Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How to avoid April 1st computer virus

April Fool Day is all about fun and jokes. However, obviousely, not all jokes are equally funny. The Conficker worm is not funny at all. Thanks to the wide Internet awareness, people all looking on the Web for explanations and recommendations to heal their computers. That is understandable that the worm related searches, like april 1 computer virus climed to the top of the Google Trends lists.

April Fool’s Day worm starts its countdown, security vendors are cautioning users that if they’ve implemented basic security on your home computer or network, they’ll be fine.

Others, however, face risk from a worm that’s spread rapidly and without a clear indication of its purpose, they told InternetNews.com. Its however clear that the Conficker worm, a nasty computer infection that has poisoned millions of PCs, will allow potentially using infected computers for cybercrimes, harming computer owners.

"It’s important for users to apply the known, basic, common-sense steps to protect themselves, even in light of increasing and increasingly sophisticated attacks," said Jenko Hwong, director of security products for security appliance vendor Mirapoint. "Conficker.C and April 1st won’t bring Armageddon."
For most users, that involves using up-do-date software and security tools.

"If you have a legal copy of Microsoft Windows, you have invested ... in antivirus software, or you pay your service provider for secured Internet access -- most likely you are safe," said Ron Meyran, product manager for security for application delivery and network security vendor Radware. "The same applies for enterprise networks: Your corporate policy should cover such cases."

Nevertheless, the worm has still managed to spread widely. David Perry, global director of education at antivirus firm Trend Micro, told Internetnews.com several months ago that he believes about 10 million PCs have been hit.

Many of the infected PCs are inadequately defended. "If you run an illegal copy of Windows, your antivirus (if any) is a freeware, you are a DSL or cable subscriber and you never disconnect -- then you are the ideal target for self propagating viruses such as Conficker," Radware’s Meyran said.

"And it will not be he first time your computer is recruited into a botnet, he said. "In fact, there is a good chance that you already host malware of more than one botnet."

Owners of many infected PCs won’t know they’re infected until April 1, added Trend Micro’s Perry. "It’s hard to spot Conficker’s work."

Experts don’t know what the worm will do on April 1, but they have some educated guesses. Tal Golan, founder and CTO of antispam appliance vendor Sendio, said that the worm will likely send out e-mail containing spam or malware, but that the e-mail will be a "smoke screen masking the real targets of the worm or virus."

All of the experts that InternetNews.com contacted agreed that Conficker’s spread shows that many organizations are not up to date on their patches: The worm exploits a well-known vulnerability, published by Microsoft on Oct. 23, 2008. Anyone who applied the necessary patches since then is safe.

Security experts urged users who suspect they’re infected to scan their PCs. Trend Micro’s Perry recommended using security software based in the cloud, such as his company’s Trend Micro Smart Protection Network for enterprise users. The company also offers a Web-based scanning service called House Call for home users.

Radware’s Meyran said that one sign you’re infected could be if some Windows system services have been disabled on your PC.

The worm might be visible to any user: "It connects to a remote server in order to receive further instructions such as gathering personal information and downloading additional malware to the victim’s computer. It also disables a number of system services such as Windows Automatic Update, Windows Security Center and Windows Defender -- all to prevent disinfection."

Note that the vulnerability hole was fixed in October 2008 by Microsoft, but if your computer doesn't get automatic updates from Microsoft and you have not performed them manually for a while, your computer could be affected.

Try to update all the Microsoft updates first. If you see that you cannot perform them automatically, your computer might be already affected by the worm, who prevented you from healing your PC. If so, you will need to apply the medicine manually. Visit Microsoft explanation website http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/security/dd452420.aspx and download Microsoft® Windows® Malicious Software Removal Tool (KB890830) on your Hard Drive. Run it and perform the Quick scan first. If at the first glance, you PC looks clean, ensure the fact by running full scan. Depending on how large your HDD, this scan might take from an hour to several hours. So be patient.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Celebrity look a like generator with no relation to Chris Brown

Celebrity look a like generator got to the top lines of the Google Trends searches today. It is always interesting to follow why the search string came to the public spotlight, and in this case it is related to Chris Brown court appearance. Link between Chris Brown and celebrities a look like can be found in the article in the People Magazine. But I will not develop and elaborate the post in that direction. I do not follow celebrities, and frankly I do not know who Chris Brown is, and why he got in some kind of mess.

So, let’s get back to the source and discuss online web2 celebrities’ look like utilities, the topic that is more interest me than all celebrities’ altogether. There are several celebrities look alike generators found on the Web, and I will present 3 of them:

My Heritage

I have presented this online utility about a year ago in the article Face Recognition Technology for Fun. My celebrity Look-alikes section presents just a small part of the services, provided by this site.

You need to register with the site first, than reject plainly all the offers they present, and only than you can get your collage. You can choose among several templates to present the pictures of celebrities you look like


Website: http://www.myheritage.com/celebrity-collage


Celebrity Matchup by Picitup is easier and faster to work with. You upload the image, choose gender and wait for quick face recognition and match. In my case, there was just single photo that matched my pic. Output can be sent to a friend or embedded as a widget onto your page or blog post. If you use FireFox as your browser, you can install special plug-in to be able to use the site operational capabilities from within the browser.

Website: http://www.picitup.com/picitup/match_start.jsp


This site is mostly focused on matchmaking, but also provides the ability to match to the known celebrities. The site is rough, some functions were not translated correctly, and they did not accept for some reasons my photo (the same one that was accepted by other sites). You can try, may be you will have a better luck.

Website: http://www.face2match.com/en/MatchCelebrity