6:34 am edt
About 10 years ago, worms and distributed denial of service attacks were
the epidemic cybercriminals used to disrupt network infrastructure. Technical periodicals, business magazines and the mainstream
media were astounded by these large organized attacks. Experts warned the public of these threats and the potential
threat posed by botnets. No one Imagined the scale of the problem which has resulted in zombie networks stealingmoney from
their credit cards, the hijacking of their email or IM accounts, or their ISP disconnecting them from the Internet.
This concept has resulted in a dramatic escalation and transformation
from infrastructure attacks to direct assaults on people via spam, spyware, phishing and ID theft. Arrests are up, working
groups are formed and the Federal Trade Commission has jumped into the fold, but consumer security remains at risk as phishing
emails remain widespread. Attackers have learned a compromised system is more useful than a crashed system.
Botnets (also known as zombie networks), have evolved into one of the most serious
information security threats. A botnet is a network of computers which are infected with a malicious program that enables
cybercriminals to remotely control infected computers. Malicious programs that are designed specifically for use in creating
botnets are called bots.
Botnets have computing
power comparable to a super computer. They are used as a powerful cyber weapon against ISP’s, governments and corporations
as effective tools for making money illegally. The owner of a botnet establishes an attack command (and controls the
computers which form the network) anywhere in the world anonymously. The owner of an infected machine usually does not even
suspect that the computer is being used by cybercriminals. Some still use IRC communications which is usually encrypted but
others have Http comms. Attack vectors are DOS, SPAM Relay, and Phishing Sites to name a few. They typically propagate through
unpatched vulnerabilities, file shares and peer to peer (P2P) networks. Most zombie machines are home users’ PCs.
Botnets can be used by cybercriminals for conducting a broad range of malicious activities, from sending spam
to attacking government networks. There are thousands of new bots created each day, but the bot per botnet ratio is
decreasing as the number of botnets increases. The result is more firepower.
Upon building a Windows XP Pro box and putting it on the network (unpatched behind a proxy) in 2004 we typically
would have multiple virus infections within 2 to five minutes at a DOD installation. Recently, we placed a honey pot
with the same OS on the net and our box was recruited into 15 unique botnets within 72 hours. We only registered a few worms
in the same period.
Today, cybercriminals do not
need specialized knowledge or large amounts of money to get access to a botnet. To purchase on the Internet, simply find an
appropriate advertisement and contact the advertiser. The underground botnet industry provides everyone who wants to use a
botnet with everything they need, including software, ready-to-use zombie networks and anonymous hosting services, at low
prices. Once you obtain the bot, (program that can remotely perform certain actions on a user’s computer without the
user’s knowledge) you are ready to go.
The Zeus crimeware
toolkit is the most established crimeware toolkit in the underground economy but December 2009 saw the introduction of a new
crimeware toolkit. SpyEye V1.0 appeared for sale on Russian underground forums for $500 a pop. It has quickly gained ground
on Zeus. It even hooks the same Wininet API (Wininet.dll) (HttpSendRequestA) as Zeus for communications.
They compromise broadband and dial-up systems (Some estimate 12 million infections
of systems at the beginning of 2010). The number of systems infected actually exceed the populations of at least 160 sovereign
nations. This army of unpatched, unprotected systems is primarily used for the following:
This is the most common use for botnets, and is also one of the simplest. Experts estimate that over 80% of spam
is sent from zombie computers. It should be noted that spam is not always sent by botnet owners: botnets are often rented
by spammers. According to our data, an average spammer makes 15 to 40 cents per infected computer (100 – 200 thousand
per year). Botnets made up of thousands of computers allow spammers to send millions of messages from
(to your inbox) within a very short space of time.
The second most popular
method of making money via botnets is to use tens or even hundreds of thousands of computers to conduct DDoS (Distributed
Denial of Service) attacks. This involves sending a stream of false requests (they prefer SQL injection attacks) from bot-infected
machines to the web server under attack. As a result, the server will be overloaded and consequently unavailable. As a rule,
cybercriminals demand payment from the server’s owner in return for stopping the attack.
Today, many companies work exclusively on the Internet. Downed servers bring business
to a halt, resulting in financial losses. To return stability to servers as soon as possible, such companies are more likely
to give in to blackmail than ask the police for help. This is exactly what cybercriminals are counting on, and DDoS attacks
are becoming increasingly common.
DDoS attacks can also be
used as a political tool. In such cases, attacks usually target servers belonging to government organizations. What makes
such attacks particularly dangerous is that they can be used as provocation, with a cyber attack on one country being conducted
from servers in another country and controlled from a third country.
Anonymous Internet access
can access web servers using zombie machines (spoofing) and commit cybercrimes such as hacking websites or transferring stolen
money. This activity, of course, appears to come from the infected machines.
Selling and leasing botnets
option for making money illegally using botnets is based on leasing them or selling entire networks. Creating botnets for
sale is also a lucrative criminal business.
Addresses of phishing pages are often blacklisted
soon after they appear. A botnet allows phishers to change the addresses of phishing pages frequently, using infected computers
as proxy servers. This helps conceal the real address of the phishers' web server.
Theft of confidential data
type of criminal activity will probably never lose its attraction for cybercriminals. Botnets help increase the haul of passwords
(passwords to email and ICQ accounts, FTP resources, web services etc.) and other confidential user data by a factor of a
thousand. A bot used to create a zombie network can download another malicious program, e.g., a password stealing (PSW) Trojan,
and infect all the computers on the botnet with it, providing cybercriminals with passwords from all the infected computers.
Stolen passwords are sold or used for mass infections of web pages (in the case of FTP account passwords) in order to further
spread the bot program and expand the zombie network.
Today, you can't use old,
signature-based technology to protect against malware associated with botnets. You have to look ahead a bit, focus on finding
ways to stop botnet communications. Botnets are among the main sources of illegal income on the Internet and they are powerful
weapons in the hands of cybercriminals. It is totally unrealistic to expect that criminals will relinquish such an effective
tool. Security experts view the future with some trepidation as they anticipate the continued development of botnet technologies.
A gap in traditional anti-malware coverage suggests that Trojans and other botnet-related software should be
treated as a separate product category. Cybercriminals have an interest in creating international botnets but they can
be used by governments or individuals to exert political pressure in tense situations. In addition, anonymous control of infected
machines that does not depend on their geographic location could be used to provoke cyber conflicts.
The threat itself is no longer just a virus or a piece of spyware. It's a multi-network,
multi-faceted type of threat. There are multiple command-and-controls and multiple attack capabilities. You really can't depend
on anti-virus protection anymore. If you are running a business, you need a combination of multiple security tools. Signature-based
anti-virus serves an important purpose, but you can't look at bot armies the same way you look at a virus attack. There are
bots that can update themselves every 30 minutes. You can't expect signature-based anti-malware on a desktop to be effective
When you consider networks with resources of tens or hundreds of thousands (or even millions)
of infected computers, there is the potential to be extremely dangerous – a potential which has not yet been fully exploited.
The vast majority of all this cyber power stems from infected home computers, which comprise the majority of zombie machines
exploited by cybercriminals.
Remote PC/Laptop repair
11:30 pm edt
Thousands of times this year, A customer, A pal or family member has a crisis with their PC. This is a reality for
many of our peers. When it comes to a Windows machine, it could be a myriad of problems, and most often the issue isn't immediately
obvious, making it hard for computer novices to fix on their own. The computer novice over the phone is your mother-in-law,
brother, uncle or friend so you want to walk them through step by step; you know the frustration of helping them find the
Control Panel, updating software drivers, editing the registry, and all that fun stuff.
It's always easier and
you'd be done a whole lot faster if you were sitting in front of the problematic PC yourself instead of blindly walking someone
over the phone. Remotely logging into a Windows PC is incredibly easy, and there are many ways of doing it, some built directly
into Windows, some 3rd party remote utilities offering a wide variety of settings.
You can also hire professionals
to provide remote support. We have been offering remote support with EZ Mobile PC for a long time now. It's an excellent service
to quickly diagnose computer problems and hardware conflict. Many customers on the internet are still timid when faced with
support which has been standard within enterprise level computing environments for decades.
Windows XP introduced this remote program, and it has been improved with Windows 7. Remote Assistance is a safe way
to let someone remotely log into your computer because, unlike a lot of remote control programs, it doesn't open up a connection
to the Internet so that anyone can connect at will if they provide the correct credentials.
In Windows 7, choose
Help and Support, More Support Options, and select Remote Assistance at the bottom of the window. Once you've fired up Remote
Assistance, it's time to send the help invitation. In Windows 7, the invitation can be sent as an e-mail. The credentials
that will actually let a remote computer connect with yours will be attached to the e-mail. For further security, the user
will also need to create a password that the remote user will need to enter before they're granted full access.
long as Remote Assistance is connected on both sides, the local user will be able to watch their desktop, seeing everything
that's going on. It's a great way to teach someone how to fix their broken computer when you can't physically be there.
Remote Desktop Connection
need to connect remotely to a Windows machine on a regular basis, it's easier to use the Remote Desktop Connection program
that comes stock with Windows. Remote Desktop
Connection is an invaluable tool for many tasks, especially for systems
administrators that need to manage their servers when they're away.
Before connecting via Remote Desktop Connection,
the target PC must be configured to allow remote connections. In Vista or Windows 7, go to the Control Panel, select System,
then choose Remote Settings. Inside Remote Settings, you'll be able to add users, granting them permission to connect. Members
of the Administrators Group are automatically allowed access, so you don't have to manually add them.
remotely with Remote Desktop, you'll need to know the remote machine's IP address and you'll need to provide a valid user
name and a password before you'll be allowed
inside. Remote Desktop is good if you're going to be doing a lot of remote
connections, but for a one-time fix, Remote Assistance is a better option.
Problem Step Recorder
Included with Windows
7, Problem Steps Recorder allows users to document step-by-step actions. This process becomes useful for showing exactly what
happens just before a problem arises. An important step in fixing a computer problem is the ability to recreate it. Problem
Steps Recorder works by compiling a series of screen shots (inside a MHTML file), which can be sent in an e-mail attachment
for, say, a help desk technician to analyze. The MHTML file can be viewed in Internet Explorer.
Oddly, as useful
as Problem Steps Recorder is, it's hidden (it can't be found in the Control Panel). In Windows 7, hit the Windows key and
type in psr.exe in the search box. Many users not only use Problem Steps Recorder for fixing PC issues but also for creating
tutorials and lessons for others to follow.
Recovering Dead or Missing files
6:49 am edt
In Windows you have deleted a file from the recycle bin, it's unrecoverable,
gone forever; if you haven't deleted the file from the recycle bin, you may still be in luck. Actually, for the moment, you
have deleted the link to the file but the file is still present as long as you have not allowed a significant amount of activity
and time to pass.
If the file has not been deemed defunct and
swept out of the bin, Windows won't actually permanently overwrite your file until new data rides in and is written to disk;
so, the file still resides on your hard drive, even when purged from the recycle bin, but it can't been seen anymore. Bearing
this in mind, there's always a chance that Windows hasn't overwritten your deleted data yet, so your file may still be recoverable
if you've the right tools at your disposal.
Your document was there a second
ago, now it's not! Did you accidentally clean it out from the recycle bin, or perhaps you simply misplaced or renamed it on
your hard drive? Think straight, and don't panic. Before investing in a professional file recovery program, try several tips
that may save you time and money.
First, if you think you may
have deleted it, don't run any programs or services that write data to your hard drive. Remember when I said deleted files
will eventually get overwritten given enough time? Well, this is why it's wise not to provoke Windows into doing any data
output to your hard disk while your file is still on a missing. Start with using the built-in Window search tool--Start menu,
Search. Start out by searching for the entire file's name or a part of the file's name. If you locate your file using this
method, be sure to make a backup to a thumb drive or email it to yourself for offsite storage.
So, you've searched your hard drive with Windows Search and have come up empty. It may be time to bring in the big
guns. If you query Google, you'll find a multitude of file recovery utilities, alongside the supposedly more reputable pay-before-you-own
programs. One example, FreeUndelete, may be just what you need to get your file back; it's interface is clean, simple, easy
to use, and it's clean from the nuisance of spyware and adware!
Resurrection After Reformatting
you have the misfortune of accidentally reformatted your hard drive? You have got yourself a nightmare, but, you can recover
your data from even this catastrophe? It requires a little more muscle than a simple data recovery utility provides. QueTek
offers a solution called File Scavenger 3 (free if you download on cnet) you can buy for $49 USD, which is a lot cheaper than
many of the other recovery solutions on the market; File Scavenger also offers most of the features of its more expensive
Failing Hard Drive Recovery
If your hard drive is making weird noises, And your experiencing odd corruption
errors, You may very well be experiencing signs of a dying hard drive. Take these signs to mean the imminent death of your
hard drive, and start backing up, backing up,backing up right away!
Free, is a free service that allows one user to connect to the server with 2 GB of space (for regular activity). Keepit.com
Unlimited, gives the non business user unlimited access to a backup server for $4.95 per month. This allows one PC, server
access. This web based (software as a solution) will save your files, your precious data and keep you secure while you keep
'KEEPIT' Backup and Recovery
6:16 pm edt
It's a sickening, desperate feeling: your laptop has been stolen and all
of your pictures, files and data is in someone elses hand...A fire ravages your home and your system has melted taking all
of your data with it...A natural disaster hits (tornado, hurricane, etc.) and your system is gone. No restore point will do
you any good here. Maybe your PC won't boot up and you can't figure out why! What makes these troubling scenarios so nightmarish
is the sinking feeling of not having a back up of your data. In the last scenario Windows won't even wake up.
My experience in the IT industry has exposed me to all of these scenarios at one
time or another. An unscrupulous Self Storage stole my servers and equipment with all data, a fire devastated my systems and
media by melting them (all in my home) and I was a Unix Administrator assigned to a Disaster Recovery Center responsible for
making recoveries after Hurricane Katrina. Off site storage or web based applications (Software as a service) are solutions
for these issues.
The cool thing about web applications
is that you'll always have access to it no matter where you're at; just as long as the computer you're using--Internet café,
library, school, etc.--has an Internet connection and a capable web browser, you're all set. And storing your data online
can provide peace of mind; after all, if your data resides on a remote server and Windows falls prey to a nasty virus or your
hard drive decides to kick the bucket, at least all your important remote files will be safe from the catastrophe.
Web applications are
so seamless that you may not even know that you're using one. For instance, if you use Gmail or Google Docs, it may appear
that you're interacting with just a sophisticated web page, which it is on the surface, but at root, you are really using
an application akin to the desktop variety that we are all used to. Once web browsers became more powerful and more intelligent
web applications started mushrooming up all over the web.
you prepare your backups with an online service, you're using a web application. Before such web backups were available to
users, one would need to use tape based systems with backup clients to do all complete all of their storage tasks. Backups
were configured, uploaded, downloaded, and restored locally, right to tape or on your computer's hard disk. If you use Software
As A Service (SAAS), your backups are performed via your web browser, and it's stored on the providers servers. As long as
you can access the net--any computer with net connection and capable browser--then you can manage your backups through the
provider no matter where you are in the world, a very convenient thing when using web apps and the reason why so many users
prefer them to their desktop equivalents.
One of my gripes
with using web apps, is that if the service goes out of business--probably won't happened any time soon with Keepit.com, of
course--then all your backups will probably be discarded. Bearing this in mind, it's probably a good idea to go with the more
reputable backups services, not the little dinky ones that sprout up overnight. So, what does one do?
Enter the Keepit
Keepit provides Big-Business IT best-practice for the little guy – true multi-destination, multi-schedule backup
that can be adapted to meet your needs with reasonable consumer pricing.
Gone are the days the user worries about 3 tape, six tape or ten tape backup rotations. Your backup plan encompasses
Keepit which eliminates unnecessary clicks and complex settings during the set up, backup and restore process. The Powerful
Recovery process Keeps an unlimited version history of all your files. You can access your data anywhere in the world using
just a web-browser. Never be without that critical file again.
This web based service provides Global Roaming Access to your files and has offerings that come in three flavors
(Keepit.com Free, Keepit.com Unlimited and Keepit.com Pro). It runs in the background as a service, which ensures that scheduled
backups are done even if you don’t log-on to your PC. Backup any data, any time, to any destination. You save it –
we back it up offsite invisibly and automatically, keeping an unlimited version history that lets you roll-back to any point
Keepit.com Free, is a free service that allows
one user to connect to the server with 2 GB of space (for regular activity). Keepit.com Unlimited, gives the non business user unlimited access to a backup server for $4.95 per month. This allows
one PC, server access.
The features of Keepit.com Unlimited
* Unlimited space for all your
* A simple client, easy to install on any PC
* Smart selection
of default folders for backup
* Automatic daily backup of your PC
and stop the backup whenever you want to
* 30 day history - so you can go back to a point of time,
before you accidentally deleted a file, and retrieve it
Keepit.com Pro, is for the business user. This
is a pay as you go solution. The option of connecting one or more PCs to the account is left to the user. The amount of space
required is also to be determined by the user. A minimum charge of $3.95 per month applies; and additional storage is available
at a rate of $0.50 per GB per month.
The general features
of Keepit.com Pro are:
* Windows Server
* A simple client, easy to install on each computer
selection of default folders for backup
* Automatic daily backup of each computer
* Backup can be stopped and started individually
* 30 days history of each backup set
* Control panel for managing the account
* Phone support and prioritized email support
The first backup (is always a Full backup) takes some time but is faster than most
backup systems available in the market even with a lower bandwidth speed. The subsequent backups are incremental and only
files that have changed will be backed up. Keepit has fully flexible scheduling for monthly, weekly, daily, hourly or instant
backup. If the initial backup is interrupted for any reason, the backup begins from the place it left off, supporting continuous
The restore process is very simple. The user
needs to merely navigate to the restore tab and select the type of restoration they need. Users can restore by backup set,
or all files or selected files.
Data transfer between
the PC and the server is encrypted using Rijndael (AES) encryption. The data is stored in multiple servers that are placed
in geographically different locations to guard against natural disasters and data loss due to other factors. Users can choose to pay for Keepit.com Unlimited or Keepit.com Pro for 12-24 months.
A discount of two months will be given to users who pay in advance for 24 months. What a great deal.
Q. How do I avoid rogue antispyware and antivirus software?
A. Make sure you 'Choose Industry Certified "Security Program"
If your PC is connected to
the internet, uses e-mail, has software of an unknown
installed and comes into contact with recordable media (jump drives, dvd's,
cd's, etc) Antispyware and Antivirus protection is a requirement. They help prevent
attacks through e-mail (and/or attachments sent with e-mail) and surfing the web.
They also help you eradicate infections which are the result
of security holes and
bugs in software. (The e-mail, web surfing
and software holes and bugs result in
the most serious internet
way to know you're purchasing a trustworthy application is to confirm that
you choose has earned certification from the leading labs.
from ICSA Labs, Virus Bulletin, West Coast Labs, the National
of Specialist Computer Retailers, and others all require antispyware/
antivirus programs to meet stringent requirements to receive certification.
Smartphone and Tablet
Tips to create a safe passcode.
Smartphones and tablets open the
door to your Work, friends, family, bank details, etc... No matter which device you use, follow these tips to keep your data secure.
1. Always use a passcode. If someone gets hold of your device, the person has immediate access to your apps and
2. Make your passcode difficult to guess. Codes such as 1234 or 2580 can be cracked in seconds. Go for something that’s
unique but easy for you to remember.
3. Longer is stronger. The longer the passcode, the harder it is to crack. Make yours a minimum of six
4. Mix numbers and letters. If your device allows, use a passcode that combines numbers, letters and punctuation. Avoid dictionary words and
choose a memorable combination.
5. Make it unique. Don’t use the same passcode for anything else, including other devices,
bank cards or online accounts. That way, if one passcode gets hacked the rest stay secure.
6. Be discreet. Look around and make sure no one is watching you enter your passcode, just as
you would protect your PIN at the ATM machine.
Q. What steps need to be taken to secure
mobile devices (smartphones) for
personal/work phones and
A. Follow these steps to secure your mobile
1. Secure your device
Always lock it
b. Apply a complex passcode
c. Shield your passcode
d. Apply the latest patches
Prevent Malware Infections
Don't click on unsolicited links
b. Think before downloading apps
c. Don't "jailbreak" or "root" your mobile
Be data aware
Be careful what you share
b. Encrypt sensitive data
4. Stay compliant
a. Know and follow your organizations
Q. Do you have an example of an Organizational 'Mobile Device Security Policy'
A. Here is EZMobilePC's policy.
Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers, are important tools for the
organization and their use
is supported to achieve business goals.
However, mobile devices
also represent a significant risk to information security and
data security as, if the
appropriate security applications and procedures are not applied,
they can be a conduit for
unauthorized access to the organization’s data and IT
This can subsequently lead to data leakage and system infection.
EZMoblePC has a requirement to protect its information assets in order to safeguard
its customers, intellectual property and reputation. This document outlines a set of
practices and requirements for the safe use of mobile devices.
1. All mobile devices, whether owned by EZMoblePC or owned by employees, that have
access to corporate networks, data and systems, not including corporate IT-managed
laptops. This includes smartphones and
2. Exemptions: Where there is a business need to be exempted from this
(too costly, too complex, adversely impacting other business requirements) a risk
must be conducted being authorized by security management.
3. Policy - Technical Requirements
Devices must use the following Operating Systems: Android 2.2 or later,
iOS 4.x or later.
2. Devices must store all user-saved passwords in an encrypted password store.
3. Devices must be configured with a secure password that complies with EZMoblePC's
password policy. This password must not be the same as any other credentials used
within the organization.
With the exception of those devices managed by IT, devices are not allowed to be
connected directly to the internal corporate network.
3.1 User Requirements
Users must only load data essential to their role onto
their mobile device(s).
Users must report all lost or stolen devices to EZMoblePC
If a user suspects that unauthorized access to company
data has taken place
via a mobile device, they must report the incident in alignment
incident handling process.
4. Devices must not be “jailbroken”* or have any software/firmware installed
is designed to gain access to functionality not intended to be
exposed to the user.
Users must not load pirated software or illegal content
onto their devices.
Applications must only be installed from official platform-owner
Installation of code from un-trusted sources is forbidden.
If you are unsure if an
application is from an approved source contact EZMoblePC IT.
7. Devices must be kept up to date with manufacturer or network provided patches.
As a minimum patches should be checked for weekly
and applied at least once a month.
Devices must not be connected to a PC which does not
have up to date and enabled
anti-malware protection and which does not comply with corporate
Devices must be encrypted in line with EZMoblePC’s
Users may must be cautious about the merging of personal
and work email accounts on
their devices. They must take particular care
to ensure that company data is only sent
through the corporate email
system. If a user suspects that company data has been sent
from a personal email account, either in body text or as an attachment, they must notify
EZMoblePC IT immediately.
(If applicable to your organization) Users must not
use corporate workstations to backup
or synchronize device content such as media files, unless such content is required
legitimate business purposes.
*To jailbreak a mobile device is to remove the limitations imposed by the manufacturer.
This gives access to the operating system, thereby unlocking all its features and enabling
the installation of unauthorized software.
Q. What is the first thing I should
do when I turn on my computer.
A. Back up important files
If you follow these tips, you're more likely to be free of interference from
and spammers. But no system is completely secure. If you have important
files stored on your computer, copy them onto a removable disc or
drive, and store it in a safe place.
Q. How do I protect my password?
A. Protect your passwords
Keep your passwords in a secure place, and out of plain sight. Don't share them
on the Internet, over email, or on the phone. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP)
should never ask for your password. In addition, hackers
may try to figure out your
passwords to gain access to your computer. To make it tougher for
Use passwords that have at least eight characters and include numbers or symbols.
The longer the password,
the tougher it is to crack. A 12-character password is
stronger than one with eight characters.
Avoid common word: some hackers
use programs that can try every word in the
Don't use your personal information, your login name, or adjacent keys on the
keyboard as passwords.
Change your passwords regularly (at a minimum, every 90 days).
Don't use the same password for each online account you access.
Q. What steps need to be taken when
setting up Wireless Home Network Security.
1) Change Default Administrator Passwords (and Usernames)
Changing the default password is important because everyone
that purchases the same
Wireless access device, knows your password.
2) Turn on (Compatible) WPA / WEP Encryption
By default, your Wireless device comes
without the encryption enables. WPA / WEP are
security programs that forced your computer to provide
an encrypted password before
you are allowed access
to the wireless access point.
3) Change the Default SSID
SSID is the network name of your wireless network;
most people leave the default name,
such as, Linksys or NetGear. By changing the name, intruders have a more difficult time
identifying your system and use known vulnerabilities. (And
of course, use the unchanged
default password.) One
mistake people make is naming their home network their family
name and or address. When cruising a neighborhood of wireless devices, its always
scary to see Bobsnet444.
4) Disable SSID Broadcast
In Wi-Fi networking, the access point or router typically broadcasts
the network name
(SSID) over the air at
regular intervals. This feature was designed for businesses and
mobile hotspots where Wi-Fi clients may come and go. In the home, this feature is
it increases the likelihood an unwelcome neighbor or hacker will try
log in to your home network.
5) Assign Static IP Addresses to Devices
Most home networkers gravitate toward using dynamic IP addresses.
This means that
the IP Address, (the IP
Address is needed to participate on a network.) is typically
assigned automatically. A dynamic IP address on an unsecure system can also supply
a hacker with a IP Address.
6) Enable MAC Address Filtering
Each piece of Wi-Fi gear possesses a unique identifier called the "physical address"
or "MAC address." Access points and routers keep
track of the MAC addresses of all
devices that connect to them. Many such products offer the owner an option to key in the
MAC addresses of
their home equipment that restricts the network to only allow
connections from those devices. Do this, but also know that the feature is not so powerful
as it may seem. Hacker software programs
can fake MAC addresses easily.
7) Turn Off the Network During Extended Periods of Non-Use
The ultimate in security measures for any wireless network
is to shut down, or turn office
your wireless access point
when you are not using. You are the most vulnerable at work
or asleep, and mischief minded people know it.
8) Position the Router or Access Point Safely
Wi-Fi signals normally reach to the exterior of a home. A small amount
outdoors is not a problem,
but the further this signal reaches, the easier it is for others
to detect and exploit. Wi-Fi signals often reach across streets and through neighboring
homes. When installing a wireless home network, the position
of the access point or
router determines it's reach. Try to position these devices near the center of the home
rather than near windows to minimize
Q: What are the first security steps I should take before I connect my computer to the internet?
A: Practices Before You Connect a New Computer to the Internet
We advise home users to download and install software patches
as soon as possible after connecting a
new computer to the
Internet. However, since the background intruder scanning activity
is constant, it may not be possible for the user to complete the
download and installation of software
patches before the vulner-
abilities they are trying to fix are exploited. We recommend the
following actions 'before' connecting computers to the Internet
users can complete the patching process without incident.
Q. Where do I report
Hacking or Malware activity?
A. Here is where to report:
Hacking or a Computer Virus
Alert the appropriate authorities by contacting:
Your ISP and the hacker's ISP (if you can tell what it is). You can
usually find an ISP's email
address on its website. Include information on the
incident from your firewall's log file. By alerting the ISP to the
problem on its system,
you can help it prevent similar problems in the future. The FBI at www.ic3.gov. To
fight computer criminals, they need to hear from you.
Fraud If a scammer takes advantage of you through an
when you're shopping
online, or in any other way, report it to the Federal Trade
Commission, at ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, identity theft, and other fraud-related
complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds
of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Spam If you get deceptive spam, including email phishing
information, forward it
to email@example.com. Be sure to include the full header of the
email, including all routing information. You also may report phishing email to
of ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies,
uses these reports to fight phishing.
Personal Information If you believe you have mistakenly
personal information to
a fraudster, file a complaint at ftc.gov, and then visit the Federal Trade
Commission's Identity Theft website at ftc.gov/idtheft to learn how
to minimize your risk
of damage from a potential theft of your identity.
Parents Parents sometimes can feel outpaced by their technologically savvy
kids. Technology aside, there are lessons that parents can teach to help kids
stay safer as they socialize online. Most ISPs provide parental
controls, or you
can buy separate
software. But no software can substitute for parental supervision.
Talk to your kids about safe computing practices, as well as the things they're
seeing and doing online.
Sites Many adults, teens, and tweens use social networking
sites to exchange information about themselves, share pictures and
use blogs and private
messaging to communicate with friends, others who share
interests, and sometimes even the world-at-large. Here are some tips for parents
who want their kids to use these sites safely:
Use privacy settings to restrict who can access and post on your
child's website. Some social networking sites have strong privacy
your child how to
use these settings to limit who can view their online profile, and
explain to them why this is important.
Encourage your child to think about the language used in a blog,
and to think before posting pictures and videos. Employers, college
officers, team coaches,
and teachers may view your child's postings. Even a kid's
screen name could make a difference. Encourage teens to think about the
impression that screen names could make.
Remind your kids that once they post information online, they can't
take it back. Even if they delete the information from a site, older
exist on other people's
computers and be circulated online.
Talk to your kids about bullying. Online bullying can take many forms,
from spreading rumors online and posting or forwarding private messages
the sender's OK, to sending
threatening messages. Tell your kids that the words
they type and the images they post can have real-world consequences. They can
make the target of the bullying feel bad, make the sender look bad
— and, some-
times, can bring
on punishment from the authorities. Encourage your kids to talk to
you if they feel targeted by a bully.
Talk to your kids about avoiding sex talk online. Recent research
shows that teens who don't talk about sex with strangers online
are less likely to
come in contact
with a predator.
Tell your kids to trust their instincts if they have suspicions. If they feel threatened by
someone or uncomfortable because of something online, encourage
them to tell you.
You can then help
them report concerns to the police and to the social networking
site. Most sites have links where users can immediately report abusive, suspicious,
or inappropriate activity.
Q. What is the best way to keep malware
Try to minimize the threat.
the Effects of Malware on Your Computer
Malware is short for “malicious software;” it includes viruses —
programs that copy
themselves without your permission — and spyware, programs installed without
your consent to monitor or control your
computer activity. Criminals are hard at work
thinking up creative ways to get malware on your computer. They create appealing
web sites, desirable downloads, and compelling
stories to lure you to links that will
download malware, especially on computers that don’t use adequate security
software. Then, they use the malware to
steal personal information, send spam,
and commit fraud.It doesn’t have to be that way.
So says a website with tips from
the federal government and the technology industry that is helping consumers be on
guard against Internet fraud, secure their
computers, and protect their personal
malware can wreak, and reclaim their computers and their electronic information.
Computers may be infected with malware if they:
slow down, malfunction, or display repeated error messages;
- wont shut down or restart;
serve up a lot of pop-up ads, or display them when youre not surfing
display web pages or programs you didnt intend to use, or send emails
If you suspect malware
is on your computer
If you suspect malware is lurking on your computer, stop shopping, banking, and
other online activities that involve user names, passwords, or other
Malware on your computer could be sending your personal information to
Then, confirm that your security software is active and current:
at a minimum, your
should have anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall. You can
buy stand-alone programs for each element or a security suite that
from a variety of sources, including commercial vendors or from your
Internet Service Provider. Security software that comes pre-installed on a computer
for a short time unless you pay a subscription fee to keep it in effect.
In any case, security software protects against the newest threats
only if it is up-to-
Thats why it is critical to set your security software and operating system (like
Windows or Apples OS) to update automatically.
Some scam artists distribute malware disguised as anti-spyware software. Resist
buying software in response to unexpected pop-up messages or emails,
that claim to have scanned your computer and detected malware. Thats a tactic
scammers have used to spread malware, and that has attracted the attention
Trade Commission, the nations consumer protection agency, as well as a
security tools from legitimate security vendors selected by GetNetWise, a project
Once you confirm that
your security software is up-to-date, run it to scan your compu-
ter for viruses and spyware. Delete everything the program identifies as a problem.
may have to restart your computer for the changes to take effect.If you suspect
that your computer still is infected, you may want to run a second anti-spyware
program. Some computer security experts recommend installing one
program for real-time protection, and another for periodic scans of your machine
way to stop malware that might have slipped past the first program.
Finally, if the problem persists after you exhaust your own ability to diagnose and
treat it, you might want to call for professional
help. If your computer is covered by a
warranty that offers free tech support, contact the manufacturer. Before you call,
write down the model and serial number of
your computer, the name of any software
you’ve installed, and a short description of the problem. Your notes will help you give
an accurate description to the technician.If you need professional help, if your
machine isn’t covered by a warranty, or if your security software isn’t
doing the job
properly, you may need to pay for technical support. Many companies — including
some affiliated with retail stores —
offer tech support via the phone, online, at their
store, or in your home. Telephone or online help generally are the least expensive
to access support services — especially if there’s a toll-free helpline — but you
may have to do some of the work yourself.
Taking your computer to a store usually is
less expensive than hiring a technician or repair person to come into your home.
Once your computer is back
up and running, think about how malware could have
been downloaded to your machine, and what you could do to avoid it in the future. If
your security software or operating system was
out-of-date, download the newest
version and set it to update automatically. Use the opportunity to back up important
files by copying them onto a removable disc. Other
ways to minimize the chances
of a malware download in the future:
Don’t click on a link in an email or open an attachment unless you
know who sent it and what it is. Links in email can send you to sites
that automatically download malware to your machine. Opening
attachments — even those that appear to come from a friend or
co-worker — also can install malware on your computer.
Download and install software only from websites you know and trust.
Downloading free games, file-sharing programs, and customized
toolbars may sound appealing, but free software can come with
Talk about safe computing. Tell your kids that some online activity
put a computer at risk: clicking on pop-ups, downloading free games or
programs, or posting personal information.
Finally, monitor your computer
for unusual behavior. If you suspect your machine
has been exposed to malware, take action immediately. Report problems with
malware to your ISP so it can try to prevent similar problems and
Q. What Should Parents know about Social
A. Social Networking
"It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your
"Remember that phrase from your own childhood? It's still a valid question, but now, it comes with a twist:
"Do you know where your kids are — and who they're chatting with online?
"Social networking sites have morphed into
a mainstream medium for teens and adults. These sites
encourage and enable people to exchange information
about themselves, share pictures and videos,
use blogs and private messaging to communicate with friends,
others who share interests, and
even the world-at-large. And that's why it's important
to be aware of the possible pitfalls that
with networking online.
Some social networking
sites attract pre-teens – even kids as young as 5 or 6. These younger-focused
sites don't allow the same kinds of communication
that teens and adults have, but there are still things
that parents can do to help young kids socialize
safely online. In fact, when it comes to young kids, the
law provides some protections – and gives parents some control over the type of information that
children can disclose online. For sites directed to children under age 13, and for general audience sites
they're dealing with kids younger than 13, there's the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act
(COPPA). It requires
these sites to get parental consent before they collect, maintain, or use kids'
Information. COPPA also allows parents to review their child's online profiles and blog pages.
Parents sometimes can feel outpaced by their technologically savvy kids.
Technology aside, there are
lessons that parents
can teach to help kids stay safer as they socialize online.
Help Kids Socialize Safely OnlineOnGuard Online shares these tips for safe social networking:
your kids understand what information should be private. Tell them why it's important to
keep some things – about themselves, family members and friends
– to themselves.
Information like their full name, Social Security number, street address, phone number,
family financial information — like bank or credit card Account numbers
— is private and
should stay that way. Tell them not to choose a screen name that gives away too
Use privacy settings to restrict who can access and post on your child's website. Some
social networking sites have strong privacy settings.
Show your child how to use these settings to limit who can view their online profile,
explain to them why this is important.
Explain that kids should post only information that you — and they — are comfortable
with others seeing. Even If privacy settings are turned on, some — or even all
— of your
child's profile may be seen by a broader audience Than you're comfortable with.
Encourage your child to think about the language used in a blog, and to think before
Posting pictures and videos. Employers, college admissions officers, team coaches,
and teachers may view your child's postings.
Even a kid's screen name could make a difference. Encourage teens to think about the
impression that screen names could make.
Remind your kids that once they post information online, they can't take it back.
Even if they delete the Information from a site, older versions may exist on other
people's computers and be circulated online.
Know how your kids are getting online. More and more, kids are accessing the Internet
through their cell phones.
Find out about what limits you can place on your child's cell phone. Some cellular
companies have plans that limit downloads, Internet access, and texting; other plans
allow kids to use those features only at certain times of day.
Talk to your kids about bullying. Online bullying can take many forms, from spreading
rumors online and posting or forwarding private messages without the sender's
sending threatening messages. Tell your kids that the words they type and the
they post can have real-world consequences. They can make the target of the
bullying feel bad, make the sender look bad – and, sometimes, can bring on
punishment from the authorities.
Encourage your kids to talk to you if they feel targeted by a bully.
Talk to your kids about avoiding sex talk online. Recent research shows that teens who
don't talk about sex with strangers online are less likely to come in contact with
predator.If you're concerned that your child is engaging in risky online behavior,
search the blog sites they visit to see whatinformation they're posting. Try searching
by their name, nickname, school, hobbies, grade, or area where you live.
Tell your kids to trust their gut if they have suspicions. If they feel threatened by someone
or uncomfortable because of something online, encourage them to tell you. You
help them report concerns to the police and to the social networking site. Most
links where users can immediately report abusive, suspicious, or inappropriate
parent sections to Understand its features and privacy controls. The site should
your rights as a parent to review and delete your child's profile if your child
A Few More Tips to Protect Pre-TeensMany of the tips above apply for pre-teens, but
parents of younger children also can:
extra steps to protect younger kids. Keep the computer in an open area like the
kitchen or family room, so you can keep an eye on what your kids are doing online.
Use the Internet with them to help develop safe surfing habits.
Consider taking advantage of parental control features on some operating systems
that let you manage your kids' computer use, including what sites they can visit,
whether they can download items, or what time of day they can be online.
Go where your kids go online. Sign up for – and use – the social networking spaces
that your kids visit. Let them know that you're there, and help teach them how to act
as they socialize online.
Review your child's friends list. You may want to limit your child's online “friends” to
people your child actually knows and is friendly with in real life.
Understand sites' privacy policies. Sites should spell out your rights as a parent to
review and delete your child's profile if your child is younger than 13.
For More InformationTo learn more about staying safe online, visit the websites of the following organizations:
Federal Trade Commission — www.OnGuardOnline.gov The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business
practices in the marketplace and toprovide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them.
To file a complaint or to get free information onconsumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP
(1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.The FTC manages OnGuardOnline.gov, which provides practical tips
from the federal government and the technologyindustry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud,
secure your computer, and protect your personal information. ConnectSafely — www.connectsafely.org ConnectSafely is a forum for parents, teens, educators, and advocates designed
to give teens and parents a voice in thepublic discussion about youth online safety, and has tips, as
well as other resources, for safe blogging and socialnetworking. Along with NetFamilyNews.org, it is
a project of the non- profit Tech Parenting Group. Cyberbully411 — www.cyberbully411.org Cyberbully411 provides resources and opportunities for discussion and sharing
for youth - and their parents - who havequestions about or may have been targeted by online harassment.
The website was created by the non-profit Internet Solutions for Kids, Inc., with funding from the Community
Technology Foundation of California. GetNetWise — www.getnetwise.org
GetNetWise is a public service sponsored by Internet industry corporations and
public interest organizations to helpensure that Internet users have safe, constructive, and educational
or entertaining online experiences. The GetNetWise coalition works to provide Internet users with the
resources they need to make informed decisions about their and theirfamily's use of the Internet.
iKeepSafe.org is a coalition of 49 governors/first spouses, law enforcement,
the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other associations dedicated
to helping parents, educators, and caregivers byproviding tools and guidelines to promote safe Internet
and technology use among children.
NCMEC is a private, non-profit organization that helps prevent child abduction
and sexual exploitation; helps find missingchildren; and assists victims of child abduction and sexual
exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them. staysafe —
staysafe.org is an educational site intended to help
consumers understand both the positive aspects of the Internet aswell as how to manage a variety of
safety and security issues that exist online.
WiredSafety.org is an Internet safety and help group. WiredSafety.org provides
education, assistance, and awareness on cybercrime and abuse, privacy, security, and responsible technology
use. It is also the parent group of Teenangels.org, FBI-trained teens and preteens who promote Internet
safety. See also: Social Networking Sites: Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens
What to Do if There's a ProblemTrust your gut if you have
suspicions. If you feel threatened by someone or uncomfortable because of something online,Tell an adult
you trust, and report it to the police and the social networking site.The Children's Online Privacy
Protection Act (COPPA) requires websites to obtain parental consent before collecting, using,or disclosing
personal information from children under age 13.
Q. What are
Nigerian con-men or internet scams?
Phony Lotteries, Nigerian 419s, Advanced Fee Fraud, and Scams
While you're online:
Know who you're
In any electronic transaction, independently confirm the other party's name, street
address, and telephone number.
Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. These solicitations are phony
Delete requests that claim to be from foreign nationals
asking you to help transfer their money through your bank account. They're fraudulent.
emails that request your money, credit card or account numbers, or other personal information.
If you are selling something over the Internet, don't accept a potential buyer's offer to send you a check
for more than the purchase price, no matter how tempting the plea or convincing the story. End the transaction immediately
if someone insists that you wire back funds.The Internet gives buyers access to a world of goods and services, and gives sellers access to a world of customers.
Unfortunately, the Internet also gives con artists the very same access. But being on guard online can help you maximize the
global benefits of electronic commerce and minimize your chance of being defrauded. OnGuard Online wants you to know how to
spot some cross-border scams — including foreign lotteries, money offers, and check overpayment schemes — and
report them to the appropriate authorities.
For years, scam operators have used the telephone and direct mail to entice U.S. consumers into buying chances in supposedly
high-stakes foreign lotteries. Now they're using email, too — either to sell tickets or suggest that a large cash prize
has your name on it. No matter what country's name is used to promote a lottery, the pitch follows a pattern: you should send
money to pay for taxes, insurance, or processing or customs fees. The amount may seem small at first, but as long as you keep
paying, the requests for funds will keep coming — for higher and higher amounts. Some victims have lost thousands of
dollars.Most scam operators never buy the lottery tickets on your behalf. Others buy some tickets, but keep the "winnings"
for themselves. In any case, lottery hustlers generally try to get you to share your bank account or credit card numbers,
so they can make unauthorized withdrawals.If you're thinking about responding to a foreign lottery, OnGuard Online wants you to remember:
a foreign lottery is against the law.
There are no secret systems for winning foreign lotteries. Your chances of getting any money back are
slim to none.
If you buy even one foreign lottery ticket, you can expect many more bogus offers
for lottery or investment "opportunities." Your name will be placed on "sucker lists" that fraudsters
buy and sell.
credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Scam artists often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch. Once
they get your account numbers, they may use them to commit identity theft.Resist solicitations for foreign lottery promotions. Report them to the appropriate government officials, then hit delete.View a sample fraudulent foreign lottery solicitation.
"Nigerian" Foreign Money Offers
The "Nigerian" scam got its name from emails that supposedly came
from Nigerian "officials" who needed your help getting at their money — which was tied up due to strife in
their country. Today, people claiming to be officials, businesspeople, or the surviving relatives of former government honchos
in countries around the world send countless offers via email to transfer thousands of dollars into your bank account if you
will just pay a fee or "taxes" to help them access their money. If you respond to the initial offer, you may receive
documents that look "official." But then, you will get more email asking you to send more money to cover transaction
and transfer costs, attorney's fees, blank letterhead, and your bank account numbers, among other information. Subsequent
emails will encourage you to travel to another country to complete the transaction. Some fraudsters have even produced trunks
of dyed or stamped money to verify their claims.The emails are from crooks trying to steal your money or commit identity
theft. Victims of this scam report that emergencies arise that require more money and delay the "transfer" of funds;
in the end, you lose your money, and the scam artist vanishes. According to the U.S. State Department, people who have responded
to these solicitations have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and in some cases, murdered.If you receive an
email from someone claiming to need your help getting money out of another country, don't respond. After all, why would a stranger from another country pick you out at random to share thousands of
dollars? Report the solicitation to the appropriate government officials, and then hit delete.View a sample fraudulent foreign money offer.
Check Overpayment Schemes
no to a check for more than your selling price, no matter how tempting the plea or convincing the story. Check overpayment
schemes generally target people who have posted an item for sale online. The con artist, posing as a potential buyer from
a foreign country (or a distant part of the U.S.), emails the seller and offers to buy the item with a cashier's check, money
order, personal check, or corporate check. Or the scammer may pretend to be a business owner from a foreign country, needing
"financial agents" to process payments for their U.S. orders; in exchange, they promise a commission.Regardless of the cover, here's what happens:
The scammer sends you a check that looks authentic — complete with watermarks — made payable for more money than
you expected. They ask you to deposit it in your bank account, and then wire-transfer some portion of the funds to a foreign
account. They provide convincing reasons why the check is for more than the necessary amount, and why the funds must be transferred
quickly. Sometimes, the counterfeit checks fool a bank teller, but be aware that the check still can bounce. The scammer vanishes
with the money you wired from your own account and you are on the hook for the entire amount of the worthless check. In addition,
a scammer who has your bank account number is likely to use it to withdraw more money from your account.
Reporting a Cross-Border Scam
If you think you may have responded to a cross-border scam, file a complaint at www.econsumer.gov, a project of 20 countries of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement
Network. Then visit the FTC's identity theft website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft. While you can't completely control whether you will become a victim
of identity theft, you can take some steps to minimize your risk.If you've responded to a "Nigerian" scheme, contact your
local Secret Service field office using contact information from the Blue Pages of your telephone directory, or from www.secretservice.gov/field_offices.shtml.In addition, report telemarketing fraud and check overpayment scams to your state
Attorney General, using contact information at www.naag.org.Report unsolicited email offers to firstname.lastname@example.org — including offers inviting you to participate in a foreign
lottery, looking for help getting money out of a foreign country, or asking you to wire back extra funds from a check you
received.If you receive what looks like lottery material from a foreign country through the postal mail, give it to your local
For More InformationForeign Lottery Scams
U.S. Federal Trade Commission — The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive,
and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them.
To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure,
online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.Competition Bureau in Canada — The Competition Bureau is an independent law enforcement agency
in Canada that investigates anti-competitive practices and promotes compliance with the
laws under its jurisdiction. To file a complaint or to get free information, visit www.competitionbureau.gc.ca or call toll-free, 1-800-348-5358. The Bureau has the ability to refer criminal matters to the Attorney General of Canada,
who then decides whether to prosecute before the courts.United Kingdom's Office of Fair Trading — The United Kingdom's
Office of Fair Trading is responsible for making markets work well for consumers. They protect and promote consumer interests
throughout the United Kingdom, while ensuring that businesses are fair and competitive. To file a complaint or to get free information,
visit www.oft.gov.uk or send an email to email@example.com.Australian Competition and Consumer Commission — The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission encourages vigorous
competition in the marketplace and enforces consumer protection and fair trading laws. To file a complaint or to get more
information, visit www.accc.gov.au. The ACCC advocates consultation and negotiation as the first and
best option to settle disputes, but once the ACCC pursues legal action any sort of mediation becomes less likely.
"Nigerian" Advance-Fee Scams
U.S. Secret Service — The Secret Service investigates violations of laws relating to financial
crimes, including access device fraud, financial institution fraud, identity theft, and computer fraud. To file a complaint
or to get free information, visit www.secretservice.gov or call 202-406-5708.U.S. Department of State — The Department of State's mission is to create a more secure, democratic,
and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community. As part of that mission, the
Department of State seeks to minimize the impact of international crime, including cross-border internet scams, on the United States and its citizens. To get free information, visit www.state.gov.
Q. What should I do prior to disposing of an old computer?
A. Computer Disposal
Once you have a “clean” computer,
consider recycling, donating, or reselling it – and keep the environment in mind when
disposing of your computer.If you want to get rid of your old computer, options include recycling,
reselling, and donating.
you log off for thelast time, there are important
things to do to prepare it for disposal. Computers
personal and financial
information, including passwords, account numbers, license keys or registration numbers for software
programs, addresses and phone numbers, medical and prescription information, tax returns, and other personal documents.
Before getting rid of your old computer, it’s a good idea to use software to “wipe”the hard drive clean. If you don’t, consider
your old hard drive a 21st century treasure chest for identity thieves
and information pirates. The Federal Trade Commission
(FTC), the nation’s consumer
protection agency, says you can deter identity theft and information piracy by taking a few
Understanding Hard Drives
A computer’s hard
drive stores data, and maintains an index of files. When you save a file, especially a large one, it is
scattered around the hard drive in bits and
pieces. Files also are automatically created by browsers
systems. When you open a file, the hard drive checks the index, then gathers
the bits and pieces and reconstructs them.
delete a file, the links between the index and the file disappear, signaling to your system that the file isn’t needed
any longer and that hard drive space
can be overwritten. But the bits and pieces of the deleted file stay on your computer
until they’re overwritten, and they can be retrieved with a data recovery program.
To remove data from your hard drive
it needs to be wiped clean.
Cleaning Hard Dives
Before you clean your hard
drive, save the files that are important to you on an external storage device – for example,
a USB drive, a CDRom, or an external
hard drive – or transfer them to a new computer. Check your owner’s manual, the
manufacturer’s website, or its customer support line for information on how to
save data and transfer it to a new
computer. Utility programs to wipe your hard drive are available both online and in stores where computers are
They’re generally inexpensive; some are available on the Internet for free. Wipe utility
programs vary in their capabilities:
erase the entire disk, while others allow you
to select files or folders to erase. They also vary in their effectiveness:
programs that overwrite
or wipe the hard drive many times are very effective; those that overwrite or wipe the drive only once
may not prevent information being wiped from being recovered later.
If your old computer contains sensitive information
that would be valuable to an identity
thief, consider using a program that overwrites or wipes the hard drive many times. Or,
remove the hard
drive, and physically destroy it. One more thing to keep in mind: If you use your home or personal
for business purposes, check with your employer about how to manage information on your computer that’s business-related.
The law requires businesses to follow
data security and disposal requirements for certain information that’s related to
Once you have a “clean”
computer, here’s how to dispose of it:
Recycle it. Many computer manufacturers have programs to recycle computers
and components. Check their
websites or call their toll-free numbers
for more information. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has
information on electronic product recycling
program. Check with your county or local government,
including the local landfill office for regulations.
Donate it. Many organizations collect old computers and donate them to charities.
Resell it. Some people and organizations buy old computers.
Check online. Keep
the environment in mind when disposing of your computer.
Most computer equipment contains hazardous materialsthat don’t belong in a landfill.
For example, many computers have heavy metals that can contaminate the earth.
The EPA recommends that you check with your local health and sanitation agencies for ways to dispose
of electronics safely.