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November 2, 2006 20:45 - Fake Codecs Download Malware

Sunbelt Software has been reporting for some time that they believe fake codec software is responsible for an increasing amount of malware and zombie PCs.

A codec is a program used for encoding and decoding data, such as the programs that interpret and display video formats on PCs, or for compression/decompression programs.

Earlier in the year, Sunbelt reported about Vcodec. This claims to be "a multimedia compressor/decompressor which registers into the Windows collection of multimedia drivers and integrates with any application using Direct Show and Microsoft Video for Windows".

In fact, it is used to install spyware on recipient computers and Kaspersky AntiVirus detects it as Trojan-Downloader.Win32.Zlob.arm.

Sunbelt has recently reported on more fake codecs, noting that some of them are blatant about what they do in their end-user license agreements. It makes interesting reading, so take a look at the article
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November 3, 2006 18:27 - Survey Shows Consumers More Confident With Online Transactions

According to a survey by Lieberman Research for CheckFree Corp., of Atlanta, consumer trust in online transactions is up... Americans are less concerned about online security now than they were two years ago.

The survey said that the percentage of people who don't trust the Internet with the security of their financial information has dropped to 8 percent for 2006 -- down from 20 percent in 2004.

Also, the number of those who believe that paying bills online is safer than using paper checks increased during the same period -- 37 percent in 2006 from 24 percent in 2004.

One reason for this increased trust is awareness, according to James Van Dyke, principal analyst with Javelin Strategy & Research.

"Hands down people face more identity fraud attempts, so the volume of attempts is certainly there. But people are becoming aware that identity fraud, and identity theft, is multi-channel. The reality is that people are more likely to be hit by identity fraud by someone close to them, or through physical theft, such as from mailboxes, than they are by a stranger on the Internet. Fear of the Internet based on the threat of identity theft is flattening and leveling off," Van Dyke said.

"Actually, people are starting to realize that the Internet is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of identity fraud," he added. Users are more closely monitoring their accounts, and doing that predominantly online. "Unless you want to drive to the ATM, online is the best way to stay on top of transactions."
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November 6, 2006 17:38 - Zango/180solutions Fined $3M

Zango, Inc., the company formerly known as 180solutions, Inc., has been fined $3m for using drive-by downloads to smuggle adware on the PCs of unwary consumers and with no way to remove the software.

Zango is one of the world's largest distributors of adware, and two principals have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they used unfair and deceptive methods to download adware and obstruct consumers from removing it, in violation of federal law.

The settlement bars future downloads of Zango's adware without consumers' consent, requires Zango to provide a way for consumers to remove the adware, and to pay $3 of their gains from their illegal activity.

According to the FTC, Zango often used third parties to install adware on consumers' computers. The adware, included programs called Zango Search Assistant, 180Search Assistant, Seekmo, and n-CASE. The software monitors consumers' Internet use in order to display targeted pop-up ads.

The software has been installed on more than 70 million U.S. consumers' computers, and has displayed more than 6.9 billion pop-up ads.
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November 8, 2006 22:12 - Microsoft's Extremely Critical Flaw

Security services firms, such as Secunia, are rating as "extremely critical" a vulnerability that has been discovered in Microsoft's XML Core Services -- Windows ActiveX -- that could enable a hacker to remotely take control of a computer.

Some versions of Windows, including Windows 2000 Service Pack 4, Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 running Microsoft XML Core Services 4.0 are affected by the vulnerability.

IBM-owned ISS X-Force detailed on its site the kind of damage that could be caused by the vulnerability. According to the security company, "This could lead to loss of confidential information, disruption of business, or further compromise."

For the vulnerability to be exploited, a user would have to visit a malicious website, security company Secunia said.

Microsoft acknowledged the bug is already being exploited, in a note posted on the company's site. "We are aware of limited attacks that are attempting to use the reported vulnerability," it said.

The company said it will determine, based on "customer needs", whether to release a patch during the company's monthly release process or an "out-of-cycle security update". Microsoft's next patch release day is 14 November.
For More Information
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November 13, 2006 20:27 - Online Marketers Keep Tabs On Consumers

The Center for Digital Democracy -- a Washington advocacy group -- and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) -- a leading consumer-watchdog organization -- have filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They warn that marketers are quietly compiling "digital dossiers" of people's online habits.

The complaint calls on the FTC to investigate online marketing techniques and to seek legislation that would prohibit the most consumer-unfriendly practices.

"A vast infrastructure of data collection has been put in place without the public's awareness," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "It's designed for only one thing -- to get you to buy and buy and buy."

Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG's consumer program director said, "The use of Web analytics and tracking and surveillance software has outpaced the ability of privacy policies to explain to consumers how their trails of bread crumbs are left across the Internet."

The complaint also charges that marketers have gained the ability to identify and target individual Web surfers, despite the public's perception of being anonymous when online. They are also able to price products according to past behavior. In other words, a new book or CD might be offered to one online shopper at a certain price and to another at a different price, based on what is known from each person's electronic profile.

"They might know that you're a better shopper than I am or that you might not pay as much as I will," observed Mierzwinski. For instance, a few years ago, Web shoppers discovered that Amazon.com was offering various products, such as DVDs and music players, to some people for one price while simultaneously offering the same goods to others for considerably less.

The consumer groups' complaint argues that technological advances have given marketers the ability to create files on individual IP addresses that contain extensive information about online activities... in some cases, marketers filling in the blanks and connecting the IP address to your real-world identity.

"Online marketers talk about having the ability to merge online and off-line information," said Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy. "It's no longer just IP addresses. They're compiling profiles of where you go, what you spend and what kinds of content you like."
Here's the article
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November 15, 2006 21:56 - Use Nyms To Help Beat Spam

When we search the web in search of information and we're asked for information at each stage, we're providing information to other parties about who we are and where we are from. Inevitably we end up having to provide our email address and consequently, add to the layer of spam we already receive.

One way of thwarting persistent spam to our email address is to replace it with Anonymizer Nyms. Using this program means you can create email addresses original email address. Messages are then sent back via the Anonymizer servers without your actual email address being known.

You can create a new email address for each correspondence, noting who it was sent to. If you receive spam, not only do you know who passed on your Nyms email address, but you can also immediately delete that address... ensuring spam from that source doesn't get to you.

Nyms protects you but you won't be able to abuse it. For instance, if you use it to anonymize yourself to send abusive email, a complaint from the recipient to Anonymizer can land you in hot water. The majority of us will only want to use the service to control our spam levels.

For further details and a free trial, take a look at Anonymizer Nyms
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November 17, 2006 17:51 - Which Browser Gives The Best Protection Against Phishing?

Independent tests have shown that Firefox 2 offers greater phishing protection than Internet Explorer 7.

Although the work was commissioned by Mozilla, it was undertaken by the independent testing organization SmartWare. The test involved both browsers identifying a set of known phishing sites, which were supplied by PhishTank -- a community-driven web service that allows for phishing URLs to be submitted and verified by hundreds of community participants.

The details of the testing process can be found at Mozilla

Results from testers were reported as 'blocked', 'not blocked' and 'warned' (IE only). The methodology and results were then audited by iSec Partners before publication.

Here's a summary of the results...
  • In its most secure configuration -- 'Ask Google', selected from the Tools, Options, then Security menu, Firefox blocked 81.54% of phishing sites

  • IE, with 'Auto Check ON', blocked 66.35% of the same phishing sites

  • Out of a total of 1040 phishing URLs, there were 243 times that Firefox blocked and IE did not and 117 times where IE blocked but Firefox did not
Also see Phishing And How To Block It
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November 20, 2006 21:10 - ZoneAlarm Security Suite To Include Kaspersky Antivirus

In their press release, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd, announced plans to start the technical public beta testing phase of ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 7.0.

According to the release, the new ZoneAlarm suite focuses on strengthening the core anti-malware constituents, so let's see what's different:

The suite gets a new antivirus engine. In fact it's Kaspersky, usually rated the best antivirus software in tests by AV Comparatives. It detects and removes a wider variety of threats than the previous engine and has hourly signature updates.

ZoneAlarm’s innovative OSFirewall –- consistently reviewed as the best software firewall on the market –- has been updated with new malware blocking capabilities, stopping spyware, rootkits, keyloggers and more from ever infecting a user’s PC.

The best software firewall on the market, combined with the best antivirus, must put ZoneAlarm at the forefront of privacy and security suites!

A new Auto-Learn Mode automatically configures security settings, based on the user’s unique PC environment and behavior. This greatly reduces the number of alerts a user may experience upon installation of ZoneAlarm.

“With the increasing sophistication of hacker attacks and the rapid exploitation of new vulnerabilities, it is more important than ever to take a layered approach with PC security,” said Laura Yecies, vice president and general manager of Check Point’s consumer division.

“Many types of attacks mimic one another in behavior or structure, blurring the lines between viruses and spyware. The ZoneAlarm suite takes a comprehensive, proactive approach to consumer protection to thwart hackers who work around more outdated solutions. We’re very pleased to enter this final phase of testing in anticipation of the suite’s general public availability later this year,” she added.
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November 22, 2006 19:39 - FTC Grabs Another Two Spyware Distributors

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has announced that it has permanently shut down a spyware operation run by Odysseus Marketing and its principal, Walter Rines.

Odysseus Marketing secretly downloaded spyware that changed settings on consumers’ computers and deceptively installed spyware. The spyware advertised free downloads that turned out not only to be bogus, but also to be bundled with malicious software, the agency said.

The agency also charged that the defendants distributed their spyware by exploiting security vulnerabilities in the Internet Explorer Web browser. The spyware intercepted and replaced search results provided to users when searching via Internet search engines, bombarding consumers with pop-up and other Internet ads.

The FTC also charged that the defendants’ software captured consumers’ personal information, such as their names, addresses, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and Internet browsing and shopping histories.

The settlement bars Odysseus Marketing and Rines from implementing secret downloads, exploiting security vulnerabilities and misrepresenting the nature of a product. Additionally, the defendants must pay $50,000 to cover their gains and face a $1.75 million judgment.

The FTC also issued a settlement involving John Robert Martinson, principal of Spy Deleter -- formerly Mailwiper. According to the FTC, Martinson marketed his "antispyware" brands Spy Wiper and Spy Deleter by paying spyware companies Seismic Entertainment and SmartBot.Net to advertise and sell the software.

Customers were given warnings to pay $30 for Spy Wiper or else face permanent problems with their computer's hardware. Martinson has been barred from further spyware practices and may have to also pay a $1.86 million judgment if a court finds that he has misrepresented his inability to pay.

Spyware Remover Evaluation
See the FTC report

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November 24, 2006 20:55 - Spam Now Accounts For 90% Of Email

According to Postini Inc; although spam growth tailed off earlier in the year, it's rocketed during the last two months. In fact, on average, it is now 90% of all email.

"It's been bubbling around 75% to 80% for the year, but the last 60 to 90 days has been a barrage," said Scott Petry, chief technical officer.

"We typically see a seasonal spike when we look at the fourth quarter across a number years, we see a lull in the summertime and an increase in the fall, but this is an unprecedented volume and it continues to increase," Petry said.

Petry believes that spammers are now operating with technological changes, such as short-circuiting certain basic graylist filters.

"One of the reasons you're seeing a spike is seasonal, but it's not related to the content of the spam itself but really the mechanisms used for sending the spam," he said.

Previously, spammers sent out huge volumes of email from networks of zombie PCs known as spambots. This lead to mail servers being configured to initially deny connections to computers on a graylist of suspicious IP addresses. If it was a spambot attempting the send, the chances are that the spam would not arrive a second time.

This year, spammers started resending emails to spoof the behavior of a legitimate deferral queue. Even if the spam still doesn't reach its intended recipient, the number of spam emails being attempted rockets.

Postini saw a 59% increase in spam between September and November, and the number of attempted SMTP connections in October was up by 10 billion to a total of 39 billion.
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Practical Tips To Reduce Spam

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November 27, 2006 22:19 - Zango Flouts FTC Settlement

Despite the recent case brought against adware company Zango by the Federal Trade Commission, researchers have complained that the company continues to use deceptive practices.

Earlier this month, Zango agreed to pay $3 million over charges that it installed software on people's computers without their permission. During the case, Zango insisted that it had already cleaned up its act.

However, two separate groups of researchers -- Ben Edelman, Eric Howes and the Center for Democracy & Technology -- have presented evidence that the practices continue. For example, when Zango software is downloaded, it fails to prominently tell consumers that they will be subjected to pop-up ads and that their every key stroke will be communicated back to Zango.

The disclosures Zango does present appear only after the installation and execution of Zango's software, contrary to the terms of the proposed settlement, Edelman and Howes say.

The researchers have urged the FTC to stay on top of Zango... if the FTC can't get Zango to comply with this settlement, then potentially all future actions against spyware installers are at risk.
The Article

The Best Spyware Removers

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November 29, 2006 18:30 - EU Initiates Malware Prevention

The European Commission called for stronger action against spam and spyware saying it may bring in further legislation to combat the problem. It has called on all regulatory authorities in Europe to step up the fight against malware.

Despite existing EU legislation to outlaw spam, Europe continues to suffer from illegal online activities from inside the EU and from outside countries.

The new Commission's Communication acknowledges that legislative tools to fight these threats already exist, but implementation is still a problem in most EU Member States. Latest figures from Sophos say 32% of relayed spam came from Europe, with Asia leading at 34%.

The Communication calls on industry to cooperate fully, by applying proper filtering policies and assuring good online commercial practices in line with data protection law.

In Finland, such filtering measures reduced spam from 80% to 30%. The Dutch fall in spam was achieved through prosecutions by spam fighter OPTA, with just 5 full-time employees and €570,000 invested in equipment.
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Information on AntiSpam and AntiSpyware

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