Monthly patches and upgrades don’t always go well, but getting them down is increasingly critical, especially for applications like Flash, Reader, and the major web browsers. This week I called it “the new firewall.”
Twenty years ago, home users almost never bothered with firewalls. My first employer didn’t bother with them either. That changed in the late 1990s, when worms exploiting weaknesses in Microsoft software devastated the nascent Internet. Firewalls soon became commonplace, along with some unfortunate hyperbole that led some people to believe firewalls make you invisible and invincible, a myth that persists in some circles even today.
For this reason I’m a bit hesitant to declare anything a new firewall, but firewalls are necessary. So is protecting key software.
Continue reading The new firewall
I was talking breaches last week when a very high-up joined the conversation in mid-stream.
“Start over, Dave.”
“OK. I’m talking about breaches.”
“I know what you’re talking about,” he said, knowingly and very clearly interested.
Continue reading You’re telling me someone gave a stranger his password?
I’ve grown used to being asked what unpatched vulnerability was used in the most recent breach, in an effort to make sure some other company is protected.
I appreciate the desire to learn from other companies’ mistakes and not repeat them. But there are several reasons why the answer to that question is complicated, and not necessarily helpful.
Continue reading Why every breach is different
I’ve been seeing a lot of news this week about web browser plugins getting exploited to plant malware on computer systems. A lot of people know to keep Flash up to date, and to keep Java up to date or uninstall it–at least I hope so by now–but there are two targets that people generally forget about: Shockwave and Silverlight.
Because so many people have them installed and don’t know it, and therefore never update them, they are ripe targets for attack. Continue reading Web browser plugins you need to uninstall now–even if you have a Mac
“Oh, so you think you’re Mr. Genius Man,” the crackly voice said, drowned out by static caused by his cheap VOIP connection. “Enjoy your broken computer, Mr. Genius Man. Goodbye, Mr. Genius Man.”
So ended 23 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back, but I figure it’s 23 minutes he wasn’t spending scamming someone else. I don’t do it often, but my kids were playing nicely and we were all in the same room, so I guess I don’t regret it too much. Continue reading Windows Technical Support calls me again
I was listening to an interview between Paul Asadorian (of Pauldotcom fame) and Cigital CTO and software security expert Gary McGraw. They discussed how the target of attacks moved from Microsoft to Adobe and now that Adobe is showing signs of getting its act together, it’s going somewhere else.
“If I were Nvidia,” McGraw said, “I’d be thinking a lot about software security. Fortunately they are.”
Nvidia does sound like a juicy target. Continue reading The time bomb in your older computer
Here’s some stuff I’ve found in recent weeks that I never got around to posting, so I’ll just round it all up briefly. Continue reading Some security short-takes I never got around to posting
There’s an exploit in Flash, on all platforms, being actively exploited in the wild. Adobe rushed out an update. See more at Ars Technica. It allows remote code execution, so this one is as bad as it gets.
Installing EMET is a potential mitigation against Flash exploits, so if you’re running Windows, protecting Flash with EMET is an extremely good idea. Uninstalling Flash is an even better idea, but I don’t think HTML5 is quite ready to replace this scourge of computing security just yet.
I noticed that Secunia PSI automatically updated Flash on all of my machines, which was nice.
See, security doesn’t have to be painful.
As you probably know, last year some still-unknown criminals stole a whole bunch of credit and debit card data from Target. And the story keeps changing. First there weren’t any PINs. Then they got the PINs, but no personally identifiable data. Well, the latest news indicates they got credit card numbers, names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and for a whole lot more people, and probably from a longer length of time than just late November to mid-December.
There are a few things you ought to do if you shop at Target, which many people do. Continue reading Why the Target data breach news keeps getting worse, and what you need to do
I wish I’d posted this last week, since many of us see one set of relatives at Thanksgiving and a different set at Christmas (and perhaps New Year’s). Here are things you can do as preventative maintenance for relatives whose computers could use a little help. Continue reading Things to do for your relatives’ computers this Christmas