Do I have enough CISSP work experience?

It seems like about once a month an aspiring coworker asks me how to get enough CISSP work experience. I think this shows a misunderstanding of the requirement, so I’m going to try to clear it up.

You don’t have to get your five years of work experience in one big lump. And that’s a good thing, because that would be hard to do. Sometimes you can get a security job without a cert and work your way toward it, but a lot of employers want you to come in with the certification already.

But that’s OK. As long as you’re doing something more than selling computers at retail, odds are you have some security experience that can count toward the requirement.

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Simple tips to prevent ransomware

Last week at work, I noticed some odd events in an event log, and when I investigated them, I found they were part of a failed ransomware attack. This got me thinking about how to prevent ransomware at home.

Ransomware, if you aren’t familiar, is an attack that encrypts your data and demands a ransom, usually around $300, in bitcoins, and you get a short deadline until it destroys your files. More often than not, paying the ransom is the only way to get the files back, so it’s much better to prevent it.

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Spot phishing e-mails with Outlook 2010

I got e-mail the other day from Turbotax saying someone had filed my taxes for me. Obviously a cause for concern, right? Here’s how I determined the message was fake in about three minutes.

Some people will tell you not to even open a message like this, but if you’re a computer professional, at some point someone is going to want you to prove the message was fake. I think this is something every e-mail administrator, desktop support professional, security professional, and frankly, every helpdesk professional ought to be able to do.

So here’s how you can get the proof. And generally speaking, Outlook 2010’s default configuration is paranoid enough that this procedure will be safe to do. If you want an extra layer of protection, make sure you have EMET installed and protecting Outlook.

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Unchecky is another tool to help with staying out of trouble with malware

I found a mention of a tool called Unchecky as a minor point in a story about something else entirely. Unchecky helps to solve the problem with downloaded programs including a bunch of extra junk you don’t want.

I won’t be running it myself. But the next time I fix a computer, I’ll probably install it on that one.

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Cleaning a PC when fdisk-format-reinstall isn’t an option

There are any number of pie-in-the-sky pundits who will tell you when a computer starts to get slow, to format the hard drive, reinstall Windows, and go on your merry way.

Unfortunately it’s not always realistic. I don’t clean up PCs all that often anymore, but here’s what I do when I need to.

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Use this file to find out how much your antivirus is protecting you

Unlike some security professionals, I still regard antivirus as a necessity. It doesn’t catch advanced threats, and everything it does catch can be caught through other methods, but it is the most cost- and labor-effective way to catch the best-known, least sophisticated attacks. If you put a $100,000 incident responder to work hunting ordinary viruses, you’ll waste a lot of money on salary and quickly lose that incident responder to another company offering more interesting work.

Of course, there’s a great deal of discussion in the mainstream computer magazines about which antivirus is the best. I don’t agree with their methodology though–they might as well be looking for the longest 8-foot 2×4 at the home improvement store. Yes, you can probably find some variance if you get out a micrometer, but what have you accomplished?

SANS has a good real-world test to see how much protection your antivirus software is really giving you.

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Application whitelisting on Windows, even home editions

One of the very best things security measures you can take is application whitelisting–limiting the apps that are allowed to run on your computer.

The Australian Signals Directorate–the Australian counterpart to the NSA–says doing four things cuts security incidents by a whopping 85 percent. You probably do three of the things. The fourth is application whitelisting.

  • use application whitelisting to help prevent malicious software and unapproved programs from running
  • patch applications such as Java, PDF viewers, Flash, web browsers and Microsoft Office
  • patch operating system vulnerabilities
  • restrict administrative privileges to operating systems and applications based on user duties.

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Five things security experts do vs. five things non-experts do

There was a fair bit of talk last week about a study that compared security advice from security experts versus security advice from people who are at least somewhat interested but don’t live and breathe this stuff.

There were significant differences in the answers, and a lot of security professionals panned the non-expert advice. I don’t think the non-expert advice was necessarily bad. Mostly it was out of date.

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How to keep your Android from being hacked by a text message

In case you haven’t heard, it’s possible to hack into about a billion Android phones by sending them a text message with a specially crafted picture or video attached.

Google has a fix. The carriers and phone makers are taking their sweet time pushing it out. They may never do it. Here’s how to protect yourself.

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Lenovo is penitent, but its customers aren’t out of the woods yet

After having an incredibly bad week last month, Lenovo started saying the right things, and perhaps doing some of the right things too. But some laptops with the Superfish malware preinstalled on them are still in the supply chain, which means some people are unwittingly buying them.

This isn’t terribly surprising. But there are a couple of things you can do about it, and they’re things worth doing anyway.

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