Critical Security Update for Flash Player on Mac

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Flash Player critical vulnerabilities

Adobe this week released Flash Player version 24.0.0.221 to “address critical vulnerabilities that could potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system,” including Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chrome OS.

Mac users with Flash Player version 24.0.0.194 or earlier installed should immediately update to the latest version using the built-in update mechanism. The update is also available from the Adobe Flash Player Download Center.

Flash Player users who had enabled the option to “allow Adobe to install updates” will receive the update automatically. Likewise, Google Chrome will automatically update Flash Player to version 24.0.0.221. Select “About Google Chrome” under the Tools menu to verify the browser is up-to-date.

Adobe said the critical security update resolves integer overflow, memory corruption, type confusion, heap buffer overflow, and use-after-free vulnerabilities that could lead to code execution. The vulnerabilities were reported by security teams from Google, Microsoft, Palo Alto Networks, and Trend Micro.

Safari on macOS Sierra deactivates Flash by default, only turning on the plug-in when user requested. Chrome, Firefox, and most other modern web browsers also have web plug-in safeguards in place due to repeated security risks. Adobe has released fifteen Flash Player security updates over the past year.

In 2010, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs shared his “Thoughts on Flash,” in which he favored open web standards such as HTML5 over Adobe Flash. Jobs said Flash Player was “the number one reason Macs crash,” while criticizing its performance on mobile devices. “Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice,” he opined.

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Apple’s iPhone Activation No More

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Buy an iPhone — or any other phone — from somewhere other than an official reseller, and you run the risk of getting your hands on a stolen device. Apple has a tool that allows would be buyers to check whether the phone they are planning to buy is secured with Activation Lock. Until very recently, that is; the tool has now disappeared.

The Activation Lock status checker was available on iCloud.com, and by simply entering the IMEI or serial number of a phone it was possible to perform a quick check to see if it is already locked to another user. But no more!

MacRumors noticed that the tool disappeared in the last few days and as yet Apple has not provided an explanation. If you try to pay a visit to the checker page you will find that it 404s, essentially leaving iPhone and iPad buyers with no easy way of checking whether a device might be stolen.

Activation Lock has been around since 2014, and since October of that year it was possible to use the status tool as a reliable way to check the authenticity of a sale. It’s hard to think of a decent reason for Apple’s apparent decision to kill the tool, but MacRumors points out that there was an issue last year which saw brand new iPhones being locked to another user ID, so there is a chance it is a — somewhat belated — response to this.

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Windows 7’s Fastest Web Browsers

Windows 7 is still a sight more popular than Windows 10. By Federal Digital Analytics Program (DAP)‘s count, Windows 7 has a serious lead over Windows 10 — 25.2 percent to 17.4 percent. So, Windows 7’s web browser speeds matter a lot. Here’s what the benchmarks tell us.

Windows 7 Web Browsers 2017

Chrome is number one, but Opera is giving it competition. Firefox lags behind and IE, oh dear, IE is just terrible.

First, though, in terms of popularity, DAP makes it clear Chrome is the most popular web browser of them all. Internet Explorer (IE), which once ruled the browser roost, dropped behind Chrome for good in 2016.

But does Chrome have the performance chops to justify its popularity? Let’s find out.

To put Windows 7’s web browsers to the test I put them through their paces on the latest shipping edition of Windows 7 SP 1 Ultimate. This ran on my Windows 7 test PC, a Gateway DX4710.

This older PC is powered by a 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor and has 6GB of RAM and an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 3100 for graphics. It’s hooked to the internet via a Gigabit Ethernet switch, which, in turn, is connected to a 100Mbps (Megabit per second) cable internet connection.

On this system, I benchmarked Internet Explorer (IE) 11, Chrome 56, Firefox 51, and Opera 43. I no longer test Safari because Apple doesn’t release major Safari updates for Windows anymore. The 2012 version of Safari, 5.1.7, with some security patches is still available, but it’s too dated to use.

For each round of testings, I ran freshly installed vanilla web browsers after rebooting the system. Then, I ran the following benchmarks.

JetStream 1.1: This JavaScript benchmark builds on the foundation of the obsolete SunSpider. It combines several JavaScript benchmarks to report a single score that balances them using geometric mean. JetStream includes benchmarks from the SunSpider 1.0.2 and Octane 2 JavaScript benchmark suites. This test suite also includes benchmarks from the LLVM compiler open-source project, compiled to JavaScript using Emscripten 1.13. It also includes a benchmark based on the Apache Harmony open-source project’s HashMap and a port of the CDx real-time Java benchmark, hand-translated to JavaScript. On this benchmark, larger scores are better.

Chrome, as it so often has in previous tests, won with a score of 85.26. Second place was a surprise: Opera. Opera has been declining in popularity for years. It now claims less than 2 percent of the desktop browser market. Still, Opera has respectable turn of speed with 81.93.

Firefox took third with 76.44. IE came in dead last with 64.47.

Kraken 1.1: This benchmark, which is descended from SunSpider, also measures JavaScript performance. To this basic JavaScript testing, it added typical use case scenarios. Mozilla, Firefox’s parent organization, created Kraken. With this benchmark, the lower the score, the better the result.

Here, Chrome came in first once more with with a score of 2,267.6 milliseconds (ms). Opera came in second with a score of 2,585.9ms. Firefox was close on its heels with 2,850.4ms. IE was a distant last with 5,094.4ms.

Octane 2.0: Google’s JavaScript benchmark also includes scenario testing for today’s interactive web applications. Octane is not Chrome-specific. For example, it tests how fast Microsoft’s TypeScript compiles itself. On this benchmark, the higher the score, the better.

And, the winner was … Opera! This time it won with 14,863 points. Second went to Chrome with 14,426. Close behind it came Firefox with 14,157 points. Far, far in the back IE limped to the end with a score of 7,778.

WebXPRT is today’s most comprehensive browser benchmark. It uses scenarios created to mirror every day tasks. It contains six HTML5- and JavaScript-based workloads: Photo Enhancement, Organize Album, Stock Option Pricing, Local Notes, Sales Graphs, and Explore DNA Sequencing. Here, the higher the score, the better the browser.

On this test, Chrome took gold with 187 points. Firefox got the silver with a score of 183. Opera held on to the bronze with 161. And, once more, IE was in the back of the pack with 150 points.

HTML5 Test: Finally, I checked to see how well each browser complies with the HTML5 web standard. This “test” isn’t a benchmark. It just shows how close each browser comes to being in sync with the HTML5 standard. A perfect score, which no one got, would have been 550. If your web browser has trouble with today’s web standard, it doesn’t matter how fast it is.

Opera re-emerged to take first with 526 points. Chrome came in second with 519, while Firefox was in third with 471? IE? You guessed it. At the bottom of the pile with 302.

The lesson is clear. Chrome deserves its popularity. That said, Opera is worth considering.

As for Firefox, well it’s OK, it’s not great, but it’s OK.

If you’re using IE, on the other hand, stop. Just stop. It’s simply second-rate compared to the others. When I looked at Windows 10 and IE, I wondered if Microsoft was just giving up on it. On Windows 7, I don’t have that question. IE has become abandonware.

 

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Microsoft Introduces New Windows 10 Privacy Settings to Address Spying

There’s some good news for privacy-minded individuals who haven’t been fond of Microsoft’s data collection policy with Windows 10. When the upcoming Creators Update drops this spring, it will overhaul Microsoft’s data collection policies. Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, has published a blog post with a list of the changes Microsoft will be making.

First, Microsoft has launched a new web-based privacy dashboard with the goal of giving people an easy, one-stop location for controlling how much data Microsoft collects. Your privacy dashboard has sections for Browse, Search, Location, and Cortana’s Notebook, each covering a different category of data MS might have received from your hardware. Personally, I keep the Digital Assistant side of Cortana permanently deactivated and already set telemetry to minimal, but if you haven’t taken those steps you can adjust how much data Microsoft keeps from this page.

Second, Microsoft is condensing its telemetry options. Currently, there are four options — Security, Basic, Enhanced, and Full. Most consumers only have access to three of these settings — Basic, Enhanced, and Full. The fourth, security, is reserved for Windows 10 Enterprise or Windows 10 Education. Here’s how Microsoft describes each category:

Security: Information that’s required to help keep Windows, Windows Server, and System Center secure, including data about the Connected User Experience and Telemetry component settings, the Malicious Software Removal Tool, and Windows Defender.

Basic: Basic device info, including: quality-related data, app compatibility, app usage data, and data from the Security level.

Enhanced: Additional insights, including: how Windows, Windows Server, System Center, and apps are used, how they perform, advanced reliability data, and data from both the Basic and the Security levels.

Full: All data necessary to identify and help to fix problems, plus data from the Security, Basic, and Enhanced levels.

That’s the old system. Going forward, Microsoft is collapsing the number of telemetry levels to two. Here’s how Myerson describes the new “Basic” level:

[We’ve] further reduced the data collected at the Basic level. This includes data that is vital to the operation of Windows. We use this data to help keep Windows and apps secure, up-to-date, and running properly when you let Microsoft know the capabilities of your device, what is installed, and whether Windows is operating correctly. This option also includes basic error reporting back to Microsoft.

Windows 10 will also include an enhanced privacy section that will show during start-up and offer much better granularity over privacy settings. Currently, many of these controls are buried in various menus that you have to manually configure after installing the operating system.

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Even better, Windows 10 will now inform you of the impact of changing these settings. As far as I’m personally concerned, the limitations listed when you turn these options to “Off” are advantages and features.

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It’s nice that Microsoft is cutting back on telemetry collection at the basic level. The problem is, as Stephen J Vaughn-Nichols writes, Microsoft is still collecting a creepy amount of information on “Full,” and it still defaults to sharing all this information with Cortana — which means Microsoft has data files on people it can be compelled to turn over by a warrant from an organization like the NSA or FBI. Given the recent expansion of the NSA’s powers, this information can now be shared with a variety of other agencies without filtering it first. And while Microsoft’s business model doesn’t directly depend on scraping and selling customer data the way Google does, the company is still gathering an unspecified amount of information. Full telemetry, for example, may “unintentionally include parts of a document you were using when a problem occurred.” Vaughn-Nichols isn’t thrilled about that idea, and neither am I.

The problem with Microsoft’s disclosure is it mostly doesn’t disclose. Even basic telemetry is described as “includes data that is vital to the operation of Windows.” Okay. But what does that mean?

I’m glad to see Microsoft taking steps towards restoring user privacy, but these are small steps that only modify policies around the edges. Until the company actually and meaningfully discloses what telemetry is collected under Basic settings and precisely what Full settings do and don’t send in the way of personally identifying information, the company isn’t explaining anything so much as it’s using vague terms and PR in place of a disclosure policy.

As I noted above, I’d recommend turning Cortana (the assistant) off. If you don’t want to do that, you should regularly review the information MS has collected about you and delete any items you don’t want to part of the company’s permanent record.

 

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Windows XP is a security nightmare, yet still used by hundreds of millions

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Windows XP is old, insecure, and yet somehow still one of the most popular operating systems in the world. Over 100 million users this year include millions of consumers in China, professionals around the world in the healthcare industry, and the U.S. military are stuck on the ancient software.

New research from Duo found tens of thousands of devices using Windows XP with Internet Explorer 7 and 8, a hurricane of insecurity boasting hundreds of critical vulnerabilities in software that hasn’t been officially supported for nearly three years. The problems are not hypothetical: Hackers who attacked Target in 2013 to steal millions of created cards are reported to have used a Windows XP exploit to first gain entry.

Out-of-date software used by the U.S. government has increasingly been a point of political controversy, especially since the Office of Personnel Management suffered a massive and high-profile hack that was finally revealed in 2015. Sensitive data for over 21 million individuals was stolen by the attacker, widely assumed to be the Chinese government, including vast amounts of security clearance background information.

Other agencies are increasingly under the magnifying glass as cybersecurity rises to a ubiquitous focus across government. Citing the use of old and insecure software in agencies like the Department of Education and NASA, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) believes more and even worse breaches are inevitable.

“I think it’s already happened,” Chaffetz warned earlier this year. “I have no proof of it but I’ve been ringing this bell for a long time.”

The Department of Defense has in recent years paid millions of dollars for extended support on Windows XP. The Pentagon updated many of its Windows XP devices to Windows 2003 within the last six months, according to Chaffetz. The DOD, Army, and Navy have been running “Windows XP eradication efforts” over the last year.

“It takes just one out-of-date device to compromise your entire organization—attackers will target devices with exploitable, older versions of software in order to steal your data,” Duo researcher Tuo Pham wrote.

Most Windows XP users are stuck on Internet Explorer, according to Duo. Twenty percent of Internet Explorer users are running unsupported versions (8, 9, 10) that are incapable of receiving security patches. Just 3 percent are using Edge, the latest Windows browser. That leaves 80 percent with Internet Explorer 11.

But Windows XP users can’t even upgrade to a supported and secure version of a Microsoft browser, leaving millions unprotected while browsing the web. Better options would be using alternative browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Opera.

Windows XP’s versions of Internet Explorer use insecure add-ons that aren’t even supported in most modern browsers. Sixty-two percent of devices running Internet Explorer have an out-of-date version of Adobe Flash installed. Ninety-eight percent of the devices analyzed by Duo that use Internet Explorer also have Java installed. 

Most Windows devices are running older software, including 65 percent on Windows 7, a version that will receive security updates through 2020. The Duo researchers argue that Windows 10—which 24 percent of Windows users are updated to—is a significantly more secure operating system than its popular predecessor.

“That leaves the majority of users on Microsoft operating systems and browsers open to vulnerabilities and a potential malware infection, which can be passed onto your environment if they log into your applications with risky devices,” Pham explained.

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Norton Antivirus Flaw Threatens Millions of PCs

 

When you download antivirus software, you expect it to protect your computer, not threaten it. And yet for all the good that Symantec/Norton’s security programs do, it turns out they may be able to do even more harm.

 

This information comes from Google’s Project Zero security-research blog, on which security boffin Tavis Ormandy periodically writes about the latest flaw he’s discovered in commercial antivirus software.

In this case, the affected programs include, at the very least, Norton Security and its predecessors Norton 360, Norton AntiVirus and Norton Internet Security, as well as Symantec Endpoint Protection, Symantec Email Security, Symantec Protection Engine, Symantec Protection for SharePoint Servers, and pretty much any other antivirus product bearing the Symantec or its Norton imprints.

“These vulnerabilities are as bad as it gets,” Ormandy wrote. “They don’t require any user interaction, they affect the default configuration, and the software runs at the highest privilege levels possible.”

Ormandy cited the flaws’ susceptibility to both remote code execution and privilege escalation. This means that not only could an attacker take control of your computer remotely, but he or she could gain administrator access as well. From there, installing malware, stealing information or drafting it into a botnet would be trivial.

Explaining exactly how the flaws work is complicated, although you can read Ormandy’s write-up for the full details. Essentially, when you download a compressed executable file (i.e., a program), an antivirus program decompresses, or “unpacks” the file to examine the file’s code for vulnerabilities before the suspect file is opened or run.

The problem is that the unpacker program Symantec uses is itself vulnerable to attack, because it doesn’t properly handle malformed software designed to confuse it. Mismatched parameters can trigger a memory-buffer overflow in the unpacker, letting an attacker slip in malicious code that can seize control of the Symantec or Norton antivirus software.

Users don’t even need to open or run the malicious file. Just getting it on your system — for example, as an email attachment or web link — is enough, since Symantec’s antivirus engine will scan and unpack it by default. (Ormandy noted that he has found similar flaws in antivirus products made by Kaspersky and ESET.)

This functionality is a risky proposition at the best of times, but Symantec’s programs make it worse by unpacking and examining the suspicious compressed programs right in the Windows kernel, the deepest level of the operating system. That’s like bringing a ticking time bomb into police headquarters to defuse it. Anyone who’s had to remove a piece of malware that targeted the Windows kernel will tell you how nearly impossible it is to pry a stubborn bit of malware out of there.

Ormandy pointed out other buffer overflows and memory corruptions in the Symantec file unpacker, all of which could threaten PCs to a lesser degree. Symantec has pushed out patches for all of the flaws, but you may not be protected just yet.

First, the good news: There’s no evidence that hackers were able to exploit these any of these flaws in the wild. Better news: Every affected Symantec program has been patched.

Still, enterprise users will have to do some legwork to protect themselves. LiveUpdate will take care of the patch for home users; otherwise, Symantec has provided a list of enterprise programs with instructions on how to patch each one. Needless to say, this update is probably even more critical for those who use Symantec to protect their businesses.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from this, it’s that no program is unhackable. The best an average user can do is to keep all of his or her software updated constantly — especially the software that keeps unwanted programs out.

 

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Top 6 Mistakes Laptop Owners Make

 

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So, let’s get right down to it, shall we? Let’s examine some of the most common errors laptop owners make and some solutions so you can stop yourself from making the same mistake.

1. No Password Protection

I know having a password on your laptop can be a real pain and it is just so much quicker to log onto it automatically so you can get on with what you want or need to do. Still, having a password on your laptop is your first line of defense if your laptop gets stolen. Think about it. If your laptop gets stolen and you don’t have a password on it, the thief will have full access to all of your files and everything else you have store on your laptop. Do you want that? I didn’t think so.

All laptop owners and especially those that take their laptops with them from place to place should have a password on their account. On top of that, they should even consider using the BIOS level passwords as an extra line of defense in case their laptops get stolen. While that does add another step to your sign on process, it will go a long way toward protecting your valuable and often private data.

2. Using a Cheap Case

This one speaks more to the people that take their laptop with them from place to place. They spend gobs of money on a brand new laptop, but then cheap out on the case to store that laptop. These cheap cases often lack the proper padding and proper storage compartments to protect your laptop and its accessories from damage. So what happens if you drop it? Often when it gets dropped in a cheap case the laptop or the accessories, or worse both will sustain damage. This leaves you with a scarred and potentially broken laptop that you invested a lot of money in to begin with. Now you will have to spend even more to get it repaired.

If you are going to spend a bunch of money on a new laptop, don’t start getting cheap when it comes to the case, especially if you travel a lot with your laptop. If it takes a tumble or a fall you will be glad that you invested a little extra on that case. A good case will protect it from these small bumps and keep it in good condition. They will also give you extra storage as well so you can carry even more with you. It makes you wonder why this is such a common problem. However, it is and it is one that many laptop owners can easily fix.

3. Not Running Proper Security Software

Antivirus software, such as Windows Defender, antimalware software and even hard drive encryptors should all be employed on any laptop. Yes these pieces of software do take resources to run, but it is a necessary sacrifice that you all must make. So many laptop owners fail to run one or all of these types of applications on their computer. If they do install them, often they don’t give them the attention they need to stay updated and many owners never both to run scans on their systems. This, of course, leads to infections on their systems.

These infections can slow down your system and even steal your important data without you even knowing what happened. Do you really want your important data or your personal information stolen right out from under you? I doubt that you do. Make sure you always run antivirus and antimalware software and take the time to keep it up to date. After that, make sure you run it periodically to make sure your system stays clear of these types of infections. Trust me you will be glad you did.

4. Poor Battery Practices

Your laptop’s battery is its lifeblood for power when you are away from an AC adapter. Unfortunately, most laptop owners, and I have been guilty of this as well, don’t take proper care of their batteries. What do I mean by this? Most don’t charge them properly and even go weeks without charging them when they are sitting at their desk. The bad thing is that this kind of behavior is hard on a laptop battery.

Laptop batteries are designed to be used. In fact, the longer you go without using the worse off it will be. That being said, you also need to make sure you discharge and recharge them properly as well. You shouldn’t just plug it in after it has been used just for a few minutes. While this is alright every now and then, from time to time you should give the battery a full discharge and recharge. If you don’t, you will soon find that your laptop battery doesn’t last quite as long as it used to.

It should also be noted that laptop batteries don’t last forever no matter what you do, so it is a good idea for you to replace the battery if you keep your laptop for a long time to make sure that you always have power when you need it the most.

5. Poor File Storage Techniques

Now I’m sure you know how to save files on your computer. But when you save them, where do you save them and do you back those files up from time to time? Hard drives don’t last forever and they can go out at any time and sometimes they won’t even give you a warning. What do you do then if you haven’t backed up your files?

Not only should you backup your files to another hard drive or the cloud, but you should also organize these files so you can find them later. Today we create more digital files than we ever have before. If you don’t have a system, chances are you will lose track of some of these files. You have to maintain a well organized file system and then back that file system up from time to time to make sure you can find everything you need when you need it and to make sure it is safe if you do suffer a hardware failure.

6. Installing Junk You Don’t Need

Today we are bombarded with messages to install this and that on our laptops. Unfortunately, not all of this software is any good. In fact, some of it is complete rubbish. All it does is slow down our systems and take up valuable space on your hard drive. So what do you do about?

First, you read about what is being installed. If it sounds like you don’t need something, you probably don’t. So hit that cancel button. Make sure you only install the applications you need and nothing more. The less you have installed and running on your system, the faster it will run. So start paying attention to those installers and requests for installations.

While this does require you to be a bit more attentive to what is going on with your system, in the end you will be glad you did. You will know exactly what is on your laptop and the laptop won’t be bogged down by a bunch of junk that you just don’t have any use for. The end result is a system that runs much cleaner and faster so you can get what you need to get done quicker than you could have hoped.

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How to speed up a slow Mac

What’s the best way to speed up a Mac?

Is your Mac running slowly? Has it always been a little underpowered, or has it got slower with age? Macs generally run efficiently, but with an older Mac you might want to keep an eye on the performance. And don’t worry – whether you’ve got an iMac, a MacBook (of any kind), a Mac mini or even a Mac Pro, our speed tips (updated for Mac OS X El Capitan and macOS Sierra) will help make your Mac run faster.

Spend a bit of time to clean up Mac OS X and macOS Sierra and it will pay you back by running software quickly and smoothly. These tips give you the confidence to clear out the clutter without losing any precious files. Follow these steps and Mac OS X and macOS Sierra will pelt ahead at full speed.

 

Shut down unwanted apps

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It might sound obvious but the best place to start is to close down any unused programs. If you’ve got too many programs running at once your Mac may devote memory and CPU space to them instead of to the apps you want.

Right-click on programs in the Dock and choose Quit, or press Command-Tab to bring up the App Switcher and press Command-Q to quit unused programs.

Pro tip! Software like iStat Pro can be used to monitor your app performance in real-time.

Ensure you can see open apps

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If you’re worried about performance you should make sure you can see which apps are running. Open System Preferences and click Dock. Ensure there is a tick next to ‘Show indicator lights for open applications’.

Use Activity Monitor

If you want to see what apps are using up your system resources, open the Activity Monitor in the Utilities folder.

Activity Monitor shows all the processes on your Mac (some of which you can’t, or shouldn’t, close) so click on View and Windowed Processes. Now click on the CPU button and the “%CPU” column to list all programs by the amount of CPU they are using. You can also use this to see what Memory, Disk and Network different processes are using.

A feature added in Mavericks was Energy, which enables you to see which apps and processes are using up the most amount of energy from your battery.

Get rid of preference panes

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Open System Preferences and check in the row at the bottom. This is where custom items are added to your System Preferences and if you’re not using them then they are taking up your CPU. Right-click on an item and choose Remove From Preference Pane.

Cut down on Login items

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Open System Preferences and click Users & Groups. Now click on the Login Items tab to view which programs and services are launched when you first power up (or log in) to your Mac. Highlight an item in the list that you don’t want and click on the Delete from Login Items (-) button at the bottom of the list.

 

Free up hard drive space

It’s usually best to keep some space free on your Mac (we usually aim for around 10 per cent). Start by emptying the Trash (right-click on Trash in the dock and choose Empty Trash).

If you need to free up more space then check through your User folder for items to get rid of (Movies and Pictures are often likely culprits). You should also empty the Downloads folder of any items you’re unlikely to need.

 

Remove unwanted programs and widgets

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It’s often a good idea to start removing apps that you really don’t use. You can just drag and drop apps into the Trash, but we advise you to invest in a program called App Zapper that can show you how much hard drive space apps are taking up and when you last used them, and can delete apps and all associated files.

You should also remove any widgets that you don’t use from the Dashboard. Click the Remove (-) icon in the bottom-left and tap on the Remove (‘X’) icons on any widgets that you don’t regularly use.

Software update (and set to auto update)

Make sure you perform a software update for Mac OS X and macOS Sierra and all the apps installed in Mac. Click on the Apple icon in the Menu bar and choose Software Update (or open Software Update in the App Store).

If you have apps purchased outside of the App Store they will need to be updated separately. You’ll usually find Check for Software Update from the program name in the Menu bar.

AppFresh is an app that can help keep track of all your software and checks constantly to see if updates are available. Some apps can also self update by integrating with AppFresh.

You should also make sure that Mac OS X and macOS Sierra keeps itself up to date. Click on System Preferences > App Store and ensure that Automatically Check For Updates is ticked. You can also tick Install App Updates which will automatically ensure that apps are updated.

How to speed up a Mac: Empty Safari cache

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Safari sometimes gets clogged up with data. Cleaning this out will help speed up Safari in Mac OS X and macOS Sierra. Open Safari and choose Safari > Reset Safari and check Remove all Website Data. (Leave the other options unticked.) Now click on Reset. This can help speed up sluggish web browsing.

Repair Permissions

Open Disk Utility and choose your main hard drive from the sidebar (in most Macs there will only be one.) Now click on First Aid and Repair Permissions. This will ensure that all the files on your Mac have the correct permissions, which will help keep things ticking along.

As of El Capitan (and macOS Sierra), you can no longer repair permissions in Disk Utility. It’s gone because the new System Integrity Protection (SIP) in El Capitan and macOS Sierra prevents permissions on files being modified which, according to Apple at least, means there should be no need to repair permissions.

Install more RAM

Historically, upgrading RAM has been the goto solution for improving your Mac’s performance. Before you go ahead and spend money, however, it’s worth trying to figure out how much of a difference it will really make, if any. The easiest way to do this is to fire up Activity Monitor (it’s in Applications/Utilities), click on the Memory tab and keep an eye on the memory pressure gauge at the bottom of the window. If it’s permanently green, you’re probably not going to see a huge difference by upgrading. If it turns red regularly, it’s worth the expenditure.

How much RAM you add and how you add it is dependent on your Mac. But as a rule of thumb, the effort of performing the installation compare with the marginal cost of bigger RAM modules means that it’s worth maxing out your Mac’s RAM in one go.

That will often mean removing the existing modules and replacing them. It’s a good idea, though not essential, to buy all the RAM you fit at the same time from the same manufacturer. If you decide just to fill empty slots, the same applies. And you should pair RAM modules of the same capacity, if possible.

Restart regularly

Macs are so stable and so power-efficient when they sleep that most of us don’t bother shutting them down regularly, especially if they are notebooks. That means caches don’t get flushed and applications that hog RAM don’t let it go.

Restarting your Mac clears the caches and shuts down applications. The result is a Mac that’s refreshed and should perform better.

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Best free antivirus software 2016

Internet security software is designed to prevent damaging programs from infecting your PC and laptop. All the free products here do that. As a secondary task, though, the full paid-for products should reduce the amount of unwanted advertising and offers that get through to you,But without further ago, here are the leading free AV programs – you really can get something for nothing

Best free antivirus: Avira

 

Download from Avira 

Avira has previously topped our list of the best free antivirus programs, and it’s still a very strong contender. We like that you can download the full program as well as just the 4MB launcher, giving you the option to start the installation and then leave it to download the rest. It’s not alone in this, but it’s the only one we know of which also lets you download the full thing.

The interface is well designed and easy to use, and the latest version includes a couple of new features in its SearchFree Toolbar: a website safety advisor and the option to block advertising companies from tracking you online.

At first sight, it appears Avira bundles a firewall with its product, but this turns out to be an integrated front-end to the Windows firewall.

File scans can be scheduled and by default there’s a quick scan set to repeat every 168 hours or, as we techies call it, weekly. We reckon a quick scan could run more frequently than this, though.

A year ago, AV-Test gave Avira perfect scores, and this year it still did commendably well. In its recent tests, it handed a 5.5 for protection and the same for performance. Avira achieved the full 6/6 for usability with no false positives or false blockages.

SE Labs didn’t test Avira in its recent roundup, but AV Comparatives gave Avira full marks for blocking 100 percent of threats.

Ultimately, Avira does an excellent job – even when compared to paid-for Internet Security programs.

Best free antivirus: Avast

 

Download from Avast

Unlike some firms, Avast doesn’t hide its free antivirus offering so you can’t find it. A big orange button on its homepage makes this version more obvious than its paid offerings, so it’s a good start.

As well as basic antivirus protection, it offers protection from unknown threats and a handy password manager so you can log into sites in your browser by remembering just one password.

You don’t get the browser extension that warns of fake sites (such as banks), nor a privacy shield or spam filtering. Those come with Avast’s Internet Security package, while Premier adds automatic software updating and a file shredder.

The good news is that Avast’s antivirus protection is excellent. SE Labs rates it at 94 percent overall, the highest score awarded to a free version. AV Comparatives found that it blocked 99.7 percent of threats in its September 2016 tests. It also found that Avast had the least impact on your PC’s performance – thanks in part to the fact that Avast runs a “significant proportion” of its analysis in the cloud.

AV-Test rates protection, performance and usability, giving Avast 5.5, 4.0 and 5.5 out of 6 respectively.

Overall, then Avast is one of the best free antivirus packages around.

Best free antivirus: Bitdefender

 

Download from Bitdefender 

Bitdefender’s paid-for Total Security package is excellent, and it’s no surprise to see its free offering score well: it uses the same virus detection engine.

In fact, AV Comparatives awarded it the unbeatable score of 100 percent, successfully blocking all malware during its tests in September. There were no false-positives, either, which is when safe files or programs are reported as being unsafe.

AV-Test also praised Bitdefender, giving it full marks for protection, performance and usability.

SE Labs’ tests found it wasn’t infallible though, with it being compromised by a number of threats and awarding it a protection rating of 73 percent.

Overall, Bitdefender is easy to use, is lightweight and – in general – offers good protection for your PCs.

Best free antivirus: AVG

 

Download from AVG

We’ve already mentioned AVG’s controversial privacy policy above, but in terms of the protection this free antivirus package offers, it’s not bad at all. SE Labs gave it an overall rating of 89 percent from its test in July-September, and it missed out on an AA award (rather than A) by only one percent.

AV-Test’s results from testing in July-August showed that its protection was above the industry average and awarded it 5.5 out of 6. It achieved the same for performance, so won’t slow your computer down. Again, it was given the same high score for usability, and as we’ve used AVG Free on our own PC for the past year, we can – anecdotally – agree that it runs transparently in the background and you don’t really notice it. And that’s exactly what you want from your antivirus.

AVG has a simple-to-understand dashboard so, if you do ever venture to it, it’s very clear whether it’s up to date and protecting your PC.

In addition to an AV engine, it also warns you of unsafe web links and can block unsafe email attachments.

Best free antivirus: Microsoft

 

Windows Defender is built into Windows 10 and Windows 8, so it’s arguably the easiest option for most people since it’s probably in operation already unless you’ve disabled it or installed another antivirus program.

Unlike in the past, when it merely paid lip-service to virus protection, the modern Security Essentials is a credible and reliable AV engine. OK, it’s not the very best out there, but it certainly does the job.

If your PC or laptop is running Windows 7, you can download Microsoft Security Essentials for free.

As the name suggests, it offers basic antivirus protection. The only difference between MSE and Windows Defender is that the latter offers better protection against rootkits and Bootkits.

SE Labs awarded MSE 91 percent overall, ahead of Bitdefender (90) and AVG Free (89). It was only three percent behind Avast, too.

AV-Test gave it only 3.5 out of 6 for protection, but this was due to a poor result in August of 88 percent. In July, it performed as well as any other antivirus package. AV Comparatives found it blocked 96.2 percent of threats, which is below all the other packages here, but as ever, these results all change on a monthly basis.

There are better choices than Security Essentials, but if you’re running Windows 8 or 10 with Defender built in, all you need to do is check that it’s enabled.

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Which operating system do ‘real’ hackers use?

So which operating system do such black hat or gray hat hackers use?

While there may be thousands of blog posts which say that hackers prefer Linux operating system for their black hat hacking operations, it is proved that it may not be so. Many of the high-risk hacking show that some “real hackers” run MS windows to hide in plain sight. Windows, which is the required but hated target for most hackers, enables hackers to work with Windows-only environments, such as .NET framework, Windows-based malware, virus or trojan. They use cheap burner laptop bought from Craigslist to build a light weight bootable ghost image and which can’t be traced back to them. These type of burner laptops have USB and SD card for memory options.  This makes it easier to hide, destroy or even swallow if needed.

Many of them go a step further and create read-only partitions for the OS and second writable space for limited persistent local storage. Some paranoid types add a hotkey panic button for quick RAM scrubbing and running a SysRq-trigger to avoid any trace back to them.

The new smaller bootable ghost OS image is then written out to an encrypted SD card. The burner laptop is dismantled and thoroughly destroyed. Hackers pay special attention to the physical destruction of the hard drive, network card, and RAM. Sometimes they use even use a blowtorch or sledgehammer can do destroy such computers.

While some of the black hat hackers prefer Windows OS, many others opt for following Linux distros :

1. Kali Linux

Kali Linux is a Debian-derived Linux distribution designed for digital forensics and penetration testing. It is maintained and funded by Offensive Security Ltd. Mati Aharoni and Devon Kearns of Offensive Security developed it by rewriting BackTrack. Kali Linux is the most versatile and advanced penetration testing distro. Kali updates its tools and it is available for many different platforms like VMware and ARM.

2. Parrot-sec forensic os

Parrot Security is an operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux mixed with Frozenbox OS and Kali Linux in order to provide the best penetration and security testing experience. it is an operating system for IT security and penetration testing developed by the Frozenbox Dev Team. It is a GNU/Linux distribution based on Debian and mixed with Kali.

3. DEFT

Deft is Ubuntu customization with a collection of computer forensic programs and documents created by thousands of individuals, teams, and companies. Each of these works might come under a different license. There Licence Policy describe the process that we follow in determining which software we will ship and by default on the DEFT install CD.

4. Live Hacking OS

Live Hacking OS is also based on Linux which has a big package of hacking tools useful for ethical hacking or penetration testing. It includes the graphical user interface GNOME inbuilt. There is a second variation available which has command line only, and it has very fewer hardware requirements.

5. Samurai Web Security Framework

The Samurai Web Testing Framework is a live Linux environment that has been pre-configured to function as a web pen-testing environment. The CD contains the best of the open source and free tools that focus on testing and attacking websites. In developing this environment, we have based our tool selection on the tools we use in our security practice. We have included the tools used in all four steps of a web pen-test.

8. Network Security Toolkit (NST)

Network Security Toolkit (NST) is a bootable live CD based on Fedora Core. The toolkit was designed to provide easy access to best-of-breed open source network security applications and should run on most x86 platforms. The main intent of developing this toolkit was to provide the network security administrator with a comprehensive set of open source network security tools.

9. NodeZero

It is said the necessity is the mother of all inventions, and NodeZero Linux is no different. The NodeZero team consists of testers and developers who have put together this amazing distro. Penetration Testing distributions tend to have historically utilized the “Live” system concept of Linux, which really means that they try not to make any permanent effects to a system. Ergo all changes are gone after reboot and run from media such as discs and USB’s drives. However, all that may come handy for occasional testing, its usefulness can be depleted when you are testing regularly. It is also believed that “Live System’s” just don’t scale well in a robust testing environment.

9. Pentoo

Pentoo is a Live CD and Live USB designed for penetration testing and security assessment. Based on Gentoo Linux, Pentoo is provided both as 32 and 64-bit installable live cd. Pentoo is also available as an overlay for an existing Gentoo installation. It features packet injection patched wifi drivers, GPGPU cracking software, and lots of tools for penetration testing and security assessment. The Pentoo kernel includes GRsecurity and PAX hardening and extra patches – with binaries compiled from a hardened toolchain with the latest nightly versions of some tools available.

10. GnackTrack

GnackTrack is an open and free project to merge penetration testing tools and the Linux Gnome desktop. GnackTrack is a Live (and installable) Linux distribution designed for Penetration Testing and is based on Ubuntu.

GnackTrack comes with multiple tools that are really helpful for effective penetration testing, it has Metasploit, Armitage, W3AF and others wonderful tools.

11. Blackbuntu

Blackbuntu is a Linux distro specifically for penetration testing which was specially designed for security training students and practitioners of information security. Blackbuntu is penetration testing distribution with GNOME Desktop Environment. It’s currently being built using the Ubuntu 10.10 and work on reference Back|Track.

12. Knoppix STD

Knoppix STD (Security Tools Distribution) is a Live CD Linux distribution based on Knoppix that focused on computer security tools. It included GPL licensed tools in the following categories: authentication, password cracking, encryption, forensics, firewalls, honeypots, intrusion detection system, network utilities, penetration, packet sniffers, assemblers, vulnerability assessment and wireless networking. Knoppix STD version 0.1 was published January 24, 2004, on Knoppix 3.2. Thereafter, the project stagnated, lacking updated drivers and packages. A release date for version 0.2 has not yet been announced. A list of tools is available on the official website.

13. Weakerth4n

Weakerth4n is a penetration testing distribution which is built from Debian Squeeze. For the desktop environment, it uses Fluxbox.This operating system is ideal for WiFi hacking as it contains plenty of Wireless tools. It has a very well maintained website and a devoted community. Built from Debian Squeeze (Fluxbox within a desktop environment) this operating system is particularly suited for WiFi hacking as it contains plenty of Wireless cracking and hacking tools.

Tools include: Wifi attacks, SQL Hacking, Cisco Exploitation, Password Cracking, Web Hacking, Bluetooth, VoIP Hacking, Social Engineering, Information Gathering, Fuzzing Android Hacking, Networking and creating Shells.

14. Cyborg Hawk

Many hackers think this is the most advanced, powerful and yet beautiful penetration testing distribution ever created. Lined up with the ultimate collection of tools for pro Ethical Hackers and Cyber Security Experts. It has 700 + tools while Kali has 300+ and also dedicated tools for and menu for mobile security and malware analysis . Also, it is easy to compare it with Kali as to make a better OS than Kali . It is a new operating system based on Ubuntu Linux.

It is now clear that black hat hackers mostly use Linux but have to use Windows as their targets are always on Windows run environment. Though that is changing with most financial firms now moving to Linux based servers. Also, Mac OS X is not a popular target for malware and hacking attempts, because it is neither the most famous server (Linux) nor the most famous client (Windows), giving hackers that use it a [false]sense of security.

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