Simple steps to protect your smart home from being hacked

The Internet of Things (IOT) has brought about a lot of ease and comfort to humanity as we know it. Homes are now being equipped with little-computerized devices that help simplify processes, examples of these devices are cameras, automatic air condition regulators, sprinkler systems, sensors and alarm systems, and need I say more. These devices come equipped with tiny computers and everyday research is going into making more of them that would ease up processes even more. The tiny computers in these devices are used in performing complex processes within the system and also in connecting the device to a network. The bitter truth some smart devices owners do not know is that these devices just like mobile devices and computers are also susceptible to the security risks that may be found on the internet. Even worse, these devices have little or no firewall to help block cyber-attacks due to their small size.

Since these devices are the closest things to individuals, a strong and secure structure is more than necessary to help protect the individual privacy. There is no limit to the harm that could be done to an individual or a system if any of these devices is hacked. And so to build a stronger security around these devices one should ensure that the following methods are put in place:

  1. Ensure devices and software are regularly updated:

Manufacturers of devices and software usually research additional methods for better security and bug fixes on their products, even long after releasing the products. So also hackers and other cyber criminals research methods to leverage on the vulnerability of the products after they are released. The update is a method used by the manufacturers to stay a step ahead of the hackers, in that as the hacker is finding loopholes in the current software, the manufacturers have found a way to create a more secure version of the software in a new release. And so it becomes increasingly difficult for the hacker to keep up, in turn leading to more security for devices running the latest software.

 

  1. Change default passwords:

The reason you change the default password of your home Wi-Fi is to prevent people that could have an idea of the password from connecting, right? So also, you should change the default password of the devices used in your smart home. The default password is usually the first guess anyone looking to infiltrate your home would take before looking into other complex options to gain access.

 

  1. Get a bit defender box:

A bit defender box is a device that is attached to your router and helps to create a firewall and provide antivirus capabilities for the devices connected to your network. On first connection, the box would scan the entire network and take records of the devices connected for monitoring and protection. It takes records of these devices continuously even when new devices are added. The box protects your other devices in real time by intercepting suspicious packets data coming in and out of the network.

Even if you are not home, you can still make use of the security of the box by connecting to it via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) wherever you may be. Once you are connected through the VPN, all the data traffic from your computer to the internet would be rerouted to the box which would scan and intercept suspicious packets of data just as it would do in your home.

It is also possible that a device on your home network may already be infected with a virus, bit defender box monitors every device and isolates anyone with suspicious behavior from the others. This is done in other to protect the other uninfected devices.

 

  1. Disable plug and play features:

Universal plug and play are usually found enabled by default on devices that connect to the device. This is feature is a potential risk to the network’s security, in that it would give way for malicious software into the network. And so, the first thing to do when such devices are acquired is turned the feature off.

  1. You do not have to connect all devices in the home to the internet. The more devices you have connected to the internet in your home, the more you place yourself at risk.

Now if you are do not have any Internet of Things (IOT) device installed in your home yet, but you are looking into installing them soon there are a few things you need to take note of to guard against potential risks.

 

  1. The cheap ones are the riskiest

Some devices may be larger than your budget, it is better to save up for them other than settling for the cheaper similar alternative available. This is because the price tag on the devices is proportional to the features available on them, a cheap device may not have has much security features as the expensive one. And so for the best possible quality that you most definitely need, the best camera in the market is always the right choice. Although as you would expect, the best comes at a cost.

  1. Prepare for an attack early enough

There’s a saying that goes thus,” A battle long foretold never hurts the lame “. Upon getting to this part of the article, I am sure you have realized the security risk involved with IOT devices. Hence, the smart choice is to build security structures while you build your smart home. Build structures like you would if you were told that there would be an attack on your devices tomorrow. It is better to be safe than sorry.

  1. Build a network framework that would make two separate networks for your IOT devices and your mobile devices and computers. This is because due to the low level of security these devices possess, hacking into them would be relatively easy compared to the computers. And so hackers can leverage on these and use it in having access to your personal computers that are connected on the same network. Access to your personal computers would give them access to your personal folders and documents, which when handled by the wrong hands could have really dangerous consequences.

 

 

In conclusion, it is important for you to be security conscious when adding gadgets to your house that would make use of your home network. As you would not let a maid with questionable character work unsupervised in your home, so also should you not allow usage of these IOT devices in your house without having the right security software and hardware to supervise activities.

 


How to protect yourself from keyloggers

The Nordea Group, a major Scandinavian bank reported an occurrence recently where over $ 1 million was stolen from the accounts of its clients. This was as a result of a mail sent to clients containing a malicious software, the body of the mail advised the customers to install the antispam software attached to the mail. A lot of customers fell for this wrong information and downloaded the software which later infected their computer with a Trojan virus called Haxdoor. Whenever the client visits the Nordea website to perform a transaction, the Trojan would pop up a window prompting the user to type in their personal details again. The user’s personal details would then be transferred to the author of the virus. This is made possible because of the keylogger embedded in the Trojan. According to Kaspersky, a Trojan is a malware that disguises itself as a legitimate software. The keylogger took records of the interactions between the client and the bank’s website, these records were then sent back to the manufacturer of the Trojan who would later make use of the records for criminal activities.

What is a keylogger?

A keylogger is a software that takes records of keystrokes on a computer and saves these records in a Log file. Sensitive information such as e-mails, passwords, documents, basically anything you type with a physical keyboard are stored in the Log file. A keylogger is mostly used by hackers in acquiring private and sensitive information from users by saving the information acquired in the Log file and sending it to the author of the malware.

How to protect yourself

The internet exposes people to security threats every day, hackers are in constant search of means to retrieve private information from internet users. Sadly, most people are unaware of the risk they face and so they click on and download anything they see on the internet. You can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your privacy on the internet. And so in that light, I will be sharing a few tips you can put together to protect your own interest below.

  1. Be mindful of what you download over the internet

Hackers majorly use downloadable packages in delivering malicious software into your computer. They may package this software as an attachment in an e-mail that appear trustworthy. The most common method used is an E-mail from your bank, like the example stated in the first paragraph of this article, the hacker would send an email in the name of your bank requesting you to perform an action (Download an antispam software, as in the case of the Nordea group), please do not take action on such e-mails until you have confirmed from your bank that it is genuine. Avoid downloading software from unprotected/unverified sources like torrent sites.

  1. Be mindful of the type of sites you visit

 

A malicious program may automatically be launched when an unsuspecting user visits a site that has been infected with the malicious software. Once you begin to doubt the soundness of a website, close it immediately.

 

  1. Be mindful of the public Wi-Fi network you connect to

Hackers can gain access to your personal folders while you are connected to the network. Due to the access they have to your folders, they can copy your personal documents out and even copy a malicious software into your computer without you been aware. For security purposes it is recommended to use a personal modem to connect to the internet.

  1. Install the complete version of an antivirus and ensure the keylogger detection feature is always on.
  2. Use a virtual keyboard to enter sensitive information on websites instead of typing on the physical keyboard, this is because the keylogger does not have access to the information entered on a virtual keyboard. An example of the virtual keyboard is the on screen keyboard that comes inbuilt in every Microsoft Windows computer in

Start – Programs – Windows Ease of Access – On Screen Keyboard.

  1. Follow the security advice given by your financial institutions closely to prevent the avoidable criminal occurrence in your account.

Building strong structures for your computer on the internet would help protect your privacy and other interest. If you think there is nothing important to protect on your computer, then you have no idea what the little information can do in the wrong hands.


How to protect all your devices from malware

Our internet enabled mobile devices has formed an important aspect of our life, in that virtually all the process we undertake today have an electrical/electronic device controlling an aspect. We listen to our favorite music on iPods, MP3 players, phones all devices that have access to the internet. Our mobile phones have slowly become our favorite companions as we enjoy every moment of it interacting with family and loved ones all across the globe over social media. A huge part of work and social media has been made simpler through the use of computers. Unlike in the old days where we use to file the huge stack of papers in large cabinets, today we save millions of files and documents on the hard drives of servers and personal computers. Instead of driving some kilometers to the post office to send a mail across borders that would be received at the other end in a matter of days, if not months, today we send messages easily instantly via the internet connection.

The amount of ease provided by the computer and mobile devices cannot be overemphasized, but just as every other thing in life, whatever has an advantage would also have a disadvantage. Never in history has any process put up as much security risk as the internet does today. Lack of a proper security structure guarding this device would put you and your device at risk. Cyber criminals have multiple methods of accessing unsecured device over the internet even without the device owner knowing. There are a lot of things these cyber criminals can do with access to your device, some of which are:

  1. Access to your personal and business emails.
  2. Access to your private information such as credit card information, social security number, usernames and passwords, contacts.
  3. Cybercriminals can keep track of your location in real time with access to your device.
  4. A malware placed by hackers on your phone may lead to damage or misbehavior of your device. It could even brick your device.

When it comes to what cybercriminals can make out of infecting your device with malicious software, the possibilities are endless. And so it is more than imperative to ensure that these devices are fully secured to enjoy the quality and reliable services the device has to offer.

Below are structures and actions one needs to put in place to ensure adequate security of mobile device and computers to help foster privacy on the internet:

  1. Ensure software, media files and documents are downloaded from legitimate and trusted sources. Downloading and installing the cracked version of paid applications would place your device at the risk of malicious software. Hackers usually use these legitimate applications to transport Trojans that are very harmful to your computers. And so as you install and grant the downloaded application access to the resources present on your computer so also are you granting the malicious software access to your computer resources. Devices running on the Android, IOS, Nokia and Windows OS have application stores where genuine developers post both free and paid applications for you to download.
  2. Doubt everything you find on the internet: Cyber criminals know that some internet users are not savvy enough to differentiate between genuine and fake sites. And so they leverage on this weakness to build websites that would act as a clone to the original websites. Whatever action one takes on such website exposes the individual to security risks. And so whenever you are on a website that does not look genuine, please waste no more time on it, close it and try other websites. Before sharing personal information on any website, always look out for whether what comes before the link of the website is HTTP/HTTPS. If it is on HTTP and you are on a login page or a page requiring you to type in your personal information, please close the site and avoid further interaction with the website. This is because the HTTPS certificate is given to only trust websites on the internet to help ensure your personal information is not intercepted over the internet.
  3. Download an antimalware and antivirus software: This would help protect your device from attacks and also help get rid of attacks already on the system. By scanning through the many files on your device one after the other, the software would detect the suspicious software in real time.
  4. Keep device operating system, antivirus software, browser software and antimalware software up to date at all times: Cybercriminals spend a lot of time trying to find loop holes in the security of new software updates so they can leverage on the vulnerabilities to build more malicious software to cause more harm to the user. Likewise, so also are the software developers also running various tests and researching loopholes to boost the security of their software, once they find vulnerabilities in the software, they take immediate action in curbing it. Once the vulnerabilities of the old software have been discovered and tackled, the software company would, therefore, release the new software to the consumer as an update. Whenever you update your computer, you are most likely downloading a more secure, less vulnerable version of the software. Shortly after the new version is released, hackers would begin working on the loopholes of the version and so the cycle continues. Hence, the need to constantly update your computer.
  5. Use security hardware like Bit defender box to protect devices connected to your network: The box is connected to the router and so it monitors incoming and outgoing traffic in the network. Whenever a new device is connected it takes notes and also monitors every data packets entering leaving each device. The box acts as a firewall and an antivirus, a firewall in the sense that it does not allow suspicious packet of data into the network and as an antivirus in the sense that when a device is misbehaving and sending out unusual packets of data, the box would isolate the device in the network preventing it from infecting the other devices connected to the network.

It is essential for your own privacy to be security savvy, hence take note of the tips given above and follow them diligently in order to stay safe in the risky environment of the internet.


Fake anti-spyware programs: are you at the risk

One cannot ignore the activities of a malicious software on a computer. Malicious software can slow down processes, making life uneasy for the operator of the computer. Not only does the presence of a malicious software inconveniences your work, it also makes you lose trust in your computer in that it is not wise to put in sensitive information into an already infected computer. Other redundancies that may come with the presence of an infected computer are the loss of data, irregular activities of browser and other software could lead to time wasted, and so a malicious software could eventually brick (damage beyond repair) your computer.

Hence, it is imperative to get antimalware that would help protect your computer. Antimalware are created to help a computer owner to protect the computer from computer health risk. A good antimalware should monitor your device continuously 24/7 against security attacks that can be found on the internet. This software should in no way have an adverse effect on the security of the computer, instead, it should always be a guard against threats and viruses. But today, cybercriminals have found a way to make clones of genuine anti-malware and uploaded them to the internet for the consumption of the general public. Sometimes it may not be cloned, some cyber criminals may even develop an antivirus that looks genuine that would produce their desired results.

What results would a hacker want from creating a fake antivirus?

  1. Ignorance:

The hackers know that most people would not bother to routinely check the security status of their computer after downloading and installing an antivirus. The popular belief of antimalware consumers is that they are completely covered by the software and so they need not worry. Hence, the cybercriminal would leverage on the school of thought and ensure the antivirus appears to be running in the background, even give notifications if it may, but the other side that the user is ignorant of is that the software downloaded is actually reporting every activity you perform on your computer to its develop.

  1. Trust:

Some consumers trust in the antivirus software so much that whatever recommendation the software gives to help protect their computer, they are willing to follow. Even if it is to pay to download another software. Knowing this, hackers use the antivirus software to get private information from the unsuspecting victim by putting up a notification through the antivirus software and recommending a “Best solution” that would involve purchasing another software. Once the victim agrees to this solution and enters his credit card details, the information gotten would be saved on the hacker’s database, leaving the victim at his mercy.

  1. Entry:

The best way to gain entry into a private computer is by installing a software that has a Trojan horse virus embedded in it. A Trojan horse virus is one that looks like a legitimate software on the surface but its true intent is to mislead individuals into downloading a virus into their computer. The term Trojan is derived from the Ancient Greek account of the invasion of the city of Troy by stealth, where the Greek gave the people of troy a piece offering of a wooden horse that had soldiers hidden within it. When the soldiers of troy slept, the soldiers in the wooden horse came out and killed every single one of the Troy men. This method is an easier way of hacking into a computer even when the victim is not on the same network as you are. That is why it is the choice of cyber criminals.

How do I stay safe?

It is getting increasingly difficult to differentiate between the original genuine antispyware and the fake infected ones. Especially if you are one who is looking to download the free versions of the software on the internet. Knowing this I have been able to compile a list of the fake antispyware found on the internet, there is still more fake software that could be found the internet, the list below shows the few I have had contact recently:

 

  • Anti-virus Security Pro
  • Adware Hitman
  • Adware Pro
  • AdWare Pro 2009
  • AntiMalware Suite
  • AntiWorm2008
  • Core security
  • Easy spyware cleaner
  • Essential cleaner
  • PAL Spyware Remover
  • Spy Sheriff
  • World AntiSpy

The best way to protect yourself from this malicious software that acts as spyware is to avoid downloading from unverified websites. Even the genuine software can be cloned for the use of a cyber criminal, hence the best website to download any software is from the manufacturer website itself. You can stay rest assured that your software would not do your computer harm.

 

 


How to remove Windows Virtual Firewall

Malicious software as we know it has taken a new turn, in that they are looking more genuine these days than ever before. They put up user interface and impressions that look so convincing that user would think the instructions gotten are genuine and should be followed as soon as possible. An example is the Windows Virtual Firewall. Just like every other malicious software, the windows virtual firewall leverages on the security vulnerabilities of your browser to get into your computer. Once it gets into your computer, the software installs itself and puts up an interface that pretends to be scanning for malicious software. At the end of the scan, the malicious software shows security vulnerabilities in the computer and also persuade the user into buying a software to reduce the risk. Any attempt to purchase the software recommended by the Windows Virtual Firewall software would only give hackers and cyber criminals access to your private information like your Credit Card number.

How does your computer get infected with windows virtual firewall?

  1. A recommendation to download the software may be posted on fake antispyware websites: Not every website on the internet can be trusted, some websites are used for deceiving the user into downloading malicious software and also stealing private information.
  2. The windows virtual firewall malicious software may come along with a cracked software or any software downloaded from an unverified site as a Trojan. Trojans are software that appears legitimate but are harmful to the security of your computer.
  3. Through pop-up adverts that automatically redirect you to a website and download a software regardless of whatever you click on, even if you click the “close” button.
  4. Through the security vulnerabilities of your browser, the malicious software can get into your computer through the loopholes in the browser security.

How do you know if your computer is infected?

It is easy to know when your system is infected with the Windows Virtual Firewall malware, simply watch out for this symptoms:

  1. A window opens constantly to warn you about the security vulnerabilities of your computer and the solution is to pay for an Upgrade of the Software or To purchase another software to handle the malware found.
  2. The malware would hijack your browser and change the settings, restricting you to a particular homepage, search engine and also restricting the websites you can visit.
  3. The software would also make an attempt to change the look of your computer’s desktop screen.

How do you prevent your computer from being infected?

Security structures can never be over emphasized when it comes to protecting your devices from the internet. Building a strong structure is very important. The following actions should be put in place to prevent your computer from being infected with Windows Virtual Firewall and other malicious software:

  1. Get an antimalware and antivirus that would monitor your computer all day. I usually recommend the Norton 360 package, this software comes with a full internet security structure, an antivirus, and an antimalware. The software package would scan your websites, links and attachments in emails and notify you if it is safe to interact with them. This is necessary because, as said earlier malicious software are looking more genuine.
  2. Do not download files and software from untrusted sources.
  3. Download only trusted antimalware, antispyware and antivirus software only. Especially those with good reviews do not convince by the pop-up ads that show on your windows screen

How do you handle a Windows Virtual Firewall infection??

The good news is that the Windows Virtual Firewall can be completely eliminated from your computer. To do so, simply follow these steps:

  1. Use the Norton antivirus recommended above to scan your computer for a virus, malware, and spyware. Once the scan is completed, the Windows Virtual Firewall file would most likely be found in the result of security threats. Proceed by instructing the antivirus to delete the threats completely from the computer.
  2. The second method of removing the Windows Virtual Firewall malware from your computer is by doing so manually. To delete the malware manually follow these steps:

Step 1: Delete the root file by:

  1. Press CTRL-ALT-DEL together
  2. Open Task Manager

iii.    Click on “More Details”

  1. Scroll down the processes till you find these “Protector-[RANDOM CHARACTERS]” process
  2. Right click and open file location
  3. Go back and delete the entire folder

The internet is a risky environment for the less security savvy individuals, protect yourself today by studying more on preventive methods of protecting your computer.


Browser hijacker: removal and prevention

Imagine you get back to your home one day from work, only to meet your living room arranged in a way different from how you left it that morning. The color of the wall is different, your chairs are different, even your TV is different. It does not just end there, you decide to ignore the changes for the time being and relax to your favorite TV show as you are too tired to think. And as the TV comes on you realize it is tuned into a channel you have never seen, and every attempt you put into changing the channel only returns you back to the strange channel. What in the world happened in my absence you start to wonder.

A browser hijack is completely similar to that scenario, the hijacking software completely changes the default settings of your browser, including home page, default search engine, and it even opens pages abruptly without you consenting to it. It gets really annoying as you would find it difficult to focus on your work as multiple tabs and windows keep opening and you just have to close them one after the other. The pages that open up vary and are not related to any central theme in specific. My browser was once hijacked and the type of pages were pages with offers, E – commerce websites and some pop up “Click here for…” kind of adverts.

Why would a hacker hijack my browser you may be wondering, well for one thing having control over your browser exposes your activities to the hacker. If the hijack comes with a keylogger, your interactions with websites would be recorded too, and these could pose a security threat. Another reason the hijacker would want to take over your browser is to rack up impressions on the websites that open abruptly. Impressions serve as a means advertisers and advertising companies use to judge the effectiveness of any website, a site with high impressions imply that there is something interesting on the pages that attracts people, and so advertising company would pay top dollar to place ads on such sites. In order to make money off the website, the hacker would force the website to open on your browser, the opening of the website on your browser would increase the impression counter by one. Another reason is to have records of user search queries, the hijack would change the default search engine to something different. Whenever a search query is entered into this search engine, it is recorded and saved in a database, the result that shows is based on what the hackers want you to see.

In all a browser hijack is the worse threat to your privacy on the internet. Even if you have more than one browser on your computer, if one is infected chances are so also are the other browsers. And so it is imperative we talk about the structures you can put in place to prevent these threats and if you are already infected we would get to methods of removing the hack immediately after.

How to Prevent a Browser Hijack:

  1. Get an Internet Security software:

A good internet security software would help scan your computer in real time in order to avoid threats that may harm your system. The Norton internet security software would even go as far as letting you know how safe or unsafe the page you are about to visit is. It also helps scan attachments in the emails before downloading. You may not be 100% security conscious on the internet, but having a good internet security software running on your end would surely go a long way keeping your privacy.

  1. Suspect everything you see on the internet:

There are so many flashy good deals / interesting things that appear on the internet. One may be tempted to keep clicking on these links at first sight. But what only a few people know is there may be an adverse consequence to such actions. Some free downloaded software comes with spyware and when you decide to install the software, you, in turn, install the malware that comes with.

  1. Read between the lines of End User License Agreements of software before downloading:

Some software has it included in the text of the EULA that downloading the software would also download an additional software that would make adjustments to your browser settings. If the source is not genuine, please do not agree to such downloads.

  1. Keep your browser software up to date at all times:

Browser software companies research how best to update the security settings of the browser. And so, every new update comes with an increased security than the previous version.

 

If your computer is already infected with the Malware, protecting your privacy and removing the malware should be your next line of action.

How to remove a Browser Hijack virus:

  1. Download an antivirus that would scan your entire system and detect any type of Malware. If you already have one that works for you, update the software and scan the entire system all over again.
  2. Disable any add-on or extension that may seem strange in your browser. Depending on your browser, follow this steps to do so:

For Mozilla:

Step 1: Open Mozilla

Step 2: Open the Menu

Step 3: Select add on

Step 4: look out for suspicious add-ons or extension and disable them.

Step 5: Reset your homepage and browser back to default.

For Chrome:

Step 1: Click on the customize chrome button located on the upper right of the chrome window

Step 2:  Click on extensions, this can be found above settings on the left of the screen.

Step 3: look out for suspicious add-ons or extension and disable them.

  1. Download any antimalware software that has a lot of positive reviews, keeping in mind the advice stated earlier before downloading over the internet.

The browser hijack virus may look harmless on the surface, but just like every other Malware, what happens on the surface is nothing compared to what is going on underneath. Protect yourself today, be proactive when it comes to your computer security.