The State of PC Security Part 3
by Rob Cheng
It seems like every week there is another epic disaster related to computer security and more importantly our credit cards, identities and privacy. In the last month, we have learned that eBay has joined the ranks of Target, Adobe, Neiman Marcus, et al, and their customer accounts have been compromised. In the same month, Symantec announced that traditional antivirus is dead and ineffective. With that context, let’s take an overview of the state of PC Security and how it affects our every day lives.
Hackers or Not
When eBay lost all of their customer data, it was common to read that eBay was in fact “hacked”. But this is not entirely true, because hackers renders an image of teenage rebellion and opposition to authority. None of this is true. These companies were targeted in a precise and organized way. The reality is there is a new digital mafia underground that is organized and makes its living by destroying the privacy and financial status of innocent people.
The new digital mafia, does not break fingers or throw bodies in the river a la Tony Soprano, but are quite sophisticated. In fact, if all the breaches have taught us anything is that the mafia’s technical sophistication exceeds that of the technologies that these companies trust to protect us.
The good news is that there does not appear to be any damage yet wrecked onto the general population. Target’s sales are apparently down, as they should be, but we have yet to learn about how large swatches of ex Target customers are suddenly destitute and without identities.
At this point, we all have received post-breach robo emails exhorting us to change our passwords. The reason for these emails is that in the event of a massive attack that can be traced to their breach, this is their way of escaping liability. Basically, it is their fault that the bad guys have your personal information, but if anything bad happens, don’t blame them. So if there is any hope, we should obediently change our passwords in the hope that if you do get compromised they will accept some responsibility.
The New Battlefield
There is a war between the people that want to compromise our computers and our identities, and the companies that we choose to protect us from these digital threats and attacks. It was sad indeed when Symantec announced last month that they were essentially throwing in the towel. I have to agree if we look at the technical progress of the enemy, it is discouraging, but don’t throw up the white flag so quickly. Fight the good fight because this battle is worth winning.
On April 8, 2014, Microsoft announced they would discontinue support including security patches for Windows XP. In one fell swoop, Microsoft was throwing 1/4th of their entire installed base to the wolves of the digital mafia with the laughable rationalization that they could no longer afford to support them. They have billions of dollars for stock buyback programs but not enough to support their longest and most loyal users.
Shortly after, we announced via a series of TV advertisements that PC Matic would support all versions including Windows XP. The response has been amazing and we appreciate the ground swell of support for PC Matic. We are able to make this claim with confidence since PC Matic has a white list that stops all of today’s modern threats. Also PC Matic will make these computer faster which given their age contributed to the explosion of sales. Again we thank you.
Who Is Spying On You?
One question we are asked often is how does PC Matic continue to support when Microsoft does not? The simple reponse is the white list. Through this unique technique, PC Matic protects against dangerous software running on your computer without your knowledge. The reason that the mighty Symantec is throwing in the towel is their inability to stop polymorphic viruses which is a common technique of all modern viruses. PC Matic protects your computer and XP computers against all of these threats.
There is however a threat to your privacy that is not mentioned much in the press. For example, your spouse or significant other has probably seen you type your password into your computer many times. If they are motivated, they could figure out your password after patiently watching you type on the keyboard for a week or so. Once your password is known by some one else, they now have access to almost everything in your computer and your privacy has been violated. It happens every day, and there is nothing that PC Matic nor Microsoft can do to protect against this type of attack.
Take this one step further. Once your password has been compromised, it is possible to enter your computer without even being present as long as it is connected to the internet. The fuel for all those spy novels can actually happen in real life. So the big question is what strangers or organizations would be interested in spying on you? If this is a concern, then PC Matic is unable to protect against this type of threat.
There is a key battle for our computer screens and the autonomy of the internet itself. We take very seriously the trust that so many have placed in our company and its products, and we are humbled by the outpouring in recent months. Thank you again.
PC Matic White List:
The most common technique to detect, block and remove viruses is called black listing. The black list contains a digital list of every known virus to man. The virus industry (also known as the bad buys) have developed a technique called polymorphic viruses. This method allows one virus to morph into to what seems like thousands to black list security software. The security industry quite often touts the explosion of viruses is a reason to purchase their wares, but the reality is that the incredible ascent is a sign of the ineffectiveness of their software to defeat modern viruses.
Polymorphic viruses have created an explosion of viruses suggesting that a white list approach is more viable and effective. Source: KnowBe4
Since April 2011, PC Matic has included white list protection which blocks and does not allow the virus to propagate or morph. Rather than a list of known bad programs, PC Matic uses a list of known good programs. As the graph shows, in today’s polymorphic virus world, it is an easier task to track good software than bad. Furthermore, good software is not trying to escape detection. PC Matic Home Security features white list real time protection blocking the morphing viruses in its tracks.
PC Matic also includes a black list as a scan and clean engine.
—June 5, 2013
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