How Real Is Cyber Threat?

Technology is like anything else that can be used for good or for evil purposes.  Many things have dual purposes or even more than just dual purposes, and technology is no exception to this fact.  Perhaps, there is an exception to the rule, but my small brain cannot think up one for the moment.  Anyhow, there are forces in the world that are trying to use technology for evil purposes.  For an example, from nuclear to cyber threats.  Nuclear threat has existed for many decades already, and by now most people know what MAD means.  In this blog post I’m not going to bother with voicing my opinion on nuclear threat.  Instead, I’m going to focus on voicing my opinion on cyber threat.

Lately, we have seen big powers like USA and China accuse each other of cyber warfare.  It’s obvious that it’s hard to know who is doing what in term of hacking one another in the cyberspace.  Nonetheless, I think I know why cyber threat is a growing concern.

On the surface, before we unravel all the layers of onion, we truly cannot see why there are fusses about cyber security.  For some people, they think that cyber threat can be dealt with best cyber security practices and no more than that.  Of course, it’s true that cyber security measures such as installing well known antivirus software and firewall are definitely going to help counter most cyber vulnerabilities.  Nonetheless, there are other cyber vulnerabilities out there that won’t be eliminated by even the most powerful firewall and antivirus programs.  Why?  I think there are some well kept or new cyber vulnerabilities that have not been dealt with, because these cyber vulnerabilities are well kept secrets or too new.  By using these cyber vulnerabilities and better hacking tools, hackers are able to wreck havocs on the cyber networks of the world.

When we peel more layers of the onion off, we can see that cyber security is very important.  How come?  In my opinion, it’s about a digital future where money mainly get create in digital form.  This is the future trend that our present (the world) is heading for.  Of course, if we just rely on cyber networks for communication and not for banking and monetization, then cyber security can only be boiled down to privacy and few other things but not of money matters.  Nonetheless, cyber networks as in the Internet can be used for electronic commerce, banking, and the whole nine yards.  This means cyber security is needing to be taken seriously, otherwise hackers can just waltz in and erase, steal, change, and do whatever else to the digital money that belong to various money matter institutions such as banking, electronic commerce giants, and whatnot.

I can imagine a scenario that a group of powerful hackers that is sponsored by a powerful organization hacks a cyber system of a country to a point that they erase all of the digital money from this country, leaving this country as a bankrupted nation.  Nonetheless, this country can totally create new digital money out of thin air if she wants to, but will this be ethically, legally, and sensibly?  Can such an incident be covered up easily?  After all, we’re living in a globalized world, and transactions are having been done globally all the time; something like this if to rain upon a country will not be easily covered up.

This is why I think cyber security issues are so important nowadays.  Without proper measures to protect cyber networks, the vulnerable Internet can gradually weaken the trust of digital money transactions, leaving countries and everyday people seek out the traditional means of doing transactions.  Perhaps, this is why we’re seeing the prevalence of traditional transactions today.  Cash is one good example of traditional transactions.

When I’m hearing how one country is having difficulty in protecting a state secret from being leaked out through the cyber networks, I think it’s absurd that such a country is connecting her secret networks to the Internet in the first place.  I think each country should keep her state secrets on an Intranet that won’t be connected to the regular Internet.  Furthermore, such a country needs to provide physical protections to her Intranet, because when hacking cannot be done remotely someone ought to waltz into such a network physically so the hacking can be done eventually.  For an example, stealing state secrets with the usage of a thumb drive (USB devices or similar devices).

In summary, I think the fusses about cyber security threat are real.  This is why we are hearing countries complain about being victims to hack attacks and whatnot.  Corporations are also experiencing cyber security issues, because corporate espionage can be done through cyber networks with ease.  Whenever an entity is connecting to the Internet and it doesn’t matter what type of entity that is, cyber security issues become real just like any other important issue that matters.  Of course, if there is a day that we do not rely on the Internet anymore and money transactions do not take place in the Internet, then cyber threat will not be a threat of anything but only a historical fact.

Personal Note:  The advance of encryption is also important, because encryption can be incorporated into various network tools to secure the Internet transactions.  With strong encryption, it’s harder for hackers to decrypt the Internet transactions into plain text, thus preventing important information from being leaked.

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Virtual Machine Is A Very Beautiful Thing

Virtual machine is a very beautiful thing, but the majority computer users might be ignorant of it.  How beautiful virtual machine is?  Let me just say this right off the bat, virtual machine is there to piss off evil doers!  It’s so beautiful that you can basically download computer viruses onto a virtual machine without the fear of these nasty things go around and infect a physical machine.  Of course, with just about anything, if one is so inept in computer things, one might be able to allow the computer viruses and what not to infect the whole Intranet (LAN) network even one is using a virtual machine.  Nonetheless, one has to be very inept to do so.  For an example, allowing virtual machine to be on the same subnet with a physical machine without its own protection measures (i.e., antivirus, firewall and what not) — thus, showing just another door to the evil doers.  The evil doers can use a compromised active virtual machine as a gateway for their Intranet (LAN) hacking activities.  The beautiful thing is that if one is smart enough to secure a virtual machine, one basically has a hardened sandbox which can easily be used as a platform for browsing the dangerous web at will.  Perhaps, even downloading computer viruses and what not for testing purposes such as testing to see the effectiveness of an antivirus program.  Professional antivirus software reviewers are mostly using a hardened virtual machine to test to see how effective an antivirus program can be.

Virtual machine is so beautiful that it is very perverted.  How?  I’ve heard how many people have seen their computers got infected with computer viruses, worms, trojans, and what not just because they have been browsing dangerous pornographic websites.  What’s worse is that these folks do not use readily available simple measures such as Javascript blocker software/plugins (e.g., ScriptSafe, Noscript, etc…).  For an example, I’d talked to one person who complained that he would format his computer often, because he caught too many computer viruses.  This very person would like to say that he’s an advance computer user.  Nonetheless, he’d told me that he befuddled how his Windows machine kept on catching a flu (i.e., sarcasm for computer viruses).  Furthermore, he told me that it was too easy for his computer to catch a flu whenever he got perverted.  Obviously, it meant that he browsed pornographic websites and his computer caught a flu.  In the end, he told me his assumption that there’s no way a PC can be OK if one is browsing a pornographic website.  I told him flat out that he’s dead wrong.  The simplest answer I could give to him at that point was that just make sure his physical machine is clean (i.e., not being infected with any computer virus) and then install a virtual machine.

Virtual machine is beautiful since it’s allowing us to have a secure sandbox to play around.  Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than just a secure sandbox, because a virtual machine can run just about all major operating systems.  Furthermore, a virtual machine can be a quick testing ground for security software and what not.  If a virtual machine user doesn’t like what he or she sees, he or she can simply go through few clicks to delete a virtual machine and make a new one.  My suggestion for whoever that does browse the web dangerously is to install a virtual machine on a clean physical machine, install Linux such as Ubuntu, install firewall and ClamAV onto Ubuntu, harden up Ubuntu (virtual machine) as if it’s running on a real machine, and then browse the dangerous web.

Virtual machine is a strange beast, because it can do certain things exceptionally well and efficient, but it can be totally useless at times.  For an example, playing games on a virtual machine is a no no.  First of all, a virtual machine does not use a dedicated graphic card, because it’s emulating one.  Even if a virtual machine environment allows a physical computer to share dedicated graphic resources, I doubt a virtual machine could really share dedicated graphic resources efficiently.  Playing intensive graphic resource demanding games would be almost impossible.  Nonetheless, if one uses a virtual machine for applications such as virtualizing a NAS (i.e., Network Attached Storage server), it can become very interesting.  Imagining this further, how interesting it is for one to be able to clone a virtualized NAS easily, right?  Virtual machine platforms such as VirtualBox is certainly carrying the option of allowing a computer user to clone a virtual machine through few clicks of a mouse.

In summary, virtual machine is very beautiful, but the degrees of beautifulness are scaling accordingly according to whoever is using it.  One can simply use a virtual machine to test out how effective an antivirus software can be, but one can also use it to run a virtualized NAS.  If one is horny, one can simply browse the dangerous pornographic websites with a virtual machine.  Basically, virtual machine is quite useful and secure if one knows how to use it as a sandbox.

 

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?

Save Your Money By Using Your ISP’s Security Product

Symantec headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Image via Wikipedia

To my current knowledge, several broadband and cable companies are giving out free Internet Security software to their customers.  AT&T customers can download McAfee Internet Security for free; Comcast customers can download Norton Security Suite for free.  Other broadband and cable companies might have their own security products as well, and so nowadays I don’t think it’s necessary for users who use broadband and cable to buy their own Internet Security software.

If you aren’t sure about being able to download free security product from your Internet service provider, you can call your ISP and ask about their free security product.  Of course, you can always switch to a better ISP that provides you top of the line security product.  If you think your ISP is faster and cheaper than any other ISP and yet you can’t download a free security product, then I guess you need to buy a standalone security product from a well known security company such as Symantec and stay loyal to your ISP.

In conclusion, broadband and cable companies such as AT&T are doing a great job in protecting their customers by providing free security software.  The Internet is somewhat less hazardous to huge pools of people who can download and install free security products from their ISPs.  So, don’t you go out and waste money on a standalone security product before you ask your ISP for a similar product first, OK?  Good luck!

Brief Introduction To Norton Internet Security 5 Beta For Mac OS X Lion (2012)

Each year, Symantec releases newer version of its former Norton Internet Security Suite for Windows and Mac.  In this blog post, we take a look at the Norton Internet Security 5 Beta for Mac.  Hint beta, it means this version isn’t yet ready for regular users, because it’s still in testing/development stage.  Nonetheless, the year 2011 is almost over, and so it’s time for us to take a brief look at this shiny security software from Symantec.  I’d made a video which briefly introduces you to Norton Internet Security 5 Beta for Mac OS X Lion, and you can watch the video right after the break.