Posts Tagged ‘malware’

Malware Attacks Social Networks

December 14, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/technology/internet/14virus.html

Here’s another reason I won’t use social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Along with the fact they have severe privacy challenges, now there is malware that targets their users. I don’t have time for this!

Sick Computer

November 17, 2009
Sick Compaq Pressario CQ20

I'm Sick!

Not my computer, fortunately.

A friend bought me her laptop computer today. It’s a 9-month old Compaq Presario CQ20 running Windows XP. She said it was running very slowly, had many windows popping up on the screen and would not type in the Thai language any more.

I started it up and indeed it ran very slowly. The first pop-up I saw was for some shareware wallpaper changer. I asked her if she wanted it and she said she had no idea where it came from. Her English isn’t so good and she always clicked “Yes” when she encountered a dialog box. I disabled it without a problem.

She had an old version of the free AVG virus scanner on the computer. I opened it and tried to update it to the latest version. It complained that it could not find the avg.com domain. I tried going to avg.com in her web browser but it got a DNS error. I tried symantec.com, makers of Norton Anti Virus, and got the same problem.

But it could browse other internet sites successfully. Something had inserted itself in between the browser and the DNS service and was blocking access to anti-malware sites.

From that I knew that the computer was very sick, even though it wasn’t showing other signs of infection other than being slow. I asked if she had the original Windows XP install CDs. No – the shop configured her machine for her and didn’t give her any CDs.

I knew it was beyond my capabilities to fix. I think the best solution is to reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows from scratch. But I’d have to get Windows install CDs and also find all the proprietary drivers for a discontinued computer.

I called a friend who’s a professional at these things and has all the right tools. He agreed to fix it tonight. There are times when you need an expert.

She said she didn’t have any files on the machine that she needed to save; after using it for nine months. I think I could have saved her files to a CD without infecting it but I am not sure even that is safe.

Of course my friend had no idea what I was talking about. She’d used her computer for surfing the net, email and chatting but had no idea what she was doing. Maybe I worry too much about the safety of my computer but this was a good lesson on the dangers of not worrying enough.

I was a bit worried even having her computer on the same internet connection as mine. I’ve turned off things like Windows File Sharing and run a firewall but I expect it was still busy probing for other computers it could infect. I didn’t even trust that the network connection taskbar icon showed no activity. I bet there are ways of fooling it so a user does not know that her computer is doing bad things on the network behind her back.

 

WordPress Annoyance – Embedded Slide Shows

November 10, 2009

I use Picasa Web to store a lot of my pictures. Many times I want to include them in a post in this blog. It is easy to link to pictures or to an entire album.

For example, here’s a link to some photos I took last year of the band at SuanLum Night Bazaar in Bangkok:

Suan-Lum Night Bazaar, Bangkok

But Picasa Web has another feature: you can embed a live Flash slide show of an album in a your blog. I wanted to do this for some pictures of Bang Sue Railway Station.

Picasa Web makes it as easy as possible with a screen that includes code you copy and paste into the HTML view of the post you’re writing.

It gives you some options for size, auto play and whether to include captions.

 

PicasaWeb SildeShow Embed

PicasaWeb SildeShow Embed

But WordPress.com does not permit that. You can paste the HTML into your page but the WordPress preprocessor strips it out without even a warning.

 

Similarly I tried embedding a search tool for aviation photos from the well-known site Airliners.net. But WordPress would not allow it. I’m surprised they trust me enough to embed simple links in my blog.

I know why WordPress.com does it. They want to be safe for both blog authors and viewers. There are so many cases of people using such embedding tools to distribute malware. I bet it even happens that an innocent blog author has been persuaded to embed something bad in her blog with disastrous consequences.

And of course WordPress.com is free so any bad person can sign up.

But still it is annoying for the huge majority of bloggers who are just trying to share information from one site to another. It’s sad when one big company (WordPress) cannot find a way to trust content and tools provided by another (Picasa Web is of course from Google). Surely they could work together to ensure that what I’ve embedded is a valid slide show?