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Crypto Locker Virus Holds Your Files For Ransom

Filed Under (Encryption, Hacking, Security, Software, Technology, Windows) by admin on 28-10-2013

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A new virus is making its way around the world but this one can really hit you where it hurts, your pocketbook.  That’s right, this isn’t some amateur teen hacker looking to send mass emails from your computer or cause destruction, more likely a group of professional hackers are behind Crypto Locker and they are looking to strike it rich.

cryptolockerCrypto Locker infects computers through an email phishing scam pretending to be FedEx, UPS or some other innocent looking company.  When you click to open the attachment which is an executable cleverly disguised as a PDF, JPG, Word or Excel doc, the virus will securely encrypt all of your files with encryption so secure the NSA won’t even be able to decrypt it.  Once encrypted you will receive a notice informing you that your documents are not available to you until you pay a ransom of anywhere between $100 and $500.  The attackers offer a multitude of anonymous payment methods and give you a specified amount of time to act before your decrypt key will be deleted rendering your files unrecoverable.


The attackers seem to be offering multiple ways to pay using anonymous and online currencies such as bitcoin, GreenDot MoneyPak and others.


Back in 2008 a similar virus was unleashed to the public called GPCode which used RSA keys to encrypt user data but was quickly cracked allowing users to recover their data.  Unfortunately, it is widely believed that this encryption is far superior to GPCode’s and a timely crack to free your data is unlikely.

As always this blog piece is meant to be educational and not the be all end all on ransomware or Crypto Locker in general.  Please make sure your systems are completely backed up on a daily basis in order to prevent this type of virus from wreaking havoc on your computer and or network.  Financial Computer Systems (888-434-6443) offers a backup service called BackITUp that can help your organization stay ahead of the curve and preemptively protect your data in case of a worst case scenario such as Crypto Locker.  Whatever product you decide on, make sure you are protected.  Also, if you receive an email with an attachment, DO NOT OPEN it unless you can verify 100% who it’s from.  This is extremely important.   Hope this helps!
Keywords to know:
phishing – the act of attempting to acquire personal or private information such as birth dates, credit card numbers, social security numbers, usernames, passwords, etc by posing as a known entity (bank, car company, shipping company, tech company, game company, etc) that you are likely to deal with regularly.
executable – an application that automatically executes its instructions when opened
– a method of encoding messages or other information that isn’t easily decrypted (or readable) without a password or other secure key.
bitcoin – an online currency that functions without a central authority.  A cryptocurrency that uses cryptography to prevent double-spending.  Each bitcoin is worth approx. $207 USD as of Oct. 28th 2013.
ransomware – a malware that restricts access to the computer system that it infects and demands a ransom paid to its creator in order to be removed.

OWC Mercury Accelsior_E2 PCI Express SSD Drive

Filed Under (Apple, Hardware, Product Review, Technology) by admin on 18-05-2013

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owc-accelsior_e2I just picked up a great new product, the OWC Mercury Accelsior_E2.  It’s basically 2 x raided SSD drives on a PCIe card that goes in my Mac Pro.   The Mac Pro has been the top of the line POWER beast in Apples hardware lineup for years but also hasn’t been upgraded in years.  More an more Mac Pro owners are looking for ways to pep up their Mac Pro to make it last a little longer until the next great Mac Pro is released, which will hopefully be soon.

In any event, I received the Accelsior in 2 days from which is one in the same with OWC or Other World Computing.  Larry has been running OWC for many years now and has always offered great products to help you upgrade your Macs, whether it be ram, hard drives, video cards, etc, so definitely check them out for great products at great prices.

The Accelsior I picked up was the 240gb model which has 2 x 120gb ssd blades like those used in the MacBook Air.  The key ingredient in this product though is that it runs on the PCIe bus, not through SATA which on the mac pro is still 2.0 and not very fast.  Another cool feature is that the E2 also offers you 2 x 600mbps eSATA slots.

Now to the numbers.  My standard 1gb 7200rpm drive received under 70MB/s on both Read and Write operations using the Blackmagic Design disk speed test application while the new Accelsior received 608.1MB/s on Read operations and 492.8MB/s on Write operations.  Below are the screen captures for each…

OWC Mercury Accelsior_E2 240gb PCIe Card
Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 9.54.24 AM

Standard 1gb 7200rpm SATA Drive
Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 9.56.20 AM

In conclusion, my Mac Pro has a whole new life.  I have installed my startup disk on the Accelsior and boot times have gone from about 1 minute to around 22 secs.  Its absolutely amazing.  I also have all of my applications running on the Accelsior so they spring to life almost immediately after clicking them.  I also do a lot of video editing and it is a dream to work off of this drive.

I highly recommend this to any Mac Pro owner.  It’s a no brainer.  If a new Mac Pro comes out you can simply unplug it and put it in your new machine.  Kudos to Larry for staying ahead of the curve as per usual.  Another great product from a great company, Other World Computing rocks!

On a side note, these reviews are my personal opinions and have not been the result of any discount for this product.  I paid full price for this product and I do not review products that were given to me.  Rest assured what you find in this review is fact and my opinion was not bought.  


Hackintosh? The low cost alternative to buying Apple…

Filed Under (Apple, Hacking, Hardware) by admin on 08-05-2013

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Hey Folks,

hackintosh2It has been one hell of a long time since I have posted here but why not just jump right back into the blogging sphere with a cool article about building your own, low cost Macintosh, err hackintosh. Make no mistake about it, Apple builds superior computers. They are extremely well designed, offer the highest quality components, and provide you with a refined user experience.

That said there is always some room for improvement. Take for instance the Mac Pro line of hardware. It is the machine to use if you are a graphic designer, a software developer using XCode, a video editor, or just about anyone using a Mac for audio or video production. Unfortunately, this line hasn’t been redesigned since 2006-2007 and has only been minimally refreshed with new processors since then. No real new improvements.

While there has always been a subculture movement working hard to make OS X run on ordinary PCs it just hasn’t been fruitful, until now.

In past years there have been many hacks, may mods to kexts and specially made boot keys and CDs some which have partially worked and others which didn’t work at all.

Now with the help of youtube (search for Hackintosh) or you can get extensive build guides and tutorials as well as lists of recommended and known working hardware to build your own machines, all at a fraction of the cost of a new mac.

I plan on building my very own Ivy Bridge based Hackintosh in the coming weeks and will report back here with an article on how the experience went.  In the meantime, please be sure to check out these hackintosh related videos and websites, they will certainly offer you everything you need to get started with your very own hackintosh project.


YouTube Videos

Building an Ivy Bridge Hackintosh From Start to Finish – LIVE
Building a Socket 2011 Hackintosh From Start to Finish
Ultimate Hackintosh Tutorial | 10.8 My Hacks

Dual-Boot Snow White Hackintosh Pro Build Update & Walkthrough!
Hackintosh Tutorial: Setup A Unibeast Mountain Lion USB


Important Hackintosh Resource Sites – Hackintosh


Best regards,

Do your apps listen? Or see?

Filed Under (Apple, Privacy, Smart Device, Technology) by admin on 27-04-2011

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Have you ever thought you have heard or seen it all? Well, you haven’t! But, your phone has. That’s right. A whole new crop of mobile apps are capable of turning on your phone’s microphone and camera to both listen and see what you are doing and what is going on around you.
Over The Line?
So are these developers going over the line or is this a natural progression in giving the end user a more desirable experience? We all have used apps like SoundHound or Shazam but those are user invoked. Imagine having an app that sits on your phone in the background and whenever it hears a voice it recognizes it, then does something like play a sound, display a picture, pop up an ad or even suggest something for you to do? That’s what it has come to. In an age where everyone seemingly wants everyone else to know where they are or what they’re doing developers are filling the gaps and automating these processes.
Some Apps to look out for….
ShopKick is a mobile app that senses when you walk into a certain store and presents deals or rewards to you. This is a pretty neat idea but we all know where its going don’t we? I can only imagine that it knows where you are and if you walk into a store that is a competitor of one of their vendors it could pop an ad saying “What are you doing at Burger King? Here is a coupon for McDonald’s!” Can you imagine?
IntoNow is an app that listens to what shows you are watching on TV and then posts them on Facebook or Twitter so your friends can see what you are watching. I’m not one of those people that needs to have everyone else around me up to date on what I am doing. I’m pretty sure my family and friends could care less unless of course I am doing something really cool.
Color is an app that uses your mic and your camera to keep people online up to date as to where you are, who you are with and what you are doing. A constant stream of your doings that can be uploaded to the color network and to other color users around you. Their multilens feature allows you to see all pictures and videos of other color users nearby. These photos and videos are yours to keep. So if someone videos you doing something and posts that to their color account it is there forever. Yikes.

iPhone Tracker Application

iPhone Tracker Application

Apple Collecting Data?
I’m not going to say they are or they aren’t but it sure seems like they could. Apple has come under fire recently for keeping a database on your phone and on whatever computers you sync that phone to. This file is unencrypted and stores GPS locations where your phone is every 10 mins (give or take a minute) and that is whether or not you turn off location service. If you would like to see where you have been with your phone there is a neat application that runs on the mac called iPhoneTracker that will present a map with points based on the data in that database.
This is the never ending saga of information overload. Data is where the money is and companies are coming up with newer and extremely clever ways to collect even more data about you, the places you go, the shows you watch, the people you are with, everything. This data is the backbone for companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the advertising agencies that are looking to capitalize on that data. The problem is that this data is our essence, it’s what makes up who we are, we should hold it and protect it.

PlayStation Network Down Indefinitely – Anonymous Strikes Again!

Filed Under (Anonymous, Hacking, Security, Technology, WikiLeaks) by admin on 26-04-2011

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Sony’s PlayStation Network once again has been hit with a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack believed to be perpetrated by the underground hack society known as Anonymous. Sony has decided to pull the plug on its PlayStation Network after it believes sensitive user information may have been leaked in the attack. According to reports Anonymous does claim responsibility for the DDoS attack but is adamant that the taking of sensitive customer data did not come under its direction. Since Anonymous is made up of individual citizens from all over the world it is possible some or one may have acted on their own accord.
What’s a DDoS Attack
A DDoS attack is essentially hundreds or thousands of users generating thousands or more requests each to a single web site or web service. Due to the cumulative enormity of such an attack the site or service becomes overwhelmed with the false requests and is unable to properly service the real requests which effectively brings the service or site to a crawl and makes it unusable. DDoS is a popular method of attack used as a form of civil disobedience and has become a very effective tool for the underground community to show its displeasure with abuse or injustices.
Who is Anonymous?
Anonymous is a massive underground movement of individuals who have organized themselves shortly after WikiLeaks came under intense scrutiny by the US and Swedish governments for releasing sensitive US government cables believed to be leaked by then Pfc. Bradley Manning. Since the leaks, Manning has been held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, is under constant surveillance, is not allowed to exercise and has not been allowed a pillow or bed sheets despite not having been convicted of a crime. Anonymous has shown strong support for WikiLeaks by using DDoS attacks to shut down many credit card and other online payment vendors who have stopped servicing WikiLeaks, thus preventing WikiLeaks from collecting contributions and donations made online using these services.
Operation Payback – Sony and Anonymous
Anonymous’ battles with Sony began shortly after Sony brought lawsuits against PS3 hackers forcing them never to hack a Playstation even though they legally owned the hardware. This has been an ongoing licensing battle for years between hardware vendors and power users who want to improve their systems much like a car owner could upgrade parts in his/her car without getting sued by the manufacturer. Anonymous created a manifesto called Operation Payback – Sony announcing its stance on Sony’s actions and what it intends to do to make Sony pay. This is the Anonymous video associated with Operation Payback – Sony.

Stay tuned for more….

The Cloud is Falling!!!!!

Filed Under (Cloud, Hacking, Privacy, Security, Technology) by admin on 25-04-2011

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So this week I would like to talk about cloud computing and the mishap last week that led to widespread web outages all because Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services) had a networking glitch (haha) that sent their storage servers offline effectively dragging down all of the sites it was hosting (nearly 70 by some estimates) including the New York Times, Foursquare, Propublica, Reddit, Quora, Hootsuite and many more.
Infrastructure to the Cloud…
Everyone who knows me knows that I am an infrastructure guy. The 5 years I spent as CTO at The Money Store was mostly spent upgrading their IT infrastructure to handle expansion from 1 office to over 300. We did this all in-house. On a very slim budget. We were successful because we were persistent and creative. We were responsible with our data and didn’t trust anyone else with it. Hell, we had financial data that would be a literal gold mine for spammers and phishers.
The cloud is the effective opposite of what we were doing. Instead of building infrastructure you would essentially move all necessary services to a hosting provider. All of that proprietary information, the financial data, customer files, everything would be moved somewhere else. Term services, application servers, exchange, everything would be outsourced to the cloud.
Why Do Hackers Love the Cloud?
Hackers view the cloud as an interesting attack surface because they can maximize collateral damage through a simple DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack. Since the whole point behind the cloud is to utilize and maximize the resources of a handful of providers this creates an optimal surface for hackers to carry out a DDOS attack to bring down dozens, hundreds and in some cases thousands of websites. If your site is served from the same cloud server as say Bank of America and someone decides they want to DDOS BofA chances are your site is going to be knocked offline too.
That’s just DDOS. But what about data infiltration. Can you imagine the bevy of information, the personal customer data, the proprietary business processes, vendors and financials that could be swiped. And all in one neat place. It’s too good to be true.
What should I do?
For one, understand the risks involved with the cloud and that you may not even be a target but could suffer the ramifications of someone else who is targeted and that translates into downtime. Now Amazon says the outage they experienced last week was because of a network glitch that somehow caused their storage to go offline creating a domino effect resulting in a mass outage. Hey, you can paint me with the dummy brush if you want to but this sounds an awful lot like someone found a security hole and exploited it.
ContangoIT’s Danny Mizrahi
By the way, I contacted Danny Mizrahi from ContangoIT about this outage asking him how his company was affected by the outage and responded saying that his clients that were using EC2 were setup properly and in multiple zones and weren’t affected. He also gave me a link to another in depth blog post breaking down exactly what happened in the Amazon outage which is some great reading and located HERE. Danny is one of those non-techie PRO-CLOUD sales/marketing guys that truly believes in cloud computing even though most of his clients use traditional infrastructure technology. In any event, Danny has a speaking engagement this Wednesday from 6-8pm for CANTAB NYC titled “Navigating the Cloud”. And while I don’t totally agree that putting all your eggs in the cloud basket is such a great idea, his talk should be a worthwhile event to attend.

Deb Roy: The birth of a word…

Filed Under (Technology) by admin on 16-03-2011

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As we navigate through life we sometimes forget how powerful, how amazing and how completely random it really is.  MIT Researcher Deb Roy started a new project trying to figure out how his infant son learned language.  What you are about to see is the culmination in video form explaining the results of his experiment which is truly remarkable.

Please take the time to watch this entire video and I believe you will come away from it with a new appreciation for how our lives are lived and how we learn language and gain understanding visually, vocally and how it all relates to social networks.

5 Free iTunes Songs – Sign up!

Filed Under (Apple, iTunes) by admin on 09-03-2011

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5 Free iTunes song

5 Free Songs on iTunes

I found this great deal today… If you have an American Express card you can register it with your iTunes account to buy 5 iTunes songs and American Express will credit you for the amount of 5 songs on your statement.

Once your register your American Express card via the link below you must then set that American Express as your credit card in your iTunes account and make your 5 song purchases.  A credit equal to the 5 songs plus tax will be applied to your statement typically within 5 business days; however, the credit may take up to two billing periods to apply to your account.  According to the website, any personal, business or OPEN account qualifies for this offer.  I did it!  So do it!



The Evil Apple Empire!

Filed Under (Apple) by admin on 04-03-2011

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Apple - The Evil Empire

Apple - The Evil Empire

More and more people are flocking to the wares that Apple is offering and it is not without reason, they totally rock.  Whether you love your iPod touch, an iPhone, a Macbook Pro or an iPad, I’m pretty sure you love it and can’t imagine life without it.  That’s great but that kind of fanfare doesn’t come without its drawbacks.  Whether or not you know it or admit it Apple is slowly but surely taking over the world.  That may sound like a sinister rant but its true.  You don’t have to look any further than the music industry to get a true understanding of how evil the Apple empire is becoming.

The music industry used to be their own evil empire.  Plundering artists of their work and royalties in the name of business and prosperity.  Tower Records, Sam Goody, Suncoast and too many mom and pop record stores to name actual made an honest living by providing the public a way to purchase music and the like.  No more.  People buy music from Apple now.  iTunes RULES!  Or does it?  Well it does.  Apple sells more than 25% of all music in the US.  That is enormous.  And while the average Joe says, who cares?  I’m going to tell you who, the artists.  Unless you are Lady Gaga or Eminem the chances you are making any really money is slim.  Even with Apple raising their prices from .99 to 1.29 to help subsidize the artists Apple just simply isn’t worried about them.

That’s the music industry.  But what about other industries?  Movies?  TV Shows?  Software development?  Can anyone conceive how much money Apple is pulling out of the Software development coffers?  Software such as games and utilities would cost anywhere from $40 to $70.  People used to run down to the store and pick them up and install them.  Now depending on your device you either use the App Store for iOS devices or the Mac App Store.  And the prices of applications have come way down.  Aside from more than half of the apps being free the ones that aren’t range anywhere from 1.99 to 9.99.  This represents massive shrinkage in profits and sales for the average developer.  There is a trade off for developers.  Never has it been easier to get your app distributed but are the costs too much.  In the past when you developed a software product it took a lot of people to get it to market.  Developers to code the application and artist to refine the gui, tech support staff to support the product, a sales staff to get the market out to the public in the stores and what not, a marketing staff to make ads that would be in trade magazines and to create a website.  Nowadays, there is no infrastructure needed.  A single developer writes and designs the application and sells it through the App store.  That same developer probably also develops his or her own website to support the product.  No wonder why so many people are out of jobs.  There aren’t any anymore!

When is this model going to explode?  Is everyone just going to become a develop and further flood the market with applications we already have but make them even cheaper?

And what’s next?  I already stay home and watch NetFlix instead of spending a 100 bucks at the movie theater.  What else will Apple take over?  Step back 10 years.  Apple had computers.  Now they OWN the portable music player market, they are the #1 music retailer (or wholesaler if you want to be honest), they have the #1 selling smart phone in the world, they have Apple TV which is slowly grabbing on, they have App stores for their computer platform, their iPod platform, their phone platform and their iPad platform.

To top it off they have over $60 billion in cash.

New iPad 2 is LOADED!

Filed Under (Apple, Hardware, Smart Device) by admin on 02-03-2011

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iPad 2


Apple has just announced the new iPad 2… Here are some key features…

  • Dual-Core A5 Processor
  • Up to 2x faster CPU
  • Up to 9x faster Graphics
  • Same Low Power as A4
  • First Dual Core tablet to ship in volume
  • Dual Web Cameras (one front facing, one rear facing)
  • 33% Thinner than iPad1
  • Weighs 1.3lbs (iPad 1 weighs 1.5lbs)
  • Comes in Black or White
  • Works on both AT&T & Verizon Networks

16 GB32 GB64 GB
WiFi + 3G$629$729$829