Aberrant error code for invalid users has been corrected. Official post here.
There's been a little too much going on here what with the four feet of snow for me to be able to sit down and write, and MAAWG is next week. So for now, please enjoy some photos of the recent blizzards.
AOL is issuing an additional error code for "users unknown" for a while. Official update here. If you're using scripts to remove users, please add this code.
Friday is not a day for serious topics, despite the recent memo that decrees that all weekdays are now All Monday All The Time. I therefore declare my blog to be topic-free on Fridays. I will just post a photo I like, be it mine or one I found somewhere. It's been an Arctic week here on the East Coast. And we are going to get more snow. This is a photo of my girl Daisy bounding through the snow we got Dec 19 last year. I can't wait to see what I can get of her after this coming storm!
There is a truly impressive storm system that is churning its way up here, and in honor of the foolery that will no doubt result from 2 feet of snow on the ground - snowball fights with the neighbor kids, snow forts, and really happy dogs, I thought it could be fun to have a contest. With a prize, even!
I was pondering what my cyberpunk marketing nightmare would be. So for the contest, given the parameters of unhinged future technology a-la-Gibson, what would your worst marketing nightmare scenario look like? Leave your entries in the comments, and I will award a $15 item from Amazon of your choice shipped to you if your entry is chosen.
To give an idea of what I mean, maybe your worst scenario would be little air blimps that follow you along city streets and blare ads at you, or maybe full-sensory virtual reality gaming sessions being interrupted by equally full sensory garish commercials. Think cyberpunk, future tech, and how it could be warped to push ads in front of people in the most intrusive and annoying ways possible. Let your imagination loose! I'll post mine some time tomorrow, just for fun since I can't win the thing.
The winner will be chosen next Friday, so I will close submissions that Thursday evening. I can't wait to see what the demented imaginations of my readers can come up with! Indulge me, please?
Happy snowstorm, East Coast Americans! Happy Friday and weekend to everyone else!
For those of you with Windows machines that stagger along like ancient drunks, taking 5 mins to open a browser and having seizures and so on despite having been scanned 6 ways from Sunday for malware and come up blank...try this.
CCleaner, a free utility that fixed my laptop and Christine's right up. Run the registry analysis/clean up repeatedly until it finds nothing. It may take several. Then go to "cleaner", check off the first item under "advanced" which is "old pre-fetch data", UNCHECK anything else you don't want removed, and run that the same way. Under "tools" go to the startup tab and uncheck everything you don't really need running when Windows boots. Use the Cleaner once a day to keep that pre-fetch data and registry under control. I just set mine to run when Windows starts. It slows the boot time, yeah, but it is one less thing I have to remember to do. I've tried a lot of different programs over time to tidy up the trash Windows makes of itself, and this is the best one I've seen in years.
Defraggler is another nifty item from the same company. It's faster and infinitely better than the on-board Windows de-fragmentation utility. I used the Windows version, and it found 19% fragmentation so I ran it, and it took all night to do it. My laptop worked no better the next day. I used the Defraggler analysis tool and it found nothing had really been fixed. I ran it in two hours, and then rebooted. It was a whole new machine.
The Internets are dangerous (note the date on that article!). Complacency costs money, and the more people take it seriously and move to prevent compromises of their machines, the better for everyone.
Don't use Internet Explorer. Forget you ever had IE. *droid gesture* Use Firefox. Let it update itself. Along with Firefox, get the Adblock and NoScript plug-ins and let them update themselves too. An enormous percentage of infestations happen from browsing pages with infected ad networks (hello, social networking sites!), and this array of software will help prevent a lot. NoScript does up the annoyance factor in web-browsing a bit, but if you run NoScript and simply tell it to allow every page it complains about, there isn't much point in using it. And you do get used to it.
Here's a fun thought. Infected USB drives. Just let that one roll around in your mind for a moment. Tiny, portable, and perfectly designed for the "easiest possible way" mentality which is part of human nature. People take them everywhere. It's a virus-maker's Lotto hit. Firewalls do nothing to keep out the bogeys if people walk them in on their bodies and voluntarily connect them to a network. An infected USB flash drive contains the malicious software paired with a malicious autorun.inf file. The autorun.inf file is used to trick the user into running the malware on the flash drive. Panda Security offers an easy to use utility that gives the user the option to either vaccinate the PC or a specific USB drive. I took the easy road and vaccinated my PC. This can always be reversed if needed.
This is the basic stuff; I'm ignoring the need for a hardware firewall, and tricks that can be done with NAT, routing, etc. Windows is here to stay. I use it myself for a variety of reasons.
It sucks. It's a lot of work to do, all this patching and updating and disabling and and and! It makes me tired just reading my own posts. But it's the price we pay for having this incredibly complex cool thing we call the Internet, which brings people closer together in variety of unprecedented ways. The downside, as always, is that the bad guys get closer too - and they have way more money and lots less ethics than the good guys, so let's not make it easy for them.
Spy vs. Spy, as one commenter said.
During the holiday upswing in "help me, my account is sending email I didn't send!" tickets, I wrote a post that had some ideas for mitigation of the endless cycle of end user -> cracked 'Doze machine -> spam the world. I had intended to continue that post and got sidetracked, but last night was reading the saga of a guy I know who is amazingly smart and knows a whole lot about computers and internet stuff, and yet is having a huge amount of trouble locating the source of the spam coming from his home network. Seriously, if this guy can't get rid of a bot, no-one can, and what is the average population going to be able to do?
According to anecdotal evidence and an informal poll of non-geeks I know, the answer is overwhelmingly "I didn't know that (bot infestation) was possible/it is that bad?/you can't be serious!" or "throw the machine away and get a new one." Ack! Would you get in a car and drive it without knowing how, without a license, or without putting on your seat-belt? (I know there are some who would, but I'm ignoring you, you delinquents!) Would you just drive it into the ground without ever giving it maintenance?
Not to belabor the obvious, but Windows has security issues. Lots of them. Microsoft does release patches for its software. Patch your machines regularly. Having a Mac does not make you invulnerable, either. A hacker took down a fully patched Macbook at CanSecWest in 2 seconds flat. Regardless, not having those patches is worse than having them.
If you've got Windows, be sure you have this patch. A couple of PC scans that I like are from Panda Security, Kaspersky Lab, and Trend Micro.
Anti-virus software is not an optional accessory these days. I spent a lot of money on my computer; $40 a year to protect it doesn't seem like an unreasonable investment to me - after all, I pay for insurance on my car, don't I? There are good free AV programs out there, too. AVG and Avast are two of them. Any anti-virus software is useless unless updated regularly.
There are literally tens of thousands of new exploits and threats discovered every day. No joke. There are all sorts of software available for use to scan your computer for malware; but be careful! Many of them are traps for the unwary that use social engineering to get a person to download them. They are either malware themselves, or a nice little con game that tells you you have been infected with malware that it installed itself on the sly, and now you have to pay to get it removed: ransomware. My chosen suite of applications has served me well: SpyWareBlaster, SpyBot S&D, and MalwareBytes along with the enterprise anti-virus have kept my machine largely free of infestation. They're useless unless updated regularly.
The Internets used to be more fun before all this fiddling was necessary, didn't they?