June 20, 2009 Mtg., Presentation: Computer Security, Christopher Waid

Lon Hosford, President of the club, opened the meeting with a brief description of the club for the new visitors who joined us this month.  Also, a discussion ensued about when and where we would schedule an off-premise club breakfast.  It may be scheduled for August in Clinton, but more information will follow.


Q.  What is Facebook?
A:  Facebook is a social networking site.  You invite people to be your friend and you can keep in contact with them.  Twitter and Linked-in are other networking sites.  Some members add very personal information to their profiles on the sites and it is available to others. This may not be a good idea since it is available to the public if not restricted.  In Twitter, you select who you want to follow.  You need to permit the person to follow you.  These sites are used for easy communication with your friends.  Many of these sites are scrutinized by company interviewers when evaluating a person for a job.

Q.  Please comment on iPhones and BlackBerries.
A.  These are overpriced.  You are paying a lot for what is basically email.  The BlackBerry is a better communications tool.  Review the information in the current (June) issue of PC Magazine which has an evaluation of them. The iPhone is locked into AT&T service and can be used in other countries.  GSM is the basic network in other countries.  AT&T is on the GSM network.  The BlackBerry Pearl is on the top of the list of phones. 

Q.  Is T-Mobile reception any good?
A.  T-Mobile uses the GSM standard.  If your software has not been updated, you may not get very good reception.  T-Mobile is good in this area except in certain spots. 

Q.  I cannot print my email messages.  I am using AT&T WebMail.
A.  Click on the print button on the web interface.  Or copy the message to Word or Notepad and then print it.  You can also create your email messages in Word or Notepad and then copy and paste them into your email when composing your message.  This will also allow you to be able to easily change the fonts or colors used in the message.

Q.  Should I buy a new computer now or when Windows 7 comes out?  There are good deals around now.  I use my computer for Word, the Internet, emails, and PowerPoint.
A.  Vista has been a memory hog. Windows 7 uses all of the Vista drivers so will not have the same problems as when Vista came out.  Buy now but buy what you need and get enough power and memory.  Check PC World magazine for recommendations.  You might also want to consider switching to a MAC.

Presentation – Computer Security, Christopher Waid, Presenter
The objective of computer security includes protection of information as property from theft, corruption, or national disaster, while allowing the information and property to remain accessible and productive to its intended users. 

When computer code is not written properly, it is subject to manipulation by malicious users.  When the software is manipulated into performing not as expected, it is called a virus or malware.  Industry experts estimate about 80% of users have experienced a virus or malware on their computer.

Unfortunately, no one has a complete list of all the virus/malware out there.  Once you are infected, it is almost impossible to remove all of the virus.  It is still there in the background because the antivirus software cannot totally remove it.  You need to wipe out the system and reinstall the original software to completely eliminate it.

Antivirus software does not really work effectively.  Other security measures are needed to avoid getting viruses.  Security companies make money from not fixing your problems or may not be able to.  You can use safer programs to avoid being infected. 

Precautions that you should take:
Be sure security updates are installed for all of your software.

Use open source programs.  With open source software, many programmers are looking at the code and fix the problems they see and release security updates to solve the problems.  Open source programs give you both the developers’ instructions and the user programmers’ updates.  It is most likely that by using open source programs and keeping them updated, you won’t get infected.  Open source applications are available from the Internet, friends, and other sources. 

Open source software is available for the following programs:
Software                                             Open Source Program to Use
Microsoft Office                                      OpenOffice
IE/Safari                                                FireFox
Microsoft Outlook                                   Mozilla/Thunderbird
Paint Shop or Adobe Photoshop              GIMP
AIM/Yahoo/CQ/MSN                                Pidgin

These applications are free and have no restrictions in their use.  Some cost could be involved if you need to get support for this software from the programmers. 

FireFox is the best Internet browser on the market.  It has built in security that can prevent phishing attempts.  MS Outlook/MS Windows has a lot of security problems.  The alternative to use is Thunderbird.  It has much better security. 

Security updates are essential.  Use automatic updates for all software to be sure all your programs are updated. 

Since Microsoft has a larger market share of the operating software used, more malicious users target that software than any other. 

Some Don’ts
Don’t download random software.
Don’t download screen savers.
Don’t download smiley faces, icons, cursors.
Don’t use vulnerable email clients, such as MS Outlook.
Don’t enable HTML in email to view images.
Don’t use software with bad security, such as Internet Explorer
Don’t open email from people you don’t know.
Don’t open spam.
Don’t open links in email.
Don’t open MSWord documents from others.
Don’t post your email address online.
Don’t use MS Office
Don’t use Microsoft Windows

Posting your email address on line is the surest way to get large amounts of spam.

Data Encryption
There is the potential of losing your laptop and all the private information on it.  You can save your data by encryption but this needs a password to access the data.  A password can be discovered.  Open source encryption software is available free from TrueCrypt.org.  When choosing a password, use a strong password with more than eight characters and upper and lower case letters. 

Hardware, such as hubs, switches, and routers, cannot be protected.  Any other person on your network can see what you are doing.

A cable modem is like a hub and those users can potentially read your data and access your files.  To avoid this, you may have to use encryption.  SSL is encryption.  A web site beginning with “http://” is unencrypted.  A web site beginning with “https://” is encrypted.  Wireless networks are not encrypted and others can see what you are accessing.  If you want to use encryption, find someone to help you set it up. 

FaceBook, My Space and other web sites do not have good security.  Security is the responsibility of the end user.  Don’t use your real name; use only your first name.  Try to avoid communicating with the world.  Don’t post your address.  Don’t list your phone number.  Anyone can use the information posted.  Be conscious of what you are posting since as soon as you send it out, it will be available forever and may be cached by some companies for their use. 

Great job, Chris.  Thanks from all of us.