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    Author Archive - Jamz Yaneza (Threat Research Manager)




    The successful takedown can be considered the most recent and—possibly most effective—nail yet on Rustock’s coffin. While we have to wait before we can see the long-term effects of the recent Rustock botnet takedown, the decline in spam volume is apparent. Data from TrendLabsSM shows a more than 95 percent decrease in Rustock reports on March 16, at around the same time the botnet was taken down.

    As with most spam botnets, there has been a long-running battle between the bot’s perpetrators and the security industry. Since the bot was first discovered in 2006, Rustock has been compromising thousands of machines and sending out billions of pharmaceutical spam.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     



    When was the last time you manually defragmented your hard drive? Or when did your OS last request that you do so?

    Modern desktop OSs have all embraced, in one form or another, self-medicating systems and start-up diagnostics since 2005. One can then ask if this means that you don’t need to defragment your hard drive anymore.

    According to a post by Microsoft’s Windows Server Performance Team, defragmenting your hard drive is worthwhile. It allows users to read contiguous blocks of data in one go. This literally means faster drive seek and read times. However, there is a small caveat. No, actually a huge one. Files above 64MB are ignored by the defragmenter, as defragmenting these does not improve performance any. This is a reiteration from an earlier post two years ago by the Storage Team where they stated that due to improvements in NTFS (the journalizing file system used by default since Windows XP), it now takes less time to locate file fragments and is not worth the effort to defragment given the time and computation load for PCs.

    64MB seemed rather large a decade or so ago but today’s standard USB sticks—like those literally given away for free at electronics stores when you sign up for their catalogs are 4GB—about 64 times as much as the size used to be. You can probably get some performance improvements when sorting your MP3 collection whose files sizes average about 3MB each. But if you’re looking to sort your PVR recordings from your Windows 7 Media Center then you’re out of luck. The improvements in hard drive speed in the last few decades are so high that even when combined with an older OS, you’ll see marked improvements. Solid State Drives (SSDs) anyone?
    Read the rest of this entry »

     



    Today is the last day of May and, for some people, the last day their Facebook accounts are available online. Recent changes to Facebook’s privacy settings are regarded as rather confusing and not readily apparent to users. Not even the latest update that Facebook made last May 26, which attempted to address its long-running issue with user privacy, was enough to make critics feel secure. The discontent—and even outrage for some users—eventually spurred a group of individuals to declare May 31st as Quit Facebook Day.”

    Privacy Issue: Facebook’s Privacy Policy Versus User Behavior

    Facebook is one of the newer and very active social networks on the planet today. Its open attitude to third-party development and widget features from the get-go was one of its major moving changes. This led the way to how people viewed social networking today—a more fun and interactive online community. It took some of the best ideas from various existing sites and seamlessly integrated them.

    However, to become the widely connected social network that it is today, Facebook had to compromise the privacy of a lot of the data that users post and share on the site. While this may provide a good way for users to be more “social” on the site, it is also the major issue that is pushing a large number of users to cancel their accounts.

    Perhaps the question is not limited to “Should users quit Facebook?” but “Should users quit social networking altogether?” Compared with other social networks that came before it, Facebook has done a whole lot better than most of these pioneer sites did. In terms of available data, those sites were even more unprotected then than they are now.

    Another aspect of this privacy issue is how users tend to behave online. With or without Facebook, unenlightened users will make a mistake and divulge private information no matter what social network you drop them in to.

    As senior threat researcher Alice Decker puts it, “There is no reason to assume that people don’t know what they are doing. I have never heard anybody say that they actually don’t want to share their private information.”

    Antivirus engineer Joseph Cepe adds, “Users who sign up for an account have every intention to connect and reach out to others. Setting up a secure account is probably the least of a new user’s priorities.”

    If you don’t want it out there, don’t share it.

    TrendLabsSM research engineer Jayronn Bucu notes that creating an account on a social networking site comes with the intention of sharing information via the Internet. “Facebook carries the vision of creating a more open place. If there are no threats… then we could freely connect and share. However, that’s not how things roll.”

    As we all know, the proliferation of online threats such as the KOOBFACE malware is another popular Facebook issue that threatens the privacy of user information within the network. The TrendLabs Malware Blog has discussed this threat in the following posts:

    At the end of the day, keeping personal information private is still the user’s responsibility. If you don’t want it out there, don’t share it. Your real friends online should also be aware of your decision and respect it, otherwise they aren’t your friends after all. Perhaps the better question one should consider is, “Is it time to de-friend your social network’s weakest link?”

     



    A co-researcher Richard Ford at the Florida Institute of Technology’s College of Engineering and Computer Sciences wrote in an article to Science Magazine‘s July issue that the first computer virus was created 25 years ago, but sees no end in sight to malicious software.

    John Timmer similarly writes his take on this article.

    Myself, I say take a step back. Consider that the drive was to make computers a household appliance. Even better, getting a driver’s license means you know how to operate a car and know the dangers on the road. Drivers listen to the radio for traffic changes, we watch the news to know the weather in relation to how we should drive. Thats being proactive, its being vigilant against the unknown dangers on the road. Agree?

    I like Science as a magazine, and even better the fact that they can talk about the chilling reality of the human paradigm — expectations on technology versus the immediate reality of the threat. That same human paradigm does not want to hear the sad truth that it is gullable and stupid unless better informed and armed with relevant information. So why are computer users, and similarly users of technology not taking the time to pore through security forums on a daily basis proactively to be well informed? There is a huge disjoint here.

    Para-phrasing David P’s own sentiments that malware used to be likened to online graffiti, even in today’s physical reality some individual’s penchant to write on subways and public walls has not abated — neither has crime and fraud in its smallest form even if neighborhood police and secret service are just around the corner. Has anyone watched last year’s movie “The Good Shepherd”? This month of July celebrates the 60th year of the CIA. It is as live today as it was then, simply because the dangers have also changed!

    That said, it looks like the anti-malware (anti-threat) community will be as vibrant as ever. It isn’t like a couple of years ago where we saw ourselves as cyber-firemen. Being passive does not catch the bad guys, it is as reactive as all the old passive technologies like IDS and IPS. Ever since malware has taken to cyber-crime, without everyone in the security field knowing it we have all become cyber-sleuths and products and services have become the online police.

    In this day and age solutions like network behavior monitoring, as well as traffic repudiation and analysis are the new tools. Self defending networks are fine too, but these should always be tempered and fine tuned to adapt to the computer user’s changing appetite for content and technology.


    P.S.

    Take another trip to YouTube (make sure its the main site, not a trojan masquerading as a codec) and watch the sci-fi online flick Afterworld. See how the story unfolds while Rus Shoemaker copes with a world bereft of technology.


     
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