Tag Archives | Security

McCain Campaign Still Inept Post-Election, Sells Unwiped Blackberry

If you thought John McCain ran a shoddy campaign, here’s another reason to add to your argument. Fox 5 in Washington, DC was able to pick up a used BlackBerry from the campaign at a fire sale for a rock bottom price of $20. What the newsroom found when charging up the device was shocking. The campaign didn’t even bother to wipe the device’s memory!

Reporters were able to find the contact information for about 50 people associated with the campaign, as well as hundreds of emails dating from September through a few days past election night. The phone in question apparently belonged to a member of Citizens for McCain, a group of Democrats that were working to elect the Arizona senator.

The contact information was correct, Fox 5 reported, as it successfully contacted several of the individuals in the BlackBerry’s contact list. A few of them were quite peeved about the slip-up. When the McCain campaign was approached about it, they said it was a mistake and the phone was supposed to be erased.

One of the people they called made a comment that I have to admit I did chuckle at.

“They should have wiped that stuff out. Given the way the campaign was run, this is not a surprise.”

Isn’t that the truth. It’s not like its too difficult to wipe a BlackBerry clean: actually its a simple process that takes less that a minute to begin. One begins to wonder: with all the other stuff that was being sold, what else may we find out?


Are Mac Users Worried About Security? Our Survey-Takers Are…But Only a Little.

macvirus2Last week, I got curious about whether Mac users spend any more time wrangling with security problems than in the past…or at least stressing about potential security risks. I decided to conduct a quick survey to get real feedback from real Mac users. The results (via the wonderful PollDaddy) are in, and for the most part they confirm what you might guess: Most respondents aren’t too concerned about security, don’t run much in the way of security software, and have never been attacked by viruses or spyware. Strong security is one reason why they choose the Mac over Windows. But they’re justifiably concerned that the growing percentage of computer users who use Macs could lead to more assaults by the bad guys.

First some disclaimers: We did no screening of survey respondents, so their take on things may or may not map to the Mac population at large. (For what it’s worth, some of the ones who expanded on their thoughts via our final, free-form question are clearly advanced users who are familiar with OS X’s Unix-based underpinnings.) 175 people took our survey–a small pool,  but a statistically significant one. Bottom line: The opinions expressed below are those of the folks who chose to take the survey. (I think they’re interesting ones, and I thank everyone who took the time to participate.)

Full report after the jump…

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Last Call to Take Technologizer’s Mac Security Survey

Just a quick note: We’d like to close our survey on Mac security soon and report the results, but we could use a few more responses. If you’ve got a Mac, could you please complete the survey? It’ll just take a few minutes, and your contribution will help make more more significant, interesting results. Thanks in advance… [UPDATE: We’ve reached our quota and closed the survey. Thanks!]

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Mac Users: Please Take a Quick Survey About Security

macvirus2There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle this week about a subject that crops up every so often and is always good for some spirited debate: Whether Mac users should be as proactive about protecting themselves against security attacks as their Windows-using friends. The Washington Post’s Brian Krebs noticed Apple recommending the use of anti-virus software and tried to reconcile that advice with the gist of some of the company’s TV commericials. It turned out that the Apple technical note Krebs found wasn’t exactly news: MacDailyNews found two examples of the company recommending the use of anti-virus in years past.

I like to nitpick at Apple ads as much or more than the next guy, but in this case I think the company is on safe ground. No, Macs aren’t invulnerable to threats. Yes, Mac users should think at least a bit about security issues. But it’s undeniable that most of the threats in the world are aimed squarely at Windows users, and that Mac users don’t have to stress over them unless they’re running Windows via Boot Camp or Parallels or VMware Fusion virtualization.

You can probably rip apart this metaphor if you want, but to me, it’s a little like arguing over whether people who live in the country need to obsess over securing their homes as those who live smack dab in the middle of the city. On one hand, country folk may well be able to get away without multiple deadbolts, bars on their windows, and elaborate alarm systems. On the other, even they would be foolish to leave their front doors unlocked and open twenty-four hours a day, with a sign pinned up detailing the location and value of everything inside.

Anyhow, to me one of the interesting aspects of all this is the question of just how Mac users are feeling about security these days. Are they blithely oblivious, thinking that Mac users don’t need to stress over this stuff? Or terrified out of their minds? Or in a mental state that’s somewhere in between those two extremes?

I’d like to get at least an anecdotal sense of where their heads are at right now. So I’ve created a quick survey. If you’re a Mac user, I’d be indebted if you take it–it shouldn’t take very long. Once I have enough completed surveys, I’ll report back here with an article in the spirit of our story on the State of iPhone Satisfaction.

[UPDATE: We’ve reached our quota and closed the survey. Thanks!]


Fox News: Pentagon Target of Cyber Attack

Fox News is reporting that the Pentagon was the target of a cyber attack so severe that it has now banned the use of all external memory devices, such as flash drives and the like. Apparently, some type of worm or virus has been unleashed on the agency’s computer network, and is quickly spreading throughout the system.

Officials are not specifing what type of worm or virus it may be, only saying an alert had been posted for it, and that it was “taking steps to mitigate the virus.” The computers affected are part of the Global Information Grid, or GIG, and for security reasons the Pentagon does not speak on the specifics of intrusions to that system.

A guess as to what the malware may be could be gleaned from a post to the Symantec Security Response blog from Wednesday. It warns of an increase in USB-based malware attacks, and listed several different viruses and worms known to be using removable drives as a way to propogate themselves.

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Microsoft Kills One Security Suite, Launches Another

onecarelogoMicrosoft announced today that it’s working on a new security suite code-named “Morro.” Um, doesn’t doesn’t the company already have a security suite offering–Windows Live OneCare? Yup, but part of today’s announcement is that it’s planning to discontinue OneCare, which had only been around since May, 2006, on June 30th, 2009. And while OneCare costs $50 a year for up to three computers, Morro will be free.

Why the switch in strategy? Microsoft says that it’s making Morro a mean, lean product that won’t be too piggy when it comes to system resources, and Senior Director of Product Management Amy Barzdukas is quoted in the release as saying “This new, no-cost offering will give us the ability to protect an even greater number of consumers, especially in markets where the growth of new PC purchases is outpaced only by the growth of malware.”

Which doesn’t really explain why Morro apparently won’t simply be a new version of OneCare, or why free and fee versions can’t coexist. You’ve got to think that it’s in part a confession that OneCare hasn’t been terribly successful in the market place against its competition from McAfee, Symantec and others.

Over at CNET, Ina Fried says that the prospect of a freebie security suite from Microsoft “puts rivals such as McAfee and Symantec in a tough position.” I’m not so sure. The free Windows Defender anti-spyware utility that hails from Redmond doesn’t seem to have inflicted grave competitive damage on third-party security companies. Nor has the firewall that’s built into Windows Vista.

I have no data whatsoever to support this theory, but I sometimes wonder if Microsoft’s reputation for building insecure software lessens the likelihood that its customers will trust the security software it develops. Even if the worst days of Windows security nightmares are behind us, that doesn’t leave anyone with the perception that the name “Microsoft” is synonymous with “ironclad security.”

Anyhow, we don’t know anything about Morro yet other than what little Microsoft revealed today, but I hope it’s good and I’m glad it’s on its way. I don’t think consumers should have to pay to get some minimal level of PC security. And thanks to scourges such as botnets, unprotected PC users put not only themselves at risks but others too. If all Morrow does is meaningfully nudge down the percentage of computers in the world that are vulnerable to attack, it may do more for the world than OneCare ever did.


An Unblinking Look at User Access Control

I’ve just delved into a pretty exhaustive detailing of all that’s unsatisfactory about Windows Vista’s User Account Control (UAC), the security measure that’s famous for asking you if you want to perform the task you just said you wanted to perform. And the funny thing is, I did so at Engineering Windows 7, Microsoft’s official blog about the next version of its operating system.

The post is by Microsoft’s Ben Fathi, and while it’s understandably somewhat defensive about UAC–it says that it’s less obtrusive today than when Vista debuted, for instance–it also acknowledges that UAC is annoying and confusing, and that the tendency of many folks to click to allow actions without thinking about it impacts its ability to protect users against unauthorized actions.

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The Trouble(s) With Google Chrome’s Security

It’s been more than a month since Google Chrome first hit our desktops. The blogosphere is still pondering its features and performance, and making predictions about Google’s future in the browser business. But amidst all of the commentary about Google’s latest venture, very few have taken the time to examine the new browser’s security. Browser-based attacks in the form of phishing expeditions, cross-site scripting, plug-in exploits, and other techniques should give even the most tech savvy among us pause when considering which browser to make the workhorse of our daily online activities. A significant number of users have chosen Chrome–but the security measures Google has implemented in Chrome are subpar for a modern browser.

There are many simple steps that Chrome could take to further protect its users. To be fair, many of the complaints I have could also be directed at Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari, so I’ve decided to break things down into a feature-by-feature comparison.

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Die, Scareware, Die! Microsoft Takes on Windows Scammers

Maybe I’ve been living under a rock or something, but I never heard the term scareware until today. But without knowing the name, I’ve sure seen a lot of the stuff over the years–utilities that use questionable tactics such as fake error messages to lead you think you’ve got a computer problem in order to lure you into buying them. Then they do little or nothing that makes your PC any better–assuming that they don’t do anything that actively screws it up, intentionally or unintentionally.

Such products are a scourge for Windows users–I’m not sure, incidentally, whether there’s such a thing as Mac scareware–and they must be a headache for Microsoft, too, since they’re one of the barnacles that degrades the experience of using Windows.

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iPhone 3G Sluggishness: It’s the Network!

Until July, I used an AT&T Tilt 3G phone, and found that performance was often disappointing. Today, I own an Apple iPhone 3G, and find that performance is often disappointing. Coincidence? Nope!
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