Tag Archives: Browser

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Shockproofing Book Cover

Shockproofing Your Use of Social Media eBook available!

Category:Cyberstalking,Facebook,Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,Lessons Learned,mobile device,password,Privacy,Risk,Social Networking Tags : 

Shockproofing Book CoverMy Shockproofing Your Use of Social Media: 10 Things You Should Know eBook is now available on Kindle!

For those of you who have attended one of my Lightning Talks about Internet Safety, this book fleshes out my recommendations for keeping safe online.

Please consider buying a copy. You’re welcome to lend your copy out and the book is also available from the Kindle Owners Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited.

If you read it, please leave a review!

If you’re interested, Nick Francesco and I are authoring a series of Your Guru Guides on computing-related subjects. (Search on Amazon for “your guru guides” to see what’s currently available.)

 

 


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Simplifying Password Complexity

Category:Information Security,Infosec Communicator,password,Uncategorized Tags : 

T y p e w r i t e r ⏎Let’s be honest. Passwords are a pain. We all know that it’s important to have different passwords for different places and we all know that they need to be fairly complex. We also know that remembering numerous passwords, especially strong passwords, can be a challenge. So what’s the best strategy?

In this article, I’ll talk about how to create memorable (but strong) passwords and suggest a tool that will make constructing and remembering strong passwords easier.

In general, the strength of a password depends on two factors: length and complexity. Although there’s some disagreement, length is more important than complexity. (For a humorous illustration of password complexity, read the XKCD comic at https://xkcd.com/936/)

Increased complexity makes it more difficult to create a password that you can remember.  The idea of a long complex password may be overwhelming. However, increasing password length alone can result in a password that’s memorable and stronger. Because of the way Windows stores some passwords, the “magic number” is 15 characters or more. A traditional complex password of 15 characters might look like this: “qV0m$$#owc2h0X5”. I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I’m going to remember a password like that. You COULD write it down and store it securely, but it’s not the easiest password to enter on a keyboard, and storing passwords in a browser or in a desktop application is insecure.

Here are a couple of strategies for strong passwords.

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Updated: Choosing the Safest Browser, Part One

Category:Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,Uncategorized Tags : 

Swim safe!

This post provides an update to last year’s Choosing the Safest Browser post. Let’s take a look at what’s changed since June 2010.

Browsers

Last year, we looked at the following browsers to discuss which would be the safest:

Number of Vulnerabilities

How do you decide which browser is the safest? One way is to look at the vulnerabilities that were disclosed for each one. Attackers may exploit these vulnerabilities to place malicious code onto your computer.

In Spring 2010, my Cyber Self Defense class ranked the browsers in the order below according to which ones they thought had the most vulnerabilities:

  1. Internet Explorer
  2. Safari
  3. Opera
  4. Firefox
  5. Chrome

According to the  Symantec 2008 Internet Threat Report, here’s the list of browsers ranked from most reported vulnerabilities to the least:

  1. Firefox
  2. Internet Explorer
  3. Safari
  4. Opera
  5. Chrome

The class was really surprised by this ranking.

June 2011

Let’s see how the rankings look from the Symantec 2010 Internet Threat Report. Here’s the 2010 list of browsers and number of vulnerabilities:

  1. Google Chrome–191 vulnerabilities
  2. Apple Safari–119
  3. Mozilla Firefox–100
  4. Microsoft Internet Explorer–59
  5. Opera–31

I was surprised by this order. Ranking browsers by vulnerabilities reported, Chrome appears to be the worst and Opera the best. (In the 2008 report, Chrome had the fewest vulnerabilities!)

Average Time to Fix a Vulnerability

Another way to look at browser safety is how long it takes for a reported vulnerability to be fixed. How would you rank these same five browsers from shortest to longest patch time?

In the 2010 report, Internet Explorer had an average patch time of 4 days. Opera, Safari, and Chrome were each one day or less. (In the 2008 report, Safari had an average “exposure” time of nine days, compared to the “best,” Firefox, which normally took only one day to patch.)

Patch time alone doesn’t appear to be a factor when choosing the worst browser.

Safe browsing is important because the majority of attacks are web-based, peaking at  almost 40 million per day in September 2010.

Does Your Browser Choice Really Matter?

In my opinion, not so much. Internet Explorer vulnerabilities are targeted more because it’s the biggest target. However, all of the browsers mentioned have vulnerabilities and all are patched relatively quickly. Many attacks actually target applications such as Adobe Flash, QuickTime, and the like. Malicious PDFs have also become a huge problem in the last year. What matters are safe practices!

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Choosing the Safest Browser, Part 2

Category:Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety Tags : 

Safe Practices

Check your Browser Security Settings

How can you tell how secure your web browser may be? Scanit’s Browser Security Test checks your browser security settings and provides a report explaining the vulnerabilities, the potential impacts, and how to correct them.

Use Security Software

Your security software should include an antivirus, anti-spyware, and a firewall.

Update Regularly

Keep your browser and applications up to date. If you’re prompted for an update, accept it.

Use Strong Passwords

Use a strong complex password or passphrase. Consider using a password vault such as LastPass to generate and store your passwords.

Install Browser Tools/Add-ons

Current browsers all provide some protection against phishing. There are also browser tools that you’ll find helpful.

  • The Netcraft Toolbar is a browser plug-in available for Firefox. The toolbar helps stop phishing attempts by blocking known phishing sites and providing hosting information about the sites you visit.
  • The McAfee Site Advisor is a browser plug-in available for Internet Explorer and Firefox. The Site Advisor warns you of websites known to have malicious downloads or links by checking them against a database at McAfee.
  • WoT (Web of Trust) provides color-coded ratings of the safety and reputation of websites.

Limited Account Privileges

Limiting account privileges (WindowsXP) provides simple but effective protection when working online. Limited accounts allow you to do most daily activities but do not allow you to install software (only accounts with administrative privileges can install software on the computer).

Many attacks take advantage of administrative privileges to install malware on your computer. If you’re using a limited account, attackers and malicious websites will not be able to install malware. (This is less of an issue with Windows 7 and Mac OS X because they ask you to confirm software changes.)

Threats have doubled since 2009 and the threat vectors have increased. Vigilance is even more important.

One thing hasn’t changed. The key to safe browsing is not which browser you choose. It’s following safe practices.

Please comment on the post and let us know some safe practices you recommend.

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Avoiding Phishing

Category:Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Social Networking,Uncategorized Tags : 

phishing

What’s the easiest way to break into a computer account?

Cracking the password? Putting a trojan on the computer? Hacking? Unfortunately, it’s simply tricking you into giving up your password through a technique known as phishing.

Computers have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers using different types of malware. However, your attacker is as likely to come after you through “social engineering” as they are through malware. Just as our computers have vulnerabilities, we too are susceptible to attack!

Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attacks are attempts to trick you into revealing private information. Successful attacks may result in identity theft and loss of funds. Social engineering attacks take a number of different forms, including phishing attempts, work at home scams, and Nigerian 419 schemes. Attackers often take advantage of current events, such as the tsunami that hit Japan.

Phishing

This article deals with one type of online scam—phishing attempts. Phishing is a common technique in identity theft. We’ve all received phishing emails or instant messages that appear to link to a legitimate site. These emails and web sites are designed to capture personal information, such as bank account passwords, social security numbers and credit card numbers. Losses to phishing attempts are estimated to be as high as $500M every year.

How Phishing Works

  1. Phishers send out millions of emails disguised as official correspondence from a financial institution, e-tailer, ISP, etc.
  2. You receive the phishing attempt in your email.
  3. After opening the email, you click on the link to access your financial account.
  4. Clicking on the link takes you to a web site that looks just like a legitimate site.
  5. At this point, you enter your account and password information, which is captured by the person who sent out the phishing attempt.

Phishing emails used to be easy to recognize because of their poor spelling and grammar. Now, phishing emails are often indistinguishable from official correspondence. Anyone can put together a phishing attack using resources (or kits) purchased on the Internet.

Practice Safe Computing

Safe computing practices are the best defense against phishing. Here are a few safety tips:

  • Never click on links directly from an email. Type the address into the address bar or go to the institution’s web site and navigate to the correct location.
  • Use File/Properties to find out which website you’re really on. You can check the properties from the file menu or by right-clicking on the web page and selecting Properties.
  • Look for the proper symbol to indicate you’re on a secure web site. Secure web sites use a technique called SSL (Secure Socket Layer) that ensures the connection between you and the web site is private. This is indicated by “https://” instead of “https://” at the beginning of the address AND by a padlock icon which must be found either at the right end of the address bar or in the bottom right-hand corner of your browser window. A padlock appearing anywhere else on the page does not represent a secure site.

Browser Helpers and other Software Solutions

Although avoiding phishing attempts is typically a matter of following safe practices, there are a number of browser helpers available to help warn you of suspicious web sites. Browser helpers normally work as another toolbar in your browser. Use one or more for your protection:

  • The Netcraft Toolbar displays information about a web site including whether it is a new site (typical of phishing) and which country hosts it. If you’re visiting a United States banking site and the Netcraft Toolbar displays a Russian flag, you’re probably at a phishing site. The Netcraft Toolbar also works like a neighborhood watch community, blocking access to member-reported phishing sites.
  • McAfee Site Advisor adds icons to your search results indicating the relative safety of sites you’re visiting.
  • Internet Explorer and Firefox also provide limited protection by denying access to many known phishing sites. Firefox and Chrome integrate Google Safe Browsing technology.
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