Category: PC Tips

Solving Security Dilemmas

July 2nd, 2016

It’s interesting to look back on the history of computer viruses as they relate to computers themselves.  The early computer viruses were very interesting and simplistic, however they were a major scourge right away.  Malicious code run rogue.  In an attempt to understand the past history of computer viruses we like to look at different articles discussing the viruses as they were created.

People didn’t know that they had to rely on antivirus and antimalware software – that software was still new.  Things like spyware didn’t even exist, it wasn’t until later that this type of software came into fruition.

However it’s interesting to look at the history of how the fight against computer viruses went down.

It takes only until page 15 for the authors to question the ability of the existing computer security establishment to deal with viruses. They make it easy, in the text that follows, to infer that preventing or curing most computer viruses requires the help of a professional Virus Buster–one from the Computer Virus Industry Association, perhaps. In the chapter on virus prevention products, the authors protest at least enough that they hesitated to include a review of McAfee’s own product. In the end, they tell us, they decided to publish the “impartial assessment” of a member of the National Bulletin Board Society (which McAfee founded).

The book contains some genuinely interesting information. Its two-page checklist of antiviral practices, for example, is complete and concise. But the effect of the useful material is frequently spoiled, not just by the occasional trace of biased reporting, but by an irritating repetitious style of writing and a wide variety of apparent errors, contradictions, and paradoxes. Among these:

* In chapter three, a diagram and associated tect clearly imply that computer viruses can be spread through the sharing of data files, and that a microcomputer virus can spread to a mainframe and damage data stored there. This error will annoy those who know better, and will confuse others when, later in the book, the authors state correctly that neither of these things can happen.

* The worm that was released upon the TCP/IP Internet in November 1988 (as we are told three times in three pages, each time as if it were the first) is consistently referred to as the “InterNet virus.” The incorrect internal capital could have been avoided by checking the literature. And while there is ample room for disagreement about the proper biological analogy for any computer disease, the computing establishment had agreed six months before this book went to press that the November Internet infection was not a virus, but a worm. The authors may have known this and disagreed, but if so they made no case of their own.

McAfee and Haynes express a surprising attitude toward computer “hackers,” devotees of computing often characterized as obsessive. They draw a distinction between benign hackers, stalwarts of modern computer programming, and those whose motives are more malignant and who produce most of the world’s computer viruses. This much makes sense. The malignant type, who “regard [McAfee] as a worthy adversary,” are cited as frequenting computer bulletin boards, boasting of their latest intrusions into supposedly secure systems. It is these same bulletin boards, we are told, that are the source of many virulent, contagious strains of virus. Readers are clearly warned to keep their computers isolated from hackers, and to expect infection should they run any program found on a bulletin board. Eight pages after this warning comes the surprise. McAfee’s own software company, we are told, contracts with programmers, sight-unseen, over computer bulletin boards, and incorporates their code into its own commercial software products. This speaks well of McAfee’s regard for his own ability to detect viruses and, perhaps, to judge character electronically. It doesn’t say much for his heeding his own advice.

Despite promises early in the book that it is not written for those with deep technical skills, the 20 pages of chapter nine (ten percent of the text between prologue and appendix) consist mostly of commented assembly code, representing portions of two computer viruses. Without deep technical skills, the reader will get absolutely nothing from this chapter. The authors insist that these programs have been altered so as not to function as written. Still, the wisdom of providing samples of virus code to anyone is questionable.

The subtitle promises that the book will tell the reader how to defend a “PC, Mac, or mainframe” against viruses, etc. But the discussion of virus mechanics and the chapter on protection products deal almost exclusively with IBM PCs and clones running the MS-DOS operating system. A single Macintosh protection product gets less than a page, and mainframe protection products are omitted entirely.

In most matters, the tone of this book is authoritative. Facts and figures are stated freely. But the authoritative tone is hollow. Of twenty-three references to books, periodicals, and other documents, only four citations include author, title, date, and publisher. The rest contain less information. Nary a one includes page numbers. The majority of factual information is not referenced at all. Chapter two contains an “analysis” of costs of the Internet worm. It provides a full page of figures, and cites a total cost to the computing community of $98,253,260. (Note that the cost is calculated to the nearest $10.) Not a reference is cited, nor is a method of estimation. Criticism on this score, at least, is not new to McAfee. Deloitte Haskins & Sells, in mid-1989, published Computer Viruses, the proceedings of their October 1988 symposium on the topic. In it (page 20) Donn B. Parker of SRI International states: “The Computer Virus Industry Association estimates (without any supporting facts) that more than 250,000 microcomputer users have had their microcomputer memories wiped out by variations of the ‘Pakistani Brain’ virus alone.””

Sheehan, Mark. “Computer Viruses, Worms, Data Diddlers, Killer Programs, and Other Threats to Your System: What They Are, How They Work, and How to Defend Your PC, Mac, or Mainframe.” Online Jan. 1990: 76+

Dealing With PC Data Loss

May 5th, 2015

slowcomputerData is extremely important and valuable, and losing it can be a catastrophe.  Case in point: when Windows gets damaged or corrupted by a virus or malware infection and is rendered useless.  When you can’t even use Windows in order to get your data off the computer in the first place.  Something like this happened to me and I was kicking myself that I didn’t have a backup or restore image on hand.  Most people don’t – you really have to be OCD about doing backups, and let’s face it: most of us are not.  We’re lazy!

So what can be done?  Well, there’s always the fresh installation – wipe out Windows and reinstall the operating system and start from scratch.  While this is an attractive option because you get to start with a lightning fast installation, it’s sometimes not an option at all because you can’t delete your data that you still have on the computer hard drives.

In this case you could take your computer to an expert and have them extract the data or try to help fix the operating system.  But sometimes this is just not an option either due to time constraints or simply cost – it can cost a lot of money to bring your PC into a tech.

So what else can you do?  Well, there is the option of using Reimage PC Repair, a proprietary and extremely helpful software tool that can help you to repair a Windows installation on the fly.  This is extremely helpful when you have no options left.  I’ve used this program before when I was boxed into this corner, and it was a savior.  I was able to repair Windows and finish my project without losing all my data.  In terms of saving the day this program is ace.

It’s been well reviewed by a lot of online publications.  It’s unfortunate that many websites are calling Reimage malware and I can’t understand that – it’s a legitimate program.  Sure you have to pay for it, but I’m sorry Joe not everything in life is free.  They give you a free download of the software so you can scan your system, but if you want to do the repairs yes I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings but you have to pay for the software.

Other than Reimage there are not that many computer programs out there that can really help you with this sort of problem.  Reimage won’t help you with specific third party software, however, or fix your broken hard drive if it’s physically busted.  But Reimage will repair broken and corrupted Windows system files and get your computer back up and running.  It certainly helped me and it can definitely help you too.  I suggest trying to download it to see if it works and to see if it can detect the particular problems that you’re having.

Remember to back up your files, folks and until next time I hope you have a great computer day :) Adios amigos!