Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ransomware 101

As a computer technician, ransomware is one thing that I get asked about often, and encounter occasionally. It's probably one of the biggest threats to user data today, as it can effect all sorts of devices, including IoT devices and smartphones. Not only is it a nuisance, it's downright destructive to user data.

The ransomware trend started because of a big shift in the goals of cybercrime. When viruses and malware first started, they were for recognition and causing destruction. Nowadays malware producers and their products live to make financial gains from their victims directly. This can either be by obtaining information to drain victims bank accounts, or locking them out of their computer and/or their files and waiting for them to pay the ransom (hence ransomware).

Since ransomware is somewhat targeted, here are some attack surfaces that the ransomware typically takes:


  1. Email Attachments: This is by far the most popular. The majority of the time I see a ransomware victim, they've received an email from what seems to be a shipping label from a reputable shipping company, but it is a spoofed email. A trained eye can easily tell because shipping labels usually come in PDF format (with a ".pdf" at the end of a file). The malware payload typically comes in a ZIP, EXE, or JS format (".zip," ".exe," ".js" in order)
  2. Social Media requests and files: This attack typically starts with someone sending a request to an employee within a target company, and asking them to proofread a file. The file may have an alternate datastream and a macro to execute it.
  3. Advertising Networks: Some strains of ransomware have been spread on various advertising networks. Some advertising networks don't filter advertisers as well as they should, so advertising has become a big driver for all sorts of cybercrime lately.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Better Business Bureau

When I was in school and in college, I respected the Better Business Bureau; a lot. From their advice articles to how they help dispute issues between customers and businesses. I always wondered why some local business owners did not like them. Until I opened a business of my own.

About May 2012 I decided to open my own business. I was going through an 11 week business course later that summer. I had received a call from the Better Business Bureau wondering if I wanted to have my relatively new business accredited. "Sure." I said expecting some sort of honesty test or some way of proving my credentials.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Why I continue to use adblockers.

Despite great backlash from content providers and news sites alike, I still continue to use adblocking software when I browse the web and often advocate other users to use adblocking as well. The primary reason is security, I'm not trying to cut anyone out of profit but until ad networks start vetting their paying advertisers, it's almost necessary to run an adblocker.

For instance, sometimes when you go to a website to download a file or program, even on reputable websites, the kind of ads their network runs will contain a link, or image of a button that say's "Download now." And the only way to tell which ones are advertisements and the one that's real, is the fine text that says "advertisement." Most of the time the ad directs them to a near, or blatantly malicious site.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Cisco Console in a Bind: Make your own console cable

Well, not technically a Cisco device but one that uses the same pin layout as a Cisco device. A few days ago I had a Ubiquiti Edgerouter Lite go bad, and had to poke around with it using its console port. Problem was I didn't have any Cisco console cables laying around. So I ended up making my own, using a DB-9 serial cable and an RJ-45 cable.

I was looking up some guides online on how to make the cable, and had to try two or three different pinouts to find one that worked. The one that worked, from left to right conductors upwards was; purple, green, brown, black, red, orange, and finally blue. Yellow was left out.
Final pinout: Purple, green, brown, black, red, orange, and blue