a fairly good idea how they work and where the problems are.  So far, there are very few reasons NOT to upgrade from your 2003 or even your 2008 Small Business Server.

Basic setup take about 8 hours with updates, reboots and just the usual typing required to get the system working for the installation in question.  Having to reconfigure Exchange 2011 to allow larger emails is the only ‘must do’ and the loss of the ‘global’ POP3 connector is annoying.

Once everything is in you’ll have a lengthy process as you migrate (or at least prepare to) from your previous server.  You could migrate directly but honestly we all know that’s a road few travel happily.  Better to backup and restore, it’s longer and annoying but never ends in heartbreak, frustration and possible data lose.  Keeping your subnet the same as the old network IPs help in the even you have a few forgotten static devices (like phone systems, plotters or some storage device).

With each workstation you’ll want to run the migration wizard (locally save the files) and backup Outlook to a PST file.  Since you’re keeping the same subnet joining is a simple as http://connect from your IE install.  Copying data will take longer than anything else but it’s unavoidable.

For the time and dollars it’s a good upgrade, beats the heck out of SBS2008.

For those BlackBerry users out there the Express server will work in SBS2011 but it takes time and research.  Just pretend you doing an SBS2008 install and then do an Exchange 2011 install as well and wait until the process reaches 450MB.. then it auto-magically works.

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Android Malware

Google removed a bunch of malicious apps, most disguised as legitimate apps, from the Android Market after they were found to contain malware. The malware, dubbed DroidDream, uses two exploits to steal information such as phone ID and model, and to plant a back door on the phone that could be used to drop further malware on the device and take it over.

There is a scanning software for known malware signatures but this system isn’t good at detecting brand new malware or existing malware that has been modified enough to slip past the antivirus programs.  Depending on the handset used, Android versions may be patched by now, but others are not. The vulnerabilities exploited by the malicious apps have been patched in Android 2.3, also known as Gingerbread, but older versions could still be vulnerable.

Read more at CNet.com

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