How to Safely Use a PC and the Internet: Fear Them No More!

As the MicroSolved team strives to bring quality service to our clients, we also make every effort to educate the masses and try to contribute not only to the Info Sec community, but to the “average Joe” out there trying to bank online, check email, or use Facebook without sacrificing their digital security or personal identity.

It’s human nature to fear the unknown. We don’t like to deal with things we don’t understand. Once upon a time, it might have been ok to just avoid what we didn’t know. But today’s world is becoming more and more reliant on machines, computers, and the Internet. Before, a person used be able to go through life without knowing how to work with technology. Today this is becoming more difficult. People use computers at work, at home, and at the store. Children are required to do papers, reports, and projects on a computer- it’s not something that can be easily circumvented any longer.

This being said, it is time to STOP fearing these things. The only way to do is it to face the fear. Realize the machines only do what they’re told- you just need to know how to give the proper orders. Computers are dumb. They’re basically a digital filing cabinet which holds files with digital instructions on them. They can be manipulated to the will of the user, and can be helpful tools once the apprehension subsides. Take a basic course on how to use a PC and the Internet- they’re not costly and should be readily available. If you have trouble finding one, ask around. Many libraries and community centers offer basic introduction courses either for free or at low cost. You don’t need to be a Windows Jedi or a Linux Guru to operate these machines.

The Internet is a staggering creation of man. Nearly everything in the world can be accessed in some form online. Learn what a web browser is, what it does, how to operate it, and how it should behave. Learn to pay attention to how your browser acts when surfing and how commonly visited pages act. When something changes don’t dismiss it! These changes can indicate unsafe conditions and should not be ignored. Using the Internet is a responsibility and users need to be aware when they’re online.

Over the coming weeks, the MicroSolved team will be working to create blog and video content focused on educating end users to keep them safe while surfing the web. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered, contact us! We’re always excited to hear from you.

#Security News: Cloud Computing, Gmail, and the Future of Infosec Pros

While trotting around the information security news items, we found a few you may enjoy:

David Taber from CIO, attended this year’s Dreamforce 2010, an annual conference hosted by the wildly successful CRM (and more) company, He posted an excellent article: Dreamforce 2010: 8 Cloud Lessons.

There also was a good article we found on utilizing more of Gmail’s features, including instructions for how to remotely log out of a public computer if you forgot. Check out Gmail Tips: 5 Can’t-Miss Features that Boost Google Email.

Finally, we found a story about the future of information security professionals: CIO’s Foresee Shortage of Skilled Information Security Professionals. If you didn’t think your job as an infosec pro was important enough, now it is even more so! You infosec folks are rapidly becoming Rock Stars! This may be a good time to start investing in your own professional growth with classes and certifications. Good luck!

Touchdown Task #2: Detection: How Much Malware Do You Have? #security

Our last Touchdown task was “Identify and Remove All Network, System and Application Access that does not Require Secure Authentication Credentials or Mechanisms”. This time, it is “Detection”.

When we say “detection” we are talking about detecting attackers and malware on your network.

The best and least expensive method for detecting attackers on your network is system monitoring. This is also the most labor intensive method of detection. If you are a home user or just have a small network to manage, then this is not much of a problem. However, if your network has even a dozen servers and is complex at all, monitoring can become a daunting task. There are tools and techniques available to help in this task, though. There are log aggregators and parsers, for example. These tools take logging information from all of the entities on your system and combine them and/or perform primary analysis of system logs. But they do cost money, so on a large network some expense does creep in.

And then there are signature-based intruder detection, intruder prevention and anti-virus systems. Signature-based means that these systems work by recognizing the code patterns or “signatures” of malware types that have been seen before and are included in their databases. But there are problems with these systems. First, they have to be constantly updated with new malware patterns that emerge literally every day. Secondly, a truly new or “zero day” bit of Malware code goes unrecognized by these systems. Finally, with intruder detection and prevention systems, there are always lots of “false positives”. These systems typically produce so many “hits” that people get tired of monitoring them. And if you don’t go through their results and winnow out the grain from the chaff, they are pretty much useless.

Finally there are anomaly detection systems. Some of these are SEIM or security event and incident management systems. These systems can work very well, but they must be tuned to your network and can be difficult to implement. Another type of anomaly detection system uses “honey pots”. A honey pot is a fake system that sits on your network and appears to be real. An attacker “foot printing” your system or running an exploit cannot tell them from the real thing. Honey pots can emulate file servers, web servers, desk tops or any other system on your network. These are particularly effective because there are virtually no false positives associated with these systems. If someone is messing with a honey pot, you know you have an attacker! Which is exactly what our HoneyPoint Security Server does: identify real threats!

Undertaking this Touchdown Task is relatively easy and will prove to be truly valuable in protecting your network from attack. Give us a call if you’d like us to partner with you for intrusion detection!