Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

9/21/2018

Explore the Universe From Your Desktop

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Fly around the universe, virtually, from your Windows desktop.

Yes, sadly, this is for Windows users only. I try to make these posts as universally appealing as possible, but, sometimes, what I’m offering up is specific to an operating system and just too good to pass up. This is one of those.
Now, of course, I’m a big science-fiction geek and I love the fantasy of zooming through space to other planets and star systems. I suppose it has something to do with growing up watching Star Trek or seeing the original Star Wars (ie. Episode IV) in the theater as a little kid. Whatever the reason, I’ve never gotten past the idea that I’d like to leave Earth and discover the wonders of the universe like the captain of my very own interstellar craft. Sadly, the laws of physics are working against me on realizing that dream. So, until then, I’ll have to just explore the universe with my imagination. Thankfully, according to Lifehacker, there’s a desktop program called SpaceEngine that will help me do just that. If you head over to SpaceEngine.org, you can download the app for free. It’s huge, so it will take some time, but it’s worth it. You may get some warnings from your antivirus when you try to download it, but I found that the fifth “mirror”, which was a Google drive space, seemed to be okay. Once you have it installed, you can soar off to distant stars and planets and let the wonders of our universe wash over you. Frankly, it seems like the perfect escape for a Friday afternoon, especially if you’re reading this blog instead of working.
You’ll want to make sure to read the manual and be patient with the program, though, it is still in beta, after all.
So, check it out and come see what I have for you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

8/29/2014

Cryptolocker Rescue

Filed under: Geek Work,News and Current Events,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is mid-afternoon or 4:10 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

This ought to make me look like a hero at my new gig.  Again.

On a whim, I searched for a CryptoLocker decrypter this afternoon, because the old place I worked at and the new place I currently work at were both hit by a CryptoLocker virus.  Now, at the old place, we mostly had everything backed up.  At the new place, not quite so much.  I mean, everything is backed up now, but it wasn’t before I got here and they got hit with the virus.
In any case, I had a couple of files I wanted to get into that were hit with the virus.  So, naturally, I went to search for something to help.  Because, you know, it’s been a while and maybe someone had come up with a solution, right?
Well, as it turns out, they have.  FireEye, who I’m familiar with and Fox IT have setup a free service at Decryptolocker that will let you download a decryption program and upload an encrypted file, which they will use to generate a decrypt key that they send you via email.  When you get that, you follow their super simple instructions to decrypt your file.  It’s a command-line utility, but, hey, it works.

And, yes, I’ve tried it.  It took all of ten minutes to get the email with the key and then I was able to decrypt any of the effected files that I tried it on.
This restores my faith in humanity just a little!

10/31/2011

The Worst Kind of Cross-Platform Porting

Filed under: Apple,Linux,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:58 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Hackers are porting Linux viruses (virii ?) to OS X.

Last week Monday, ZDNet reported that hackers have ported code for a trojan from Linux to Apple’s OS X.  For those of my readers who don’t know what a trojan is I’m referring to a malicious program that opens the door for other, usually even worse, programs to come into the infected operating system, like the Greeks did in the classic stratagem known as the Trojan Horse.  It hasn’t been seen in the wild yet, but apparently the C source code for this has been available for quite some time.

Frankly, I’m surprised that this doesn’t happen more often than it does.  In the old days, virus writers had to really know something because they used assembly to create them.  Now, with Windows and all the other object-oriented programming languages filled with bloated libraries of programming calls, along with the availability of existing code on the internet, they hardly have to know anything to write fairly nasty malware.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, as Apple laptops become more popular, more malware will start to show up there.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they figure out how to infect iPads and iPhones, too, if they haven’t already.

I hate people like this.
I spent most of my day today cleaning a malware infection off a machine.  This little bugger had not only disabled the Windows Task Manager, which is pretty common these days, but it also cleaned out the Start Menu, including all the built-in things like the link to Control Panel and My Documents and all those things on the right side of the Windows XP default Start Menu.  But, it also flagged most of the drive as Hidden and System, making it even more difficult to load the software I used to clean it.  I had to go into Safe Mode just to get the system clean enough to restart into Safe Mode with Networking so I could update Malwarebytes, which is what I eventually used to get rid of the beastie.   (I used Spybot Search and Destroy to keep the malware from loading to make the machine useable with networking support so I could update Malwarebytes, incidentally.)
So, yeah, these slimeballs keep me in a job, but, really, I’d appreciate it if they stopped helping me stay employed.  I promise I can find plenty of other things to do!

So, look lively out there people!  Be suspicious of what you download and click on!

UPDATE:  Apparently, this has been found out in the wild now.  And, according to TechWorld, it has a purpose; to use your system to generate BitCoins for it’s evil masters.  Very clever.  Nasty, but, still, very clever.

8/1/2011

No More Mac Malware?

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:01 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I hope so!

And, by that I mean, I hope all that Mac Malware we heard about a couple weeks ago is gone.
Now, I know several Mac fanboy blogs linked to the note I put up about the Mac malware some time back thought I was going out of my way to bash Apple, but, honestly, nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, I hadn’t given it another thought until Ed Bott wrote “Where did all the Mac malware go?”  I threw the original story out there as a warning to all the Apple users who think the Mac and OS X is entirely free from any malware and utterly safe.  That’s just not true.  It is, I have to admit, much safer, in general, than Windows.  There are a couple reasons for that, but, mostly, it’s because of market share and how Apple does, well, everything.

So, that last explosion of malware may be the only shot you hear fired.  At least, for a while.
Frankly, I hope so.  And, I hope that it put enough scare into people that they take security seriously anyway.  As Apple’s market share grows, their products will all become a more appealing target for hackers and crackers.  Though I hope to be proven wrong, I suspect that there is malware being written to attack Macs and, possibly, iPhones and iPads.   In fact, that malware may be already written and just waiting for the right infection vector.  Maybe.

Maybe I’m just a bit cynical and I’m waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.
For years, Apple fanboys have told people that Macs were completely virus free and were more secure by their very nature.  Sadly, that’s not true.  We’ve heard the first shots fired in a new skirmish in the secret war for desktops of all kinds.  It’s big business.  I don’ t think this is the last we’ve heard about Mac malware.
But, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe Apple has closed that hole and all the other holes, too.  Maybe the Macs are all safe and that’s why we haven’t heard about that malware recently.
Maybe.

But, can you afford to take the chance?

5/26/2011

Mac Malware News Update

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:26 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Good news!

First, there are things you can do to protect yourself from this new Mac malware:
Start by disabling the automatic opening of downloaded files.  The world has changed for you Mac users and you simply can’t trust just any download any more.  Welcome to the world that Windows users have lived in for years and years.
Also, don’t let things install on your machine unless you’ve gone out looking for them!  Again, don’t trust anything that looks like an automatic update or a “free” program that wants to install automatically, especially if you haven’t been searching for any thing!
Seriously, you can’t trust people on the Internet.  I know this may come as a shock to the Hippie, “free-love” sort of people Mac users think themselves to generally be, but, yeah, not everyone on the Internet has your best interests at heart.  Well, except me.  You can trust me.  Honest.

Secondly, in a “few days” Apple will allegedly put out an update to make you safe again.
At least, that’s what they’re saying.  No definite deadline on that, though, so be careful and make sure to check your updates regularly!  Staying up to date on patches is one of the better ways to help prevent an infection.  Also, if you haven’t already, please, consider getting an anti-virus program for your Mac.  OS X is a growing target for hackers as the installed user-base grows, so, sooner or later, you’ll see more of these little nasties coming your way.  Your platform’s growing popularity will make it a growing target!  So, before it’s too late and you’re asking your friendly, neighborhood network geek for help in cleaning up the mess, install an anti-virus to prevent the mess in the first place.  The computer you save may be your own!

5/19/2011

Mac Malware

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:03 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I told you Macs weren’t safe!

Does anyone listen to me?  No.  Well, hardly ever.
I’m sure you’ve seen the news by now that there are growing numbers of Mac malware attacks.  In fact, Apple Care, the official Apple customer service division, has reported a staggering jump in the number of malware related calls they received in just the past several weeks.  Apparently, according to the interview, it’s gotten to be quite a large problem in just that short amount of time.  They estimate that, now, up to 50% of all calls they get are related in some way to a malware attack on an Apple product.  The indication from the article is that everything is focused on Mac OS X machines, but, with larger market share comes a bigger prize for hackers, so don’t be surprised if iPhones and iPads and even iPods are attacked next!
Of course, what makes matters worse is that, allegedly, Apple Care representatives are being told not to help with malware attacks!  So, all that safety you thought you were buying with Mac?  Apparently, not the best investment.  Of course, security through obscurity never is.

So far, the threat seems to be confined to a single, aggressive bit of malware called MacDefender.  Go to the link and you’ll see a screenshot of what it looks like when it tries to install.  It looks just like a standard Mac program, right from Apple.  This is the same tactic that Windows users have been facing for years.  There’s nothing new here, outside of a new installed base of users who have never had to deal with malware before.  Mac users must look like sheep ready for fleecing to these crooks.  So, if you know Mac users, warn them and spread the word.

For those of you lucky enough to have escaped harm so far, buy and install an antivirus product and keep it up to date.
For those of you who haven’t been lucky, here’s a link to a MacDefender Malware Removal Guide. (Thanks, @joefarace!)

Incidentally, I’ve been talking about this for years.  I knew it would happen eventually, but, hey, who am I?  I mean, besides a front-line grunt that cleans up everyone’s machine when they get infected with digital herpes.  Not being a “pundit” or “respected industry figure” just means that no one takes you seriously, not that we don’t know what we’re talking about.  Because, believe me, I’m not the only network geek in the trenches who saw this coming.  We ALL did, but no one listens.

Like I wrote earlier, get the word out and show Mac users what they might expect before they get hit.
The day you save may be your own!

5/3/2011

Mac OS X Not “Safe”

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:02 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

The myth of an operating system that is somehow safe from virii or malware is being busted.

No, seriously, I know all you Mac users are always bragging about how much more safe your operating system is because there isn’t any malware written to attack it.  I hear it all the time.  Well, guess what kids?  You’re wrong.  There is at least one OS X Crimeware Kit, in the wild.  And, really, that’s just the one that we’ve seen lately.  If researchers have found one, there are probably others.  And, I know that there are other exploits in the wild, too.  Not as many, sure, but they are out there.  And, thanks to you all bragging about how you’re safe and being all fan-boy about your OS and telling all your friends how great it is, you’re making OS X a more and more attractive target all the time.
Remember, the reason that Windows has so many exploits written for it is because it’s installed on so many computers.  It’s marketing, really.  Where’s the biggest potential market for software?  Right, on the biggest installed base of whatever the popular operating system is.  Now, if you were a virus writer, what would you write a virus to run on?  Same thing.  So, as markets expand, so will the exploits.

Brace yourself.  The world is changing.

12/15/2010

Free Computer Security Tools

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

It’s a dangerous digital world out there!

As I’m sure you’ve seen this year, there have been lots of warnings about increased malicious activity.  Everything from phishing to new malware, the cyber-criminals are really working overtime to make your life a living hell.  There’s plenty you can do to stay safe, like only going to sites that you know and not opening attachments from strangers, or even from friends that don’t normally send you attachments.  But, let’s face it, sometimes, things slip by you.  So, what else can you do, especially when you don’t have money to spend on high-end security tools?

Well, check out eWeek’s list of 9 Free Security Tools to be Thankful for and start using them.  At least make sure you have some kind of anti-virus installed.  There are several suggestions on that list.
And, be careful out there!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Happiness is a direction, not a place."
   --Sydney J. Harris


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