There’s Time To Be Nice, But Digital One Isn’t So

Should you be a nice guy when it comes to Internet etiquette?  The answer isn’t so simple since it’s all depending on the context of things.  For an example, a friend sent you an email for whatever purpose, important or not, you might have to reply to him or her.  Down to earth Internet etiquette cannot be so disconnected from physical world, otherwise we are not who we are, as in being human with complex emotions.  Thus, our strong human traits such as politeness can also be our weaknesses.  This is why social engineering is useful for some bad actors who have intension to hack into your digital life.

Without going to rant much on elusive Internet/digital philosophy, let me get to the point.  I’d recently received many online bank surveys through my email inbox.  The politeness of online etiquette wanted me to click on the survey request link in the email so I could start a survey, because being polite is good, whether that would be on the web or off the web.  Unfortunately, in the back of my head, my impolite part of the brain told me to not being so nice and polite, because the survey itself might not be sent from the bank.  I think there are ways to fake emails that look like they’re from the legitimate party.

My eventual action was usually a quick delete of such email.  Why?  Although I’m a nobody and poor, thus my bank account would be a waste of time for whoever wants to hack into it.  Thus, I’m not supposed to be all that protective toward my online bank account.  Regardless, I don’t really like being hack, because it feels very invasive.  Imagine a stranger just walks into your life and does whatever to you, how do you feel?  This is the feeling of being hack, because you don’t know the hacker or hackers!  So, it was a quick and simple decision, I rather not being polite and willy nilly clicking on a bank account survey link.  I don’t care if the email is legitimate or not, I just won’t subject myself to downloading malware or virus or trojan onto my computer just so I could have a nice digital etiquette.

In summary, I think we need to be very cautious about the stuffs that go through our emails.  Especially, survey invitations and what not might not be so innocent.  I’m writing this post is to remind my future self and whoever else to be more cautious about Internet security in regarding to email.  Furthermore, I like to remind my future self and whoever else that if a hacker has your email account, he or she can basically try to reset your passwords from your bank accounts, social website accounts, and what not.  If hackers are successful at resetting your online accounts’ passwords, then they’re basically taking control of your digital life.  Simply put, do you want a stranger to take over your life, albeit it’s an Internet one?

With The New Mavericks, I Found Love In Bitdefender Virus Scanner

English: An "X" colored to be simila...

English: An “X” colored to be similar to the logo for Mac OS X tiger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just got done updating my MacBook Pro to the latest Mac OS X which is the Mavericks.  Coincidentally with the Mavericks update, my Kaspersky antivirus for Mac is about to be expired, seven days to be exact, and so I was frantically searching for a good alternative.  I downloaded all sorts of antivirus for Mac out there, but I found many of them had performed poorly or not worked at all with Mac OS X Mavericks.  Luckily, I found one that is working rather well with Mac OS X Mavericks at this point in time.  I didn’t even have to download it on a strange website, because it is readily available in the Mac App Store.  Basically, I pulled my hair out for nothing!  The antivirus I’m talking of is the Bitdefender Virus Scanner.

You can download Bitdefender Virus Scanner for free in the Mac App Store.  This antivirus app runs well, and I haven’t found any trouble with it yet.  It does not slow down my MacBook Pro at all, and so this is a really big plus.  I found most Mac antivirus software tend to slow down my MacBook Pro a lot, but Bitdefender Virus Scanner proves to be not this sort of case at all.  One downside to this Mac antivirus app is that it does not have a real time monitoring/scanning feature.  You know how the antivirus software on Windows would behave?  (Lurking in the background and checking to see if there is a malicious process!)

Bitdefender Virus Scanner also got a paid version, and you can also find it in the Mac App Store.  I think it is being called as Virus Scanner Plus.  I think the paid version comes with more features such as Continuous Scan, but I don’t really know what this feature does since I haven’t yet bought the paid version.

I combine Bitdefender Virus Scanner with Little Snitch Network Monitor to add an additional sound security defense measure for my MacBook Pro.  The first line of defense is obviously would be the Mac OS X Mavericks’ default firewall.  Still, you can never know how much computer security measures would be enough, because there is always that somebody who knows just enough to poke a hole through your computer security defense.  I hope this little confession of mine will be of some help to Mac users who are thinking of adding an antivirus program to their computer security defense.

How To Protect Windows 8.1 From Viruses And Malware For Free Or On The Cheap!

Windows 8.1 just came out to update Windows 8.  Usually, a slight change in the iteration version such as Windows 8.1, hence it’s still a Windows 8 iteration, means there will be little improvement and change to the overall of the iteration.  Nonetheless, Windows 8.1 is not at all like this.  Instead, Windows 8.1 iteration version brings a lot of changes to the Windows 8 iteration.  One example of the major changes to Windows 8 iteration is that 3D printer is now being supported by Windows 8.1.

When early adopters such as I see something new and shiny, we want to be the first people to jump on the bandwagon.  Unfortunately, more than often we think, being the first people on the bandwagon can be rather unfortunate.  In Windows 8.1 case, there are many unfortunate events.  One example would be driver failure.  Nonetheless, with enough heart, an early adopter might eventually feel that it’s totally worth it.

In Windows 8.1 case, driver failure is supposed to be the least concern, but it turns out to be a much bigger concern.  Furthermore, many software that support Windows 8 aren’t so compatible with Windows 8.1, considering 8.1 is a slight change in the iteration versions.  Some of these incompatible software might work just fine with the switching of the compatibility mode.  (Sarcastically, yes it’s still being run on Windows 8!)  I found out that other software basically refuse to be ran on Windows 8.1 altogether even though these are being instructed to be ran in Windows 8 compatibility mode.

With all of that being said, I’m definitely all for being an early adopter, because being an early adopter might push you to tinker with whatever you’re trying to experiment with at the early stage of its lifespan.  By tinkering with things, one might be able to improve one’s whatever skill and knowledge.  Furthermore, being an early adopter means you can be the early warning sign hero in telling the good and the bad about whatever that you’re trying to adopt early.

In Windows 8.1 case, although not a biggie, I’m going to be the early warning sign hero of how to protect Windows 8.1 from viruses and malware for free or on the cheap.  Within the video right after the break, I speak of how to protect Windows 8.1 from viruses and malware for free or on the cheap.  (Not everyone is having a luxury of affording expensive computer security software’s annual subscription, therefore knowing how to protect a computer from computer infections with a shoestring budget is a very cool thing to do.  Saving money is definitely cool!  Saving money but having a computer getting hacked is definitely not cool!  So doing it right is definitely awesome!  Obviously, there won’t be a hacker proof computer security measure or measures.  Nonetheless, without trying to protect your computer from the bad stuffs implying that you’re welcoming your computer to be hacked.)  Enjoy the video right after the break, and hopefully you don’t snore before the video ends.

(The audio of the video is now synching correctly!  Please enjoy the video!)

How Paranoid Should You Be For Backing Up Your Data?

Backup Backup Backup - And Test Restores

Backup Backup Backup – And Test Restores (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you ask me what is the best way to backup your data, I will probably direct your concern to more than one way.  I like to think of not placing all of your eggs in one basket kind of scenario.  What’s the point of backing up data in the first place?  It’s to hope that when things go crazy such as a computer’s data corruption might occur, you can then access your most valuable backup data.  If you only rely on one preferable backup method, then what if in a critical moment that even the backup data isn’t accessible through your preferable only backup method, what will you do then?  Even a perfect storm is a possible scenario for spreading eggs in more than one basket, therefore I think being paranoid about safekeeping your data with more than one preferable backup method is the best way to go about doing the backups for your valuable data.

For us normal folks, the regular Joe(s), who have data that we want to safeguard, it’s a must for us to spread our data in more than one basket.  It must not be that you have to be a company to take this approach.  Furthermore, nowadays regular Joe(s) do have plenty of ways to go about doing backups for their data.  Let me list few of them:

  • Google Drive
  • Pogoplug
  • Dropbox
  • Amazon Simple Storage Service
  • CrashPlan
  • External hard drives
  • Network attach storage solution such as QNAP NAS servers
  • Do it yourself FreeNAS server solution
  • rsync to a renting server with affordable monthly fee

And the list can go on a lot longer as third party cloud services are now in amble supply.  I think the problem isn’t about finding a backup solution or solutions for the regular Joe(s), but it’s about the affordability, speed, security, and conveniency aspects.  Let say, if a regular Joe wants to spread his backup data in more than one basket, how affordable can this be?  So on and so on…

I think affordability should not be as big of an issue as before the time when there were no third party cloud service and competitive (affordable) computer hardware pricing.  If you don’t intend to harbor 100 of Gigabytes worth of data for streaming purpose or whatever extreme configuration, backing up few Gigabytes worth of data should not cost you much at all.  Perhaps, you can do it at no cost too.  One example, I think Google Drive gives you around 10 Gigabytes worth of free data space or a little bit more than this, and just with this service alone you know you don’t have to spend a dime to backup your data as long you are not going over the free space limitation that Google Drive allows.  Don’t like third party cloud services for whatever reasons?  Computer hardware such as external hard drives nowadays are no longer pricing at outrageous prices, therefore it’s easier for regular Joe(s) to go this route for doing their data backups.  How about coupling Linux with a spare, dusty computer to form a local backup storage server at zero cost in term of money, but you have to spend time on putting things together such as installing Linux and deploying Linux’s network attached storage services to have a more complete backup server solution.

I can see that the many third party cloud services as good solutions for doing backups.  How come?  Let say you’re paranoid about the safety of your data to a point that you consider the scenario where local backup data can all be corrupted at the same time for whatever reasons such as a virus/hack attack (or by even a more nefarious scenario), therefore you think third party cloud services are the additional safety reservoirs for your backup data.  If you are this paranoid, I think you’re doing it right.  Although third party cloud services are good measures against local data corruption, there are problems with this whole approach in general.  Let me list a few:

  • Broadband’s upload speed (Internet connection) isn’t fast enough to do a major backup (i.e., backing up huge amount of data in Gigabytes worth)
  • Security issue… how do we know our data can be securely safeguarded and stored on the remote servers?
  • Trust issue… such as how do we know our data privacy and our privacy won’t be breached on the remote servers?

I sneakily snuck in the speed and security concerns about backing up data remotely through third party cloud services, but we should not take the security issue lightly since many people may not want their privately backup data to be made known to the whole world.  Security done right in term of backing up data locally and remotely, this will also address the privacy issue/concern too.  I think employing good network and computer security measures locally will enhance the security protection level for the backup data.  Such measures should be about employing hardware and software firewall, antivirus, and so on.  Don’t forget to update the software and firmware, because through updating these things that you can be assured of weeding out security bugs.  You can never be too sure about the security of your data when you’re backing up your data remotely, therefore you should employing encryption for your backup data before you upload your backup data to the remote servers.  One good encryption measure I know of is TrueCrypt software which can be downloaded and used freely.

I don’t think we should sacrifice our data security for conveniency, because data security is definitely more important than otherwise.  Still, conveniency should be considered in the calculation of our data backup challenge too.  It’s just that we have to make sure we don’t have to sacrifice data security for conveniency.  Let say, you want to backup your data to a third party cloud service, but you don’t like the idea of doing a local encryption for your data first… this means you are sacrificing your data security for conveniency and this is truly bad for you as the owner of the backup data (i.e., privacy concern).

In summary, I think if you’re paranoid enough about the health of your data, then you should devise many backup plans for your data.  You should try to backup your data both locally and remotely, but you should employ encryption for your data when you do backup your data remotely.  Backing up huge amount of data remotely can be very inconvenient at this point in time since so many regular Joe(s) do not have access to fast upload broadband speed.  Let hope this will change soon, and I know things will be moving in this direction since data streaming and data sharing and data backup are in much more demand than ever before.  One example would be Google fiber Internet service.  Google is driving the Internet Service Provider competition forward as Google deploys its Gigabit Internet connection service for many households in various lucky cities and towns.  With Google pushing for more competition in the area of broadband speed, I think the future — having great Internet connection for uploading our backups — is definitely bright.  As time is moving on, the costs of computer backup hardware and backup services can be even more competitive, we can expect the cost of deploying backup measures for our data can only get cheaper and easier.  I like the idea of having a NAS locally, and using one or two third party cloud services for my data backups.

(How paranoid should you be for backing up your data?  In my opinion, the answer should be, the more the merrier.)

DEFCON Annual Hacking Convention Documentary

DEFCON 16

DEFCON 16 (Photo credit: foxgrrl)

If you’re one of those who is into hacking stuffs, then I probably don’t need to tell you about DEFCON Convention.  If you’re not one of those who is into hacking stuffs, then it’s not a surprise that DEFCON might ring hollow to you.  Still, if you’re interested in knowing what is DEFCON, then the documentary right after the break about DEFCON might entice you to participate a DEFCON phenomenon.  What I get out of this documentary is that DEFCON is fun, crazy, insane, but most of all it’s a unique event where you might gain some really good knowledge and get to meet up with some really smart people in technology field.  It’s like if you are serious about a field such as top chefs have their special knowledge exchange convention or whatever, in technology we have conventions such as DEFCON.  I don’t know much about DEFCON, but after watching this documentary I have to wonder what have I been missing really!  Anyhow, the DEFCON documentary right after the break reveals some windows into DEFCON’s past, present, and future.  Enjoy it!!!

Using VPN To Access All Local Services Without The Need To Open Up Unnecessary Inbound Ports

Before knowing much about VPN, I usually opened up many inbound ports for my computer firewall and the firewall that resided within the router so remote services such as APF (Apple Time Machine) would function correctly.  Obviously, these remote services (e.g., APF, FTP, CIFS, etc…) are also accessible within local area network, therefore one does not need to have to be outside a local area network to use these remote services.  For an example, one can just sit next to the APF server (i.e., APF which hosts on a network attached storage) and locally backup one’s Mac to the Time Machine service.  When using such services locally, one has to use local IP addresses, because one  is within a local area network (e.g., home network, office network, etc…).

The idea is to open up less ports to protect everything within a local area network better.  So, when one travels abroad, one cannot use local IP addresses to access one’s remote services (e.g., APF, FTP, CIFS, etc…), and one has to open up ports for these remote services so remote access would be possible.  Since one has to open up inbound ports for remote connections, one’s local area network might become more vulnerable.  The more open ports there are, the more exploits that hackers can use to test or attack against the services that rely on the open ports.

Luckily, we have VPN.  VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.  Big companies love to deploy VPN for their employees.  If you have ever met one of those employees from one of those big companies, you might see this person logins into a VPN network through a laptop when this person is away from the company.  Since big companies are using VPN, VPN must be for the elites only right?  Wrong!  Just about anyone can use VPN to protect oneself, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do so.  If you watch other videos of mine within my YouTube channel, you will see how easy it’s to set up VPN server/service on Windows 8.  Anyhow, the whole idea is to open up less ports for a network so everything within a network can be somewhat more secure.

Using VPN, one can access local area network as if one never leaves local area network all along.  For an example, one can sit at a Starbucks and yet connect to remote services(e.g., APF, CIFS, FTP, SSH, etc…) with local IP addresses.  How is this possible?  Like I said, using VPN, one never leaves local area network!  This is why VPN is definitely a better option than just opening up whatever inbound ports there are for different remote services.  With VPN, all one has to do is to open up one port which VPN relies on.  Through the connection of VPN, one then can just access all services within a local area network as if one has never leave a local area network all along.  In case you don’t know, VPN encrypts data automatically.  This is just another reason why I think VPN is definitely a better solution for remote access.