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   Answer? Because it's trying to run all the spyware you inadvertently loaded into it and it can't do that and what you want it to do too! How can that be, you ask...? Read on..

 By Bob Norson
In many ways the cruising community is an exceptionally ripe target for the computer invaders. Because of the advances in navigation associated with computer use and the increasing shipboard communication access, boaties are investing in lap tops at a rate of knots. But the typical age of the fleet means most of us are analogue spirits in a digital word. We tend to be playing with toys we barely understand and are way too trusting. The following is a report of my personal battle with the computer crims and how I've managed to protect my information and the personal information intrusted to The Coastal Passage. I have no formal computer training and some of the information below is my conjecture based on observation and tested by experimentation. This is not a step by step guide on how to secure any computer but if the following is used to come to an understanding of how the computer business operates then you may formulate much of the following into your plan of defence. You can't enjoy TCP or Good Old Boat web sites if your computer is trashed!

 Nothing is Free on the web! Well, very little anyway. The TCP web site is one of the very few anymore. The web started out with a reputation for free ideas and information and that notion has stuck beyond it’s use. Think about it though. You hear that companies like Google are rolling in $$$ and yet their search engine is “free”. According to one source, Cnet, of the $66 million dollars that Mozilla corporations made in 2006 (owners of the popular browser “FireFox”), $56 million came from Google. That is how much it was worth to Google to embed their search bar into the browser to direct your searches and track your activity. Some charge that Google is not free in any sense. Have you tried to get to www.google.com, the American site? Try it, bet you can’t do it. It will say you can, it will even supply a button to do it but more than likely when you select it, it will go right back to www.google.com.au. (This is for Australian users) Just like China, you are not privy to whatever the rest of the world see’s. Search results appear to be tailored to the desire of the clients who bid the most.. whoever that might be. A letter was sent from TCP twice to Google in California asking if it was true that Google suppressed or enhanced normal search results for money in Australia and if the Australian government was a client. They declined comment. A search engine can make money from presenting you to the highest bidder, by suppressing targeted sites, and from collecting your every move whilst using their program, to name just a few.
A group in Germany (University of Hannover) started their own search engine. It is called MetaGer (www.metager.de/i/) and is very basic but harmless as far as we know.
Every web site has the ability to know your individual IP address if they want to. That means they can know where and who you are, full stop. A search engine knows your computer and it’s location, what you look at and saves that information. If they wish they can sell your “private” information to anyone willing to pay.

Nothing may be more costly than a FREE program.

If in doubt...DON'T! The description given to you about a program may be little to do with what it really does, after all, you wouldn’t do it if you knew it was spyware. You may think it was a neat little photo gallery system... well that too, but it’s main job may be to infiltrate your computer and provide a permanent portal into it that activates every time you go to the net. Notice that your computer is running slower than it should? Then chances are you already have someone else’s program running on your computer. Once that program is installed the owner may collect your data or sell access to your computer to anyone. And just because it comes from a big business name means nothing. How come the disc of photos from the biggest name photo business insists on installing it's program in spite of the fact permission is refused? And every operating system has a perfectly good photo viewer? Spyware. If you suspect a problem on a windows computer, while it is running slow for example, press the keys, ctlr, alt and delete. A screen will pop up. Click "applications" and it should tell you any program currently running. However.. much of the really malignant stuff is running in the background and can only be seen on the "Processes" page of your task manager. There are programs that will identify the source of those items and give you the option of deleting them but we haven't researched enough yet to recomend a particular program for this.

Updates... especially “critical” updates... 98% Bullshit! Some vendors purposely sell their programs with defects so that you are required to install an update early on to fix it. This ruse allows the vendor to know the computer that the licensed program is installed on and prevents multiple and unauthorised use. Some vendors do improve or respond to a particular threat and provide a download via their web site. These improvements will be available for you to install voluntarily but rarely is there a need to update automatically and daily is absurd. Everybody wants to get in on that action. TCP bought a cheap printer for printing out emails at a cost of $55. The program that came with it was desperate to have me allow “automatic updates”. The sales value of the access was probably worth more to the company than the profit in the hardware. When you allow an “update” you are opening a portal into your computer.

"How come the cheaper memory sticks have a program on them and the dearer ones don't?" Good question... think about it. TCP does not use the cheaper"U3" sticks.

Anti-virus software.. 95% bullshit! Paying to have "Norton Anit-virus" put in your computer is like tipping a mugger. One persons spyware is another persons anti-virus program. For purposes of this discussion lets define spyware or virus as a program that shows any of these three traits, 1, the official description of it’s function as supplied by the source of the program is incomplete or deceptive. 2, the program may install itself without direct and clear invitation to do so. 3, Once installed will not allow complete uninstall by normal means, ie,”add, remove” programs file. Many of these so-called anti-virus programs are spyware with just enough stated function to provide legal cover. The worst computer damage I have seen that I could attribute to a particular piece of software was from one of those $40 antivirus things that people will buy when they pick up their new computer or buy when they already think they are in trouble. Doomed! The minute you load that it’s a problem but when the thing takes you to their “security centre” on the web it is often all over except the flowers.

What about email?? The best way to describe email is that it is very similar to the idea of sending mail through a conventional post office except your mail is not enclosed in an envelope! The system that most of you use is called “Simple Mail Transport Protocol” or SMTP. Some email can be improved in security but unless it is encrypted, none of it should be considered secure or private. Any person in the various servers along it’s path can read or edit anything you send or receive. Any entity that gets their hands into your computer via any of the methods above, or that invades your server can access your email files and do what they like including... Modification, anyone along the way can edit or delete your mail. Identity theft, sending mails as you. This is happening a lot and one of the reasons TCP has a new and more secure email address and system. If you receive a mail addressed from someone you know but includes a link on the message to a web site, it could be a hi-jacked email address. I'm very suspicious that some providers of "FREE" email sell their lists. Also be aware that "Gmail" and others may scan your mail for key words and save the data for directing advertising or..?
Repudiation, because normal emails can easily be tampered with, no email can be regarded as genuine in any legal or important sense. Anyone on either end can claim anything they want and there is no way to prove either way.
Do not forward "chain letters"!! At least not to me! Know someone that chronically sends you these things? The ones in bold colourful print that say you must forward these bits of shit to 'everyone in your address book today'! These are typically originated or hi-jacked by spammers. These people insure that every time the message is innocently forwarded it goes back to them as well, with all the address's from your book and they extract them and sell the list. Got mail trying to sell you "viagra" or the other scams and cons? Wonder how they found you out? Wonder no more. If you get something you really think is cute and you just have to send it along... copy the content of the message (provided it doesn't contain active links) and paste onto a new message and put your contacts in the BCC or "blind carbon copy" but please do not simply press 'forward'. Nothing is for sure but that ought to do it. You would be doing your friends a service to advise them of the same if you send them such a message..

Have a built in camera on your computer? Do you ever do anything in front of that computer while it is on and connected to the web that you wouldn't want viewed by a stranger? Then you better get rid of it or at least cover it. Before you start rolling your eyes and thinking.. Bob has lost it!... I was voicing suspicion about this last year and that's the reaction I got from some people... well, I told you so! "Online voyeur gets four years over remote webcam" That was the headline on ABC that got my attention. This particular case came to attention because it involved an underage girl being stalked by an adult man. He sent an email with a common 'trojan horse' virus that hi-jacked the web cam on the computer in her bedroom. The way he got caught was that he traced her phone number and was stupid enough to try to contact her. Apparently it doesn't take a genius to do this. How to assure security? Physically covering the thing may be the most effective remedy after the fact but the best thing is not to make your personal information available.

Be wary of those social networking sites and the programs they offer! Google 'gadgets', gmail, iGoogle claimed to be hackers delight! A recent convention of "DefCon", computer hackers turned security experts, in Las Vegas USA, has claimed that many of the programs associated with free web pages and networking sites are notoriously easy to hi-jack so a "third party can track activity or take control of users machines". Once in they can make your machine run spam, "download child porn or send subversive messages to China" or take your email address lists and pass words... the lot.

What to do?!!? There is a lot you can do. First thing start with a clean machine. Insist that nothing be loaded onto your new machine by the dealer except the operating system. I prefer to buy an empty machine and load the system myself. I believe some dealers get paid to load rubbish on new machines. To guard against virus/privacy attack your first line of defence is a good firewall, no, not that poor thing that came on your Microshaft windows computer. If you are connected via aDSL or dial up, your modem should have a good one built in. If you don’t know if it has one, assume it doesn’t and go spend the $100 or whatever, to replace it. There is firewall software for sale or download all over the place but... see the “free program” issues above. Security programs are a favourite of the spyware crowd as a means to infect you. Overall, do not ever allow a program to install on your computer from the web... full stop. If it comes on a disc I figure there is half a chance of it being OK, but from the web about 1% chance!

Updates.. TCP computers are absolutely forbidden to allow updates from anyone. If you wish to disable windows updates, here is how. For you windows XP users, just disabliling from the little panel on your desktop is not good enough. Windows is full of redundant controls. To be sure to disable go to START>CONTROL PANEL>ignore the “security center” icon and look to left and see; SWITCH TO CLASSIC VIEW>ADMINISTRATIVE TOOLS>SERVICES (DOUBLE CLICK) which will bring down a list of program functions, double click on “automatic updates” and disable. While you are in there, if you have XP pro, you may have a function called “REMOTE REGISTRY” Unless you are intending to network your computer via the web, you may consider disabling this function as it is intended to allow someone outside your computer to run it as their own. Dangerous...
Anti-virus.. At TCP we use none. For a year now the 4 systems we have that are exposed to the web have had no anit-virus program BUT, we allow NO program to install. No flash players or photo gallery's, nothing, we don't leave them connected and unattended and our computers are perfect. If we have something we want to open that's suspect, I start it on a non web computer where it can't invite in trouble. There is a reason the virus programs are called a Trojan Horse. Think about it.

Cookies.. These are small programs that a visiting web site may try to launch into your computer to send information back to the web site from your computer. Cookies sometimes have legitimate use, such as a secured site that you interchange important information on. They can help the site insure who it is communicating with but usually they are just mild spyware. TCP web site will never launch a cookie at you computer. If you don’t know how to stop cookies you should. TCP computers do not allow cookies except for a few sites that have legitimate use. For Windows Internet Explorer, see TOOLS>INTERNET OPTIONS>PRIVACY and set the sliding control to "Block all Cookies". You can always change it temporarily if you need to. Always delete the cookies when done. See TOOLS>INTERNET OPTIONS>GENERAL and delete cookies.

"System Restore" This is the one that can save your butt. Windows computers can store your systems settings so an introduced problem can be defeated by resetting your system to what it was hours/days/months ago. This is one of several ways to get at this important control. Go to START>SEARCH and select, "all files and folders" and in the "file name" box write, "system restore". By the way, this tool can find anything you are looking for in your computer. Click on SEARCH. Soon a line with 'system restore' will appear in the window at right. Double click on the line to open or better yet, left click and hold on the icon at the left side of the line and "drag" the icon across the screen onto your desktop so you can enter it easier next time. Open and click on the line that says, SYSTEM RESTORE SETTINGS and make sure it isn't turned off. I set the capacity at maximum. This window carries clear instruction. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

What has TCP done to protect you and ourselves? TCP has sacrificed considerable income from web ads to protect you. Google ads and the like could present links on the web site that TCP might consider inappropriate or dangerous, therefore they aren't there. TCP is having second thoughts about the security of the PDF reader we have had a link to, so am replacing it with a program that functions better and can be loaded to a folder in your 'documents' file, not requiring it to be 'installed' on your hard drive to work. This new reader is downloaded direct from the TCP site so no link to a place beyond TCP control. These measures have cost TCP thousands of $$ and the favour of the search engines.

TCP computers use an operating system that is all but bullet proof. We have a particular version of a Linux system that allows web browsing and email, word processing, PDF reading and making, photo editing, etc.. that is clean, simple, and very robust. It can be run by itself or loaded onto Windows computers. That way you choose what system you prefer at start up so essentially you are running two computers in one. It takes the stress out of the web! Data can be safely transferred from one side of this "dual booting" system to the other. If you are interested in this, send TCP $35 for the copying and mailing and we'll send you a disc. (See the image below)The disc allows you to run it to look it over before you install which you should do. Don't take any ones word for anything, mine included. Assume there is an angle and be suspicious..there is a fortune to be made by plundering your privacy and the players are savage. "Only the paranoid survive"!

The Coastal Passage
P.O. Box 7326
Urangan, QLD

 This is a "screen shot" easily taken with a Linux system. I did find that you can also take a screen shot with a Windows system. To take one, look at your keyboard for a key that says, "print screen" or "PrtSc" or similar. Click that and then open a production program or photo program like Microsoft Photo Editor and click on "edit" and paste and then save where you like..