FREE Software To Password Protect And Secure The Files You Store Online

February 17, 2015

I will be the first to admit that I am skeptical of storing sensitive files on the internet and what files I do store (or backup) online are encrypted with AES256-based encryption using a small file archive utility program called PeaZip. This added level of security gives me peace of mind knowing that my files cannot be compromised in the event my online account disappears (or the account in itself is compromised).

PeaZip

After spending a considerable amount of time looking for software to carry out the encryption of my files (that I store online), I did not go for a standalone encryption utility; instead, I ended up using the file archive utility, called PeaZip (screenshots).

What I like about PeaZip is that the focus is on security where multiple strong encryption password protected archive files standards are supported, such as the AES256-based encryption standard. If you really want to make your files secure you also have option of using PeaZip’s two factor authentication where a password and keyfile are both required in order to access the archive.

Integrated into PeaZip are utilities to create random keyfiles and passwords; AND, this I really likePeaZip has a built in utility that supports secure file deletion to erase tracks of unwanted data.

If you are looking for an easy way to secure files on your computer and/or secure files you store online, I would definitely give PeaZip a try (which is available as a Windows install and portable app):

  • PeaZip is a free cross-platform file archiver that provides an unified portable GUI for many Open Source technologies like 7-Zip, FreeArc, PAQ, UPX…
  • Create 7Z, ARC, BZ2, GZ, *PAQ, PEA, QUAD/BALZ, TAR, UPX, WIM, XZ, ZIP files
  • Open and extract over 150 archive types: ACE, ARJ, CAB, DMG, ISO, LHA, RAR, UDF, ZIPX files and more…
  • Features of PeaZip includes extract, create and convert multiple archives at once, create self-extracting archives, split/join files, strong encryption with two factor authentication, encrypted password manager, secure deletion, find duplicate files, calculate hashes, export job definition as script.

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Add WOT (Web of Trust) To Your Browser To Protect Yourself From Online Threats

February 6, 2015

To supplement the security on your computer, installing the Web of Trust (WOT) to your computer enables you to make informed decisions on what web sites are safe and those that are not. Web of Trust uses an unique crowdsourcing approach (through global communication) to rate and comment on websites on the internet. I have featured WOT many times in the past here on the blog.

WOT works in a very simple way – it shows website reputations as traffic lights next to search results when using Google, Yahoo!, Bing or any other search engine. They are also visible next to links in social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and email like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail as well as other popular sites like Wikipedia. By clicking the traffic light icons you can find out more information about a website’s reputation and other users’ opinions.

To help you understand how WOT works… Best example is when you perform a search on the internet (i.e. Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc…). Many times you do not know what is behind those links that you click on that could ultimately lead you to scams, untrustworthy links and rogue web stores. Many of the people I have assisted in the past with malware infections, acquired those infections from visiting malicious web sites that they thought were safe. WOT helps protect you from clicking on links that may lead you to these sites by using a simple traffic light system.  A green traffic light means users have rated the site as trusted and reliable, red warns about potential threats and yellow indicates that you need to be cautious when using a site.

WOT - Web of Trust

I have WOT installed on all of my computers, have used it for years, and use it to help me sort out the good and bad sites; AND, most importantly to keep me sensitized to the fact that there is a criminal element on the internet that will take advantage of me, if I let it.

Web of Trust

To learn more about WOT – Web of Trust — CLICK HERE

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A FREE Backup Software Solution For Computers At Home

January 29, 2015

What I have found (over the years) is that most folks, who own computers at home, do not back up their files. The reason, in most instances, is that folks feel it is beyond their level of comprehension and is a difficult task.

Today, I want to share with you a FREE backup software solution that may be helpful, called Allway Snyc that is easy to learn, yet is powerful in what it can be configured to perform. I especially like that there is not only a Windows install version; but, also a portable app version (called Allway Sync ‘n’ Go). As a matter of fact, the portable version is what I use to backup my personal files to an external drive. Simply put, you enter the source path, determine what direction to perform the sync, and then enter the destination path. There are numerous configuration options (such as real-time automatic backups or syncs when file changes occur) to customize each backup job. The FREE version of Allway Sync should be enough to serve the moderate use of the typical home based user in the backing up of personal files. If not, definitely consider buying the Pro version.

Allway Sync

In a nutshell, this is what Allway Sync is about:

Allway Sync uses innovative synchronization algorithms to synchronize your data between desktop PCs, laptops, USB drives, remote FTP/SFTP servers, different online data storages, and more. Encrypted archives are supported. Allway Sync combines bulletproof reliability with extremely easy-to-use interface. Also Allway Sync can process Apple MAC data via Sync Gateway OS X software.

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You May Want To Try The Google Chrome Software Removal Tool (CRST) When You Suspect Chrome Has Been Hijacked

December 29, 2014

The Chrome Software Removal Tool (CRST) is software (developed by Google), that is currently in beta, that scans your computer for programs known to cause problems with Chrome, and then offers to remove them for you. This program is to be used only on occasions where the Google Chrome Browser is (obviously) behaving strangely and you suspect it may be due to an unwanted program on your computer (for example, showing you unusual start-up pages, toolbars, or pop-up ads you can’t get rid of). Typically, these types of examples are referred to as browser hijackers.

Two things you need to know before using CRST:

  1. To discourage attackers from changing the names of their programs, the Software Removal Tool does not reveal the names of the suspicious programs it finds. You’ll only see the number of programs detected.
  2. The Software Removal Tool beta is Windows-only (all versions) and you need to have admin rights to use it.  To learn more, please visit the Software Removal Tool beta help page.

google software removal tool

Setting up & using the Software Removal Tool beta

  1. The Software Removal Tool scans your computer for programs known to cause problems with Chrome, and then offers to remove them for you. To start:
  2. Visit the Software Removal Tool homepage.
  3. Click the Download button.
  4. Review the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. To agree, click Accept and Download.

The Software Removal Tool will download to your computer.

  1. Open the Software Removal Tool. It will immediately start searching your computer for suspicious programs.
  2. A message will tell you how many programs were found, if any.
  3. Click Remove suspicious programs. Wait until you see the message “Removal complete.” Some open applications may be closed in the process.
  4. Click Continue to quit the tool. (If your computer needs to reboot, the button will say Restart.)
  5. Chrome will automatically reopen, asking you to reset your browser settings. Click Reset.

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Must Have Software To Backup The Windows Registry

December 26, 2014

The Windows operating system is dependent on a built in component called the registry that is a centralized storage (database) area that all-in-all manages the operation of your Windows computer. The registry stores and manages your Windows system configuration, computer hardware, information about installed programs, program associations and user preferences. I often refer to the registry as the brain of Windows.

During the operation of your computer, Windows continually references the registry, via a structured hierarchy of keys, subkeys, and named values; to ensure the consistent operation of your computer. For example, when you install hardware and/or software on your computer, the registry is often accessed and modified. The registry can also be manually edited with the right amount of understanding and expertise. The whole point here is that the registry is a sensitive part of the operating system and can be corrupted due to a bad hardware/software install, improper editing by the user and most commonly through a malware infection.

To bail out of these type of situations, most users will often use Windows Restore, in an attempt to recover the system; however, I have found through experience that the Windows Restore is not always the answer and does not always work (especially if it is a malware infection).

A solution that I use is a utility, made by Tweaking.com, called Registry Backup. This utility has been specifically developed to backup the registry either manually or automatically (at scheduled intervals). With this utility I typically backup the registry prior to any software installs, hardware installs and/or Windows Updates (which also can cause issues). In the event a problem occurs, you can restore the registry via one of the backups that you created; and, if you are saavy enough to understand the registry it is possible to backup only specific areas of the registry with this utility.

Registry Backup

This program contains the follow features:

  • One click backup and restore.
  • Can restore from Windows Safe Mode.
  • Can restore from the Windows Recovery Console
  • Portable version can be ran from a thumb drive and keep backups of multiple systems.
  • Automatic cleanup of older backups.
  • Set and control scheduling options.
  • Can backup & restore all user profiles on the system, not just the ones that are currently loaded.
  • Control which registry files are backed up or restored.
  • Detailed logs are saved with each backup.
  • Multiple easy restore options.
  • Online videos showing how to use the program and how to use the different restore options.

Windows XP/Vista/7/8 — 32-bit program. Can run on both a 32-bit and 64-bit OS.

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Keep An Installed Copy of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (FREE) On Your PC

December 22, 2014

I have featured the FREE version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware in the past and thought this would be a good time to once again promote this “must have” security software. One thing to point out at the start is that the FREE version of Malwarebytes is only a scanning utility and does not provide real-time protection. You can get the real-time protection by purchasing the commercial version of their software. Don’t let this deter you from downloading the FREE version. I use the FREE version and make a habit to manually download the updates and perform routine scans of my computer.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is the best out there when it comes to detection and removal of Malware. According to OPSWAT, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is the most popular security product installed by users. I guess the important thing I am trying to get across is that it is important to have this software on your PC so that you can fire it up, at a moments noticed, when you suspect a problem.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware’s industry-leading scanner detects and removes malware like worms, Trojans, rootkits, rogues, spyware, and more. All you have to do is launch Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and run a scan. It’s that simple. Or if you want even better protection, consider Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium and its instant real-time scanner that automatically prevents malware and websites from infecting your PC. Either way you’re crushing malware and foiling hackers…

Anti-Malware/Anti-Spyware – Detects and eliminates malware your antivirus will miss.

Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit – Removes rootkits and repairs the files they damage.

Advanced Malware Removal – Employs industry-leading technology to completely remove malware code.

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Getting rid of that old computer? If so, you need to Boot and Nuke It

December 18, 2014

If you are in a position where it is “out with the old computer” and “in with the new computer”, please keep in mind it is important to make sure that the data on the old computer is not compromised. What many folks typically do is “packrat” the old computer by putting it aside, for sometimes years; OR, they will give it away as a donation, etc… No matter the scenario, it is very important that you make sure the computer does not leave your possession until your personal information and data has been removed and/or destroyed. The only way(s) to ensure that your personal information is safe is to either remove and destroy the drive(s) or use software that is engineered to wipe the drive(s) (of everything).

An option to consider, for home based computer users, is the open source program called DBAN – Darik’s Boot and Nuke. This program has been around for many years and was acquired by a company in Finland called Blancco in 2012. One of Blancco’s products is a powerful and secure data erasure tool that is geared toward the enterprise level of computing; however, DBAN – Darik’s Boot and Nuke is free erasure software designed for the home user. I can attest that this software will adequately serve the needs of the home based computer user when it comes to data removal.

DBAN is free erasure software designed for the home user. It automatically deletes the contents of any hard disk that it can detect. This method can help prevent identity theft before recycling a computer. DBAN is also a commonly used solution to remove viruses and spyware from Microsoft Windows installations.

Here’s how it works: I downloaded the DBAN ISO image file, wrote the ISO image to a CD and booted it on my old PC. You may have to go into the BIOS on the old computer to change the boot order so that the computer will boot from the CD. 

Once DBAN has booted, you will be presented with the following screen. At this screen you can type autonuke, press enter, and DBAN will do the rest for you (using the default settings). The Autonuke mode should be a sufficient in removing data from the computer.

DBAN start screen

 

The screenshot below is an example of the progress you will see. Erasing data on a drive, depending on the drive size and the amount of data, can take hours.

DBAN running in autonuke mode

 

When DBAN is finished, it will display a message similar what you see below to indicate that the CD can be removed and the computer powered off. You can feel confident that your data has been “nuked”.

DBAN autonuke finished message

 

Interactive Mode

There is also an interactive mode that you can select at the first screen, by hitting Enter. This mode gives you greater control (i.e. you can select the pseudo-random number generator, wiping method, verification method and rounds).

DBAN interactive

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