uBlock settings for better malware protection

I have some easy uBlock settings to improve how it protects you against malware. You don’t think of ad blockers as a security tool? I do. It’s a good idea to use one even if you configure it to allow most ads through.

My favorite ad-blocking extension for Chrome is uBlock, because it’s faster and more resource friendly than the better-known Adblock Plus. It also comes configured by default to block known malicious sites, where Adblock Plus makes you dig for that feature.

But it’s still possible to tweak uBlock to give you even better protection against malware, and that’s a good thing. It’s one thing to detect malware and block it after you download it. But it’s even better to detect and block it before you download it in the first place. That keeps you safe if your antivirus software is slow to update for any reason.

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Hostsman makes it easy to block malware with a hosts file

I’ve written before about using the hosts file to block domains that are hosting malware. The idea is pretty simple. There’s a known list of domains that are either hosting or controlling malware, so by blocking your computer from accessing those domains, you make it much harder to get infected in the first place, and in the event that you do get infected, at least you block access to the command and control servers.

The problem is that Windows doesn’t make this easy. Well, I found an easy way: Hostsman. You can have it up and running in minutes.

Update: Don’t mess around with hosts files. It’s more efficient and more effective to change DNS servers instead.

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The men (boys) who spy on women through webcams

Ars Technica made a bit of a splash this week with this provocative headline. This is real.

The article gives the usual advice, like not opening e-mail from strangers, not clicking attachments from strangers, and not visiting dodgy websites. That’s all good advice, as is staying off torrent and other file sharing sites, but even all that is not enough.
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End of the innocence for Mac security

Antivirus vendor Kapersky has identified a new trojan horse targetting Macintoshes.  It spreads a botnet based somewhere in China via an infected Microsoft Word document, typically sent as an e-mail attachment.

The spin is that if you don’t use Word on your Mac, you’re safe. That’s true–this week. But going forward, it’s going to take more than that. Read more

How to check your downloaded files’ integrity

On some web pages offering programs to download, you may have seen something called an MD5 near the program link, consisting of a long, weird code like 6cbfd919baa7c9e03c8471ae4d8f8bb.

You can use that code to make sure the file you downloaded is what the author intended you to get and wasn’t corrupted during the download process or, worse yet, booby-trapped by someone else. Here’s how.

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Defrag scareware

This isn’t exactly news, as word has been going around for a couple of weeks, but if you haven’t heard about it elsewhere, there are some fake defragmenters going around.

I heard mention of it today, and it reminded me that I saw one last week when I was working on my mother in law’s computer. This was especially obnoxious, considering that at the time, I was running Firefox and I was visiting a mainstream site.

So there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind.
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A late adopter’s survival guide to Facebook: Part 1 of 3

A good friend asked me for some thoughts on Facebook this week. Like many people, he’s resistant. But, as he put it, it’s the standard for personal, non-professional communication these days. As a Facebook late adopter, I understand the hesitancy. As someone with a couple of years’ experience, I’ve weathered some storms. So he asked me for my thoughts on its pitfalls and avoiding them.

Arm your system’s defenses

I went something like 16 years without catching a virus, until I caught something earlier this year. My antivirus software minimized the damage, but this was embarrassing. Whether it came from a rogue ad on their site or some rogue app, I don’t know. But if you intend to participate, protect your system from known malware domains. whether at the operating system level, or by using Adblock Plus.

Even if Facebook is completely benevolent (which I doubt), it’s a huge, attractive target for malware authors, and it has a history.

Games

Maybe the games are fun. I don’t know; I stay away from them. I get tired of hearing about casual acquaintances’ game activity, and I really don’t care to annoy all of my casual acquaintances with them. And frankly, before I learned you could hide these games by hovering over the update and clicking the ‘x’, I really wondered about certain people because it looked like they were spending their entire lives playing games.

But there’s an even better solution…

Filtering

Several filters exist: F.B. Purity, Better Facebook, and FFixer are popular ones. I use F.B. Purity and I’m pretty happy with it. It blocks the games and the stupid link-sharing apps, which eliminates at least 50% of the noise. At least now I don’t see waves of “Click here if God ever answered a prayer!” and similar posts that tend to percolate up every so often–and it seems like once one of your friends posts one of those, 30 of them follow.

I don’t know why people see the need to use Facebook apps to say things like that–I could go through my friends list and tell you who would say yes and no to that particular question, probably with greater than 90% accuracy–but it’s not my problem anymore. Every time I sign on to Facebook, all I see is that FB Purity hid 10 superfluous updates. I can see them if I click on something, but I never bother.

Politics and religion

There’s a growing disrespect for differing views in these two arenas. I suspect it’s because today’s popular opinion makers have no respect for differing opinions and encourage their fans to behave similarly, but whatever the reason is, I have less and less interest in participating in it.

My view seems to be a minority view. I have some acquaintances who seem to have plenty of time to post 15 updates every day about these things. You probably already know who you can safely talk about these things with and who’s just going to call you an idiot. (Hint: the more extreme the view, whether left or right, the worse your chances.) Unfortunately I’ve had some conversations on these topics that damaged relationships. A better approach is just to hide the status updates of people who post 15 inflammatory updates per day. Then you can still keep in touch, without being stuck reading a ton of stuff that gets under your skin every day.

And since you probably don’t want to read that kind of stuff, you shouldn’t be one of those kinds of people. While there are things I believe in, I realize it’s counter-productive to post updates about those things multiple times a day. Posting obnoxious links and status updates isn’t going to convert my atheist friends to Christianity. It’s more likely to make them dig in. Posting obnoxious links or parroting obnoxious pundits isn’t going to convert my friends’ political views either. And on the latter, I’m not certain that it’s productive.

If you feel the need to talk about such things, do it in a targeted fashion. Confine it to the people you know you can have productive discussions with. Not all 999 people you know. But I’m getting way ahead of myself–I’ll cover that in part 3, when I talk about lists.

Parts 2 and 3 will follow later in the week.

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