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CompUSA on Computer America!

Computer AmericaComputer America is the longest running syndicated radio show exclusively all about computers – and CompUSA was there this Wednesday to talk about the All-New CompUSA, upcoming store openings and other exciting changes. The CompUSA Director of eCommerce appeared for the ‘Wednesday Madness’ show and was able to pitch his 2¢ in on the debate of Vista.

Show co-host Carey Holzman resoundingly argues against upgrades to Vista on existing XP machines, and I tend to agree. While I don’t think Vista is something you need to ‘avoid’ by any means – I love Vista. But as with anything, a new car, bicycle, etc. – you take a little bit to get settled in, figure out all the controls and get comfortable.

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Ransomware – Threatens to Take Your Data Hostage

A rise in data kidnappings makes data protection more important than ever. It’s little more than electronic thuggery. Demanding payment for the safe return of your data is one of the newest scams perpetrated by cyber-criminals. And they’re using ransomware – malware that’s expressly designed to encrypt your data – to do it.In a ransomware attack, the criminal will send the victim an email saying that they have control of their system, and the victim can’t get any data on their system unless they pay the criminal through an untraceable wire service.

In this type of attack, a criminal may put a special file or program in an e-mail and send it to the victim. Or the victim may click on a pop-up window that’s been specially designed to infect the computer with the ransomware. If the victim opens or executes the attachment (or clicks on the pop-up), then the ransom application can encrypt files on the victim’s computer. And the victim can’t open the scrambled files without the key – which the criminal holds. In other instances, the criminals threaten to delete files on the victim’s computer.

The criminal then demands payment, usually with online currency or another wire service. The criminals keep ransom demands low — $15.99 to $19.00 in order to keep authorities from getting involved. If they target enough people, they can make a lot of money.

If the victim doesn’t pay, then he or she can’t access the data. Once the ransom is paid, the criminal will supposedly send the key to decrypt the data. But once the victim pays, he or she is now established as willing to pay “protection money.”

How to Protect Yourself

What can you do to protect your company? So far, most of the ransomware attacks have been relatively simple. The ransom applications used symmetric cryptography, which made it possible for security experts to extract the decryption keys from the files without contacting or paying the attackers.

While ransom attacks may be on the rise, you can take steps to protect your users and your business. You can address Ransonware with your existing security protections. Make sure all computers with browsers have the latest patches. Your firewalls, antivirus, intrusion detection and other layers of security protection will likely stop the malware before it infects your network. And do all your backups and keep them offline.

Glossary: Ransomware (malware)

A cryptovirus, cryptotrojan or cryptoworm is a type of malware that encrypts the data belonging to an individual on a computer, demanding a ransom for its restoration. The term ransomware is commonly used to describe such software, although the field known as cryptovirology predates the term “ransomware”.

This type of ransom attack can be accomplished by (for example) attaching a specially crafted file/program to an e-mail message and sending this to the victim. If the victim opens/executes the attachment, the program encrypts a number of files on the victim’s computer. A ransom note is then left behind for the victim. The victim will be unable to open the encrypted files without the correct decryption key. Once the ransom demanded in the ransom note is paid, the cracker may (or may not) send the decryption key, enabling decryption of the “kidnapped” files.

The idea of maliciously encrypting plaintext is not new. The first example is probably the PC Cyborg Trojan that was found in 1989. It encrypted only filenames (using a very weak cipher) causing the file system to be corrupted. There have been other malware attacks that have maliciously encrypted plaintext since then. The 1996 IEEE paper by Young and Yung[1] reviews the malware that has done this, and shows how public key cryptography may be used in such threats.

A cryptovirus, cryptotrojan, or cryptoworm is defined as malware that contains and uses the public key of its author. In cryptoviral extortion, the public key is used to hybrid encrypt the data of the victim and only the private key (which is not in the malware) can be used to recover the data. This is one of a myriad of attacks in the field known as cryptovirology.

Source: Computer Associates

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Internet Explorer 8 Beta Now Available for Download

Internet ExplorerInternet Explorer is upgrading again – this time to become more Internet standards compliant. Huh? Well, let me try to explain it simply – Microsoft tends to break the rules of the standards committees and replace them with their own. Every since the Open Office XML file standard was approved ahead of Microsoft and the International Regulating organizations didn’t want to modify it for Microsoft – they seem to have been singing a different tune. Realizing they truly don’t control the internet and all software development.

Many websites you visit may look differently if you use Firefox, Internet Explorer 6 or 7, or even Apple’s Safari. Why you ask? Because only some of them (read Firefox and Safari) truly comply with the Internet W3C standards. It’s an international body who decides how HTML, CSS and other web elements interact – and Microsoft has generally wanted to do it their way.

If you are a developer ready to test a whole new compliant internet with Internet Explorer, why not try out the new Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 from Microsoft.

According to the IE website:

Internet Explorer 8 will take the web experience beyond the page. Internet Explorer 8 introduces a new way to seamlessly experience the best of the web whether you are a web developer writing to standards or a user discovering a new online service. Be one of the first developers to take advantage of improvements in Internet Explorer 8 for your websites and applications.

Download: Download: Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1

Source: Microsoft: Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1

Happy Birthday Windows Vista

Windows VistaToday marks the one year anniversary of the release of Microsoft Windows Vista – and what a year it has been. From corporate IT departments willing to upgrade and users asking for downgrades. But after all, humans as a whole, do not like change – and Vista was a change from the ordinary.

As a Vista user on 100% of my home systems – I can tell you that I like Vista. Is there any crazy features that make me jump up and down about Vista – Yes. The Integrated search functionality replaces Google Desktop pretty well, but I like the Google interface better in the way it displays search results.

Is there anything about Vista I hate – not really. Other than the fact it gets a bad rep.

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Take The Internet To New Places With Nokia N800

Nokia N800The Nokia N800 Internet Tablet exemplifies the epitome of technology, style and portability. The N800 easily connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi or compatible cellular phone. Enjoy the Internet on a portable size tablet with a high-resolution widescreen display in the palm of your hand. Effortlessly make Internet Phone calls, check & send e-mail, instant message and so much more with the Nokia N800. You can also access Internet media at home or on-the-go with the Nokia N800′s high quality stereo audio.

The Nokia N800 NSeries Internet Tablet frees you from your desk and bulky laptop and places the World Wide Web and much more in the palm of your hand. The N800 is the ideal tool if you’re always on-the-go and need to stay connected. Once you use the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet, you’ll never leave home without it. Order your Nokia N800 Internet Tablet today!

For those that say that there are better solutions, consider this:

  • 1. Price: The Nokia N800: is now below $300 ($229.99 right now! @ TigerDirect).
  • 2. Open Source: The Nokia N800 is a Linux device based on a modified version of Debian GNU/Linux that they call “Internet Tablet OS 2007 edition”. Nokia created the open source development platform for the 770 and N800. They’ve worked hard to encourage developers to port applications to this platform. You can find more info at www.maemo.org.
  • 3. Third Party Applications: Nokia strongly encourages 3rd party developers to make software for their N800 and 770 products, and most (if not all) of it is free on the Maemo site.
  • 4. No Service Contract Needed: With the Nokia N800, you can access the internet via Wi-Fi or with a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone. This allows you the freedom to use the mobile provider of your choosing.
  • 5. Removable Storage: The Nokia N800 has two memory slots that support a range of memory cards (SD, miniSD, microSD, MMC and RS-MMC). This allows you to keep one card in the device for a more permanent storage solution, and still have a slot available for cards from your camera or other device. With the falling price of memory cards, you could have several cards with music and videos tucked away in the carrying case that comes with the N800.
  • 6. Better Audio and Video Codec Support: The N800 supports a wide range of audio and video formats. Supported audio formats are AAC, AMR, MP2, MP3, RA (Real Audio), WAV, WMA. You can play videos in the following formats: 3GP, AVI, H.263, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, RV (Real Video), and Flash Video (YouTube!). That covers just about anything you’d ever want to play on a media device. You can even stream audio and video from networked computers!
  • 7. It’s Not a Cell Phone But You Can Still Make Calls: The N800 is not a cell phone, but because of its web-access you can run Internet-based phone applications. The N800 can be used to for making VoIP calls via Gizmo and GoogleTalk. Skype support is coming in the second quarter of 2007. This means that you can make cheap (or even free) calls anytime you are connected to a Wi-Fi network. With WiFi becoming more prevalent every day, this means you’ll soon be able to use your N800 to make calls from just about anywhere.
  • 8. Webcam for Video Conferencing: The N800 also has a built in webcam and supports video conferencing! How great would that be for your next conference call? StarWars-like video calls are not sci-fi for this device.
  • Source: Nokia

    Related Links: Nokia N800 @ TigerDirect.com

    Today In History: January 31st

    date_31.gifToday is Thursday, Jan. 31, the 31st day of 2008. There are 335 days left in the year.

    Today’s Highlight in History:

  • Fifty years ago, on Jan. 31, 1958, the United States entered the Space Age with its first successful launch of a satellite into orbit, Explorer I.
  • In 1606, Guy Fawkes, convicted of treason for his part in the “Gunpowder Plot” against the English Parliament and King James I, was executed. (See the movie “V for Vendetta“)
  • On this date:

  • In 1797, composer Franz Schubert was born in Vienna, Austria.
  • In 1865, Gen. Robert E. Lee was named General-in-Chief of all the Confederate armies.
  • In 1917, during World War I, Germany served notice it was beginning a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.
  • In 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt devalued the dollar in relation to gold.
  • In 1944, during World War II, U.S. forces began a successful invasion of Kwajalein Atoll and other parts of the Japanese-held Marshall Islands.
  • In 1945, Private Eddie Slovik, 24, became the first U.S. soldier since the Civil War to be executed for desertion as he was shot by an American firing squad in France.
  • In 1971, astronauts Alan Shepard Jr., Edgar Mitchell and Stuart Roosa blasted off aboard Apollo 14 on a mission to the moon.
  • In 1996, the forerunner of TigerDirect: BLOC Development published the first commercial release of FormTool – the best selling forms design software of all time! FormTool remains the one of the longest running software titles, continuously published for 23 years, designed by Frank Haggar, Phil Bolin, Tim McGuinness, Stephan Whitney and Bob Horton.
  • In 1998, Astronaut David Wolf returned to Earth aboard space shuttle Endeavour after four months on the Russian space station Mir.
  • In 2000, an Alaska Airlines jet plummeted into the Pacific Ocean, killing all 88 people aboard.
  • In 2003, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair met at the White House; Bush said he would welcome a second U.N. resolution on Iraq but only if it led to the prompt disarming of Saddam Hussein. Pushing for a new resolution, Blair called confronting Iraq “a test of the international community.”
  • In 2006, Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., died in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, at age 78.
  • Source: The Associated Press

    Related Links: Deal Of The Day @ TigerDirect.com

    Cool Software Launched By Intel

    200801040_1.gifIn an effort to stay on top of the latest software trends and cool new startups, Intel launched a new site called Cool Software also known as CoolSW. It is an online community of people passionate about software. Here, members can post information about interesting new software companies and, more importantly, it allows the community to evaluate their performance by voting on whether they think a software company is, well, “cool.”

    The company that receives the highest number of positive votes is moved to the front page. This allows the start-up firm to gain access to free online advertising through user testimonials to back up their superb performance. While the site may be pretty entertaining to browse through, members can benefit from the submitted information about software applications and developers. Contributors are putting “Collective Intelligence” to work while creating growth opportunities for everyone.

    Anyone is welcome to visit, enjoy the postings and conversation. However, if you would like to be part of community to post, vote or comment, you will need to take the free and easy membership plunge. Just key in http://coolsw.intel.com/ and fill out the registration form. Once you have completed and submitted you application form, you are free to log in anytime to join this online community.

    To date, the site has generated a total of 920 software submissions with more to come. A total of 515 conversation threads have been initiated. These threads allow software experts to share their thoughts and insights on various technological updates, practices and trends in the software development industry.

    Source: Intel CoolSW

    Related Links: Software @ TiegrDirect.com

    CybertronPC CAD Workstation and Visionman Linux Based Desktop

    This CybertronPC Extreme CAD workstation is ready to run anything from Maya to Autocad, from Bryce 3D Poser to Solidworks, to Catia and other designing software. It features an Intel Core 2 Extreme QUAD Core processor, 8GB of DDR2-800 memory, 2 Raptors in RAID 0, an NVIDIA QUADRO FX3500 workstation video card, and runs Windows XP Professsional 64-bit.

    visionman-linux-ubuntu-v133-8480.jpgVisionman Linux Ubuntu 7.10 Desktop PC
    This system is absolutely perfect for surfing the net, word processing, sharing photos, and a plethora of other applications. This Visionman system goes one step beyond, offering ALL the important and regularly used applications pre-installed and in full working order! Simply turn on your system, then with a simple click you can fire up instant messenging, the Firefox Internet browser, BitTorrent, word processing, spreadsheets, and the list goes on.

    Related Links: CybertronPC Extreme CAD Workstation, Visionman Linux Ubuntu Desktop PC

    Banking Online? Information Intercepted by New Trojan

    Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water (am I the only one who understands this reference?)… Online banking is facing a new attack via a trojan which intercepts account information prior to encryption and then kindly transmits the data to be inlcluded in a central attacker database.

    The Trojan, dubbed Trojan.Silentbanker by security software company Symantec, can intercept online banking transactions that normally are well guarded by two-factor authentication procedures. During a banking transaction, Silentbanker will change the user’s bank account details over to the attacker’s account, all the while mimicking what the user would expect to see from a typical banking transaction. Because users have no idea their account data has been changed, they then unknowingly send money to the attacker’s account after entering their second authentication password.1

    While Symantec’s website indicates this trojan has a relatively low level of distribution, it still poses grave danger as it works without any user detection.

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    How Fast is Your System? Learn How to Benchmark Your Rig!

    40.jpgOverclocking is now a mainstream term in the computer world. Every gamer either has an overclocked system or wants and overclocked system.

    There are two reasons that benchmarking is important. You want to know the speed and you need to test the stability. Below are the programs that I use to benchmark every part of my system.

    Let’s start with the CPU. The real stress test is Prime 95. This will calculate prime numbers and tax the heck out of your CPU. If you have a dual or quad core you might need to open multiple instances and configure them to run on a different core.

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