Wednesday, March 23, 2016

SECURITY - ESET Smart Security

Due to the proliferation of ransomware, as a previous article points out, I have decided that I (and everyone else) need better protection.  I have been using ESET NOD32 AntiVirus for years and is excellent for what it does do.

Better protection is provided by ESET Smart Security.  The following screenshots show some of the features:

  • This is the ESET home dialog on my system.

  • This is the Setup dialog; the top 2 setting categories are like those found in ESET NOD32 AV, the "Network protection" and "Security tools" have the enhanced protection features.

  • The "Network protection" settings dialog show the enhancements.  "Personal firewall" is just like ESET NOD32 AV, replaces your Windows Firewall.  "Network attack protection" and "Botnet protection" are the enhanced features, including ransomware protection.  Note the "Recently blocked application or device" under "Troubleshooting wizard."

  • "Parental control" is a feature found in ESET NOD32 AV.  But note the "Banking & Payment protection" and "Anti-Theft" features (more below).

Banking & Payment protection:

This is one of the best features.  You add the domains for all banking and payment sites (PayPal, banks, credit card, etc) you use and select [Secured browser] and ESET Smart Security provides enhanced protections for those sites in a separate browser window.

CAUTION:  My default browser is Firefox and the ESET Secure Browser Window asked me to if I wanted to save the bank's password even though I have Firefox set to NOT remember passwords.


This feature enables Anti-Theft protection for your devices.  It is, of course, more applicable for mobile/portable devices (touch-pads, smart phones, etc), it is not necessary for non-portable desktop systems.

I highly recommend ESET products, especially ESET Smart Security.

Monday, March 7, 2016

DATA SECURITY - Ransom of LA Hospital

"Ransomware attack takes down LA hospital for hours" PBS NewsHour 2/29/2016

This highlights the need to use good Anti-Virus utility AND do an image backup of your entire system AFTER running a virus scan (the only backup you can use to recover your entire system) .  I do my backup monthly using O&O DiskImage to a USB External Drive that I disconnect after backup.


SUMMARY:  One of the greatest threats to private cybersecurity today is ransomware -- a cyberattack that blocks access to a computer until the hacker is paid a ransom.  The problem recently took on new urgency when a hospital in Los Angeles had its entire network shut down for hours, putting hundreds at risk; another high-profile breach hit L.A.’s health department last week.  William Brangham reports.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  But, first, a look at what’s become the latest threat to our cyber-security.

The problem took on new urgency recently when a hospital in Los Angeles had its entire computer network, including all its digital medical records, locked up by hackers.  They demanded a ransom before they’d release the computers.  It was the second such attack this month.  L.A.’s Health Department was hit last week.

These types of computer attacks, which usually target individual computer users, are on the rise.

The “NewsHour's” William Brangham reported on this threat last year, and now he brings us an update.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  Inna Simone is retired.  She’s a mother and grandmother from Russia who now lives outside of Boston.  In the fall of 2014, her home computer started acting strangely.

INNA SIMONE, Retiree:  My computer was working terribly.  It was not working.  I mean, it was so slow.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  A few days later, while searching through her computer files, Inna saw dozens of these messages — they were all the same.  They read: “Your files are encrypted.  To get the key to decrypt them, you have to pay $500.”

Her exact deadline, December 2 at 12:48 p.m., was just a few days away.

All her files were locked , tax returns, financial papers, letters, even the precious photos of her granddaughter Zoe.  Inna couldn’t open any of them.

INNA SIMONE:  It says, “If you won’t pay, your fine will double.  If you won’t pay by then, all your files will be deleted and you will lose them forever and never will get back.”

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Inna Simone, like thousands of others, had been victimized by what’s known as a ransomware attack.  Hackers — who law enforcement believe come mainly from Eastern Europe or Russia — manage to implant malicious software onto your computer, usually when you mistakenly open an infected e-mail attachment, or visit a compromised Web site.

That software then allows the hackers to lock up your files, or your entire computer, until you pay them a ransom to give it back.

Justin Cappos is a computer security expert at New York University.

JUSTIN CAPPOS, New York University:  It will actually lock you out of the files, the data on your computer.

So, you’d be able to use the computer but those files have been encrypted by the attacker with a key that only they possess.  It’s frustrating because you know the data is there.  You know the files are there.  You know your photos and everything is there and could be accessible to you.  But you have no way of being able to get at it because of this encryption that the attackers are using.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  This is exactly what happened at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angeles.  According to officials, about a month ago, their computerized medical records were locked up by one of these malicious programs, and a hacker demanded $17,000 in ransom to unlock them.

During this time, medical staff were forced to use paper and pen for their record-keeping, but they say no patient files were compromised.  The hospital decided to pay the ransom.  Their computers were unlocked, and the FBI is now investigating.