Spyware Removal

Spyware removal is a very tricky business. Once spyware gets into your system, it will be very hard to blast those spyware. You might need specific spyware removal tools. While some spyware can be fixed by your anti-spyware software, others are much more difficult to disinfect specially if they got installed before the anti-spyware software. In such cases, you might need a spyware removal tool for that particular spyware.

Smitfraud and Vundo, for instance, are spyware which are very difficult—if not impossible—to clean using conventional means. You have to use a specialized spyware removal tool for each. And if you’re unlucky enough, you might even have to do a manual spyware removal of these spyware. Those who are not familiar with spyware removal—much less, manual spyware removal—are normally instructed to download and install HijackThis. HijackThis is not a spyware removal tool but an enumerator. HJT is then run and the resulting HJT log is sent to forums specializing on spyware removal where a human will read the log, give instructions, and ask for a fresh log. This cycle goes on until the spyware is finally removed.

So, the next time you download free movies that ask you to install some codecs before you could watch, think of how pleasant spyware removal can be.

Antivirus Firewall Software

Forums are full of questions like: “What is the best antivirus firewall software?”. You need to know that there is NO such thing as an antivirus firewall software; much less, the best antivirus firewall software. If you peruse the archives of this blog, you’ll find out that an antivirus and firewall software are two different programs with different purposes.

An antivirus software does three main things:

  • It checks new downloads and files to see if they are viruses;
  • It scans your computer every now and then for viruses; and,
  • It attempts to clean or remove viruses when any are found.

A firewall, on the other hand, acts as a checkpoint at your computer’s entry points. It determines which message is allowed to pass through.

There are also Internet security suites that contain both antivirus and firewall software. (Though most only include anti-spyware and antivirus software) But while some Internet security suites contain both antivirus and firewall software, they are still different programs packaged together—not one antivirus firewall software.

So, if you reached this page searching for antivirus firewall software, please let me guide you to Internet security suites instead. They provide a more complete protection for your computer and give you a safer Internet browsing experience. As to what Internet security suite to buy, there are a lot of good programs but you can’t go wrong with these:

  • Eset Nod32 Antivirus System (current favorite)
  • Kaspersky Internet Security (another favorite)
  • Norton Internet Security (I used to hate this but after checking around, the latest versions are actually good)
  • Vipre Antivirus with Anti-spyware

So stop searching for antivirus firewall software now and go get a good Internet security suite.

Celebrities Can Give You Viruses

Searching for celebrities can get you into deep trouble and is another reason why you need updated anti-spyware, antivirus, and firewall software. Mashable.com just pleaded: Whatever You Do, Please, PLEASE Don’t Search for Jessica Biel. They said that danger hides beneath a pretty face. You could end up with computer viruses and spyware where you didn’t expect it. Tech.Blorge also gives out a warning: Google Jessica Biel at your own risk. Searching for Jessica Biel, according to them, gives you a one-in-five chance of getting infected by a computer virus or spyware.

Jessica Biel, however, is not the only celebrity search query that can load you up with computer viruses, spyware and other malware. In Cnet News, you can see the top 15 most "dangerous" celebrities according McAfee's report. I suggest you check out that list. And if you’ve ever searched for any of those celebrities in the recent past, you better scan your computer for spyware and malware ASAP. Then, perform spyware removal procedures when necessary using your favorite spyware removal tool.

Oh, the world we’re in! People search for beauties and what they get are beasties.

Anonymity on the Internet—A False Sense of Security

I read an article and decided to post about it since it is related to Internet security, cyberlaws, and cybercrimes — topics I have recently considered to blog about. The article talks about Internet defamation and libel which are common occurrences in the Internet nowadays. This is probably because those who are not familiar with how the Internet works think that the anonymity afforded by the Web is sufficient to shield them from any liability arising from cyber bullying, libel or defamation. Unfortunately, hiding under a screen name does not afford you the protection you thought you had—specially if you use that anonymity to defame someone who decides not to let it pass.

Even for hackers, the most difficult part of compromising the security of a system is NOT the breaking in part but the covering-your-tracks part. Why? Because anonymity is nothing but a false sense of security. If the hacker decides not to cover his tracks thinking that it is unnecessary as he is already anonymous anyway, then it won’t be long before he hears the Feds knocking on his door with a warrant to serve for his arrest.

In a post I just came across, Andrew Kameka said that if you are to defame someone on the Internet, be sure to have a team of expensive cyber-lawyers and a couple million dollars or so. You might also need a lot of paperbacks just in case you are given some years after the gavel falls instead of simply being asked for some loose change. (A few million of them)

Rosemary Port learned that the hard way. She thought that lambasting Liskula Cohen and calling her names on her blog without revealing her real identity is safe. She thought wrong. A US court forced her blog host, Google, to reveal her identity. The next thing she knew, she’s already a star. If big G could be asked to cooperate, any other blog host would also be as cooperative as not one of them has a choice on the matter.

If you are reading this and you happen to be a blogger, always be mindful of the dangers of Internet or online defamation and libel. It could land you in places you don’t want to be.

Cory Aquino and Where Not to Buy Antivirus Software

In a previous post, I told you to be wary if you choose to download free antivirus software. In another post, I said that just because you will buy antivirus software instead of downloading a free one doesn’t mean you’re already safe—you must buy antivirus software only from a reputable antivirus company. But how does that relate to the former president of the Philippines?

If somebody uses a particular search term about the late president in the past few days, they would have been presented with these highly optimized malware sites in the results page: (these sites had been blocked already)

  • http://{BLOCKED}-gonzales.redxhost.com/corazon-aquino-death.html
  • http://{BLOCKED}sa.20x.cc/corazon-aquino-death.html
  • http://{BLOCKED}rank.0adz/corazon-aquino-death.html
  • http://{BLOCKED}-1.0adz.com/corazon-aquino-died.html

When the user clicks on any of those links, they’d be redirected to different sites containing malware that would then lead to the download of a fake antivirus software detected as TROJ_FAKEALRT.FK. The fake antivirus software would then possibly download more malicious files and fake antiviruses. While the sites probably would not work anymore, you need to watch out for similar tactics when searching for other terms with breakout popularity.

How would you know, then, if a link would redirect you to malicious sites distributing malware? You probably won’t. That’s why it’s worth repeating that you need anti-spyware, antivirus and firewall software installed as it would only take a few minutes of browsing before you can be infected with viruses, spyware and other malware. Your security software should be able to immediately block the connection or quarantine any questionable downloaded binary or script. And if ever you’d be redirected to a site selling—or offering for free download—antivirus software, don’t buy it; or, at least, check it first. Buy antivirus software only from a trusted company.

Don’t Buy Antivirus Software? Really?

Would you believe someone if he told you not to buy antivirus software? How about if that someone is a manager of an antivirus company? Yep, I’ve read somewhere (last year) that a manager of an antivirus company advised people not to buy antivirus software—including those from his company.

But before you think this guy is nuts, Let me assure you that he is right. What he was actually saying was not to buy antivirus software only because it is inadequate. According to him, you should buy antivirus software suites or Internet security suites instead.

And he is correct. Like I said in my previous post about essential security software, viruses are not the only threat to users anymore. In addition to antivirus software, you need spyware software, (more properly, anti-spyware software) and firewall software. Those are the essential security software. But If you also hate to be contacted by some long-lost relatives from Nigeria because of some estate settlement matters (amounting to Millions, I should add), I suggest you also get a good a spam blocker or spam filter. Finally, a popup blocker could also be a nice addition.

Do I buy antivirus software suites or Internet security suites? I don’t. I prefer my spyware software, antivirus software and firewall software to come from different security software companies. There are instances when security software company A updates their antivirus software more often than security software company B does, but the latter updates their anti-spyware software oftener than the former. It could also be that security software company A’s antivirus software rocks but their spyware software sucks. Another thing is that I want the flexibility to change my firewall software while retaining my anti-spyware software. Finally, Internet security suites just feel too bloated for me—specially considering that it always runs in the background.

For newbies, however, (or those who don’t want to spend too much time mixing and matching) I suggest they simply buy antivirus software suites or Internet security suites. It takes the guessing out of the equation. Anyway, Internet security suites are getting better and better than when I first tried them. So unless you know what you’re doing, buy Internet security suites instead of individual products.

Buy Antivirus Software Only From A Top Antivirus Company

If you decide to buy antivirus software instead of using those you can download for free, then you need to buy antivirus software from a reputable antivirus company. Don’t ever think that since you will buy antivirus software and not just download a free antivirus program, then you are safe. There are antivirus companies who are only too eager to lock you in their antivirus software lineup. Don’t buy antivirus software from them.

Research a company if you plan to buy antivirus software from them. If you are not familiar with antivirus software, determining which antivirus company is trustworthy could be hard. I found a list by Microsoft of antivirus software companies. Wikipedia also has its list of antivirus software. Wikipedia’s list is nice because antivirus programs are compared to each other by operating system availability and boot-time, among others. It also includes a list of antivirus programs free to download. Don’t buy antivirus software without checking these lists or that of reputable sites like CNet or PCMag. Your internet security depends on it.

Buy Antivirus Software or Download Antivirus Free

If you are new to antivirus programs, it is safer to buy antivirus software. Don’t get me wrong; there are still risks even if you buy antivirus software as I’ll discuss in my next post. But the risk is greater if you download antivirus for free from some no-name site.

I know that there are good antivirus free to download. I even have a link to a list of free antivirus software which I’ll share with you tomorrow. I’ve used a couple of them, too. The problem is knowing a good free antivirus to download from a bad one. As one reader pointed out in a previous post, (Hi, Holly) some of these free antivirus software contain viruses themselves. I can’t agree more as I’ve encountered them myself. In one site I visited, it said “Your computer is infected. Click here to download our free antivirus”. (Or something along those lines.) Yeah, right. Their free antivirus did not even have a name.

But if you still plan to download free antivirus software, just be aware of the risk and research the antivirus software company. Check if there are any antivirus reviews mentioning them. There are good free antivirus programs out there. However, it is simply safer for newbies to buy antivirus software. It’s worth the cost.

The Essential Security Software

I’ve already talked why it is desirable to install security software first. Now, let us talk of what types of security software to install. Actually, there are a bunch of them. There are keyloggers, password crackers, (yes, you need those to determine the strength of your own) port scanners, IDS, (with weird names like SATAN and SAINT. lol) and more. But don’t fret. Those security software are not essential for most users. I’ll try to discuss them in a future post on Network Security Software. Here, let’s focus on the essential security software that you really need to install on your PC.

Antivirus Software

Prior to the Web—or before it became mainstream, at least—there is only one essential security software to install for the average home user; and that is the antivirus software. During those times, I’m not even sure if the term security software was already used because there is only one anyway. (vis-à-vis an average user) An antivirus software scans and removes computer viruses, worms, and trojan programs. A good antivirus software should prevent the infection in the first place. They detect these viruses either by signature or by behavior. Antivirus software can also be real-time or scan-based.

An antivirus software using signature-based detection checks the files in your computer and compares it to a database of known virus signatures. If there is a match, the antivirus software reports the file as a virus. This means that your virus signature database must be up to date. Otherwise, a new virus won’t be detected by your antivirus software as its signature is not yet in the antivirus software’s database. There will be misses in this system and its magnitude is proportionate to the age of your virus signature database.

If your antivirus software uses behavior-based detection, it observes the behavior of programs in your system. If it acts like a virus, the antivirus software flags it as so. Needless to say, there will be a lot of false positives with this system. The fun thing is that most antivirus software will be reported as a virus by other antivirus software using behavior based detection. The reason is that most of the functions of an antivirus software like reading all files in a directory, locking it, taking charge of main memory, etc., are very virus-like.

Most modern antivirus software, however, uses a combination of the two. Some call their behavior-based detection system as heuristics. What’s confusing is that other antivirus software use the term heuristics as an advanced form of signature-based detection. But let’s not bother you with that, shall we? Normally, they go through signature detection first so as not to waste time doing heuristics when the file’s signature is, in fact, already in the virus signature database.

As mentioned earlier, an antivirus software can either be real-time or scan-based. A scan-based antivirus software will only run if told to do so via right clicking a file to be scanned or by selecting it in the Programs menu. A real-time antivirus software, on the other hand, will load itself into memory as soon as your operating system starts and oversees all running processes.

You need one and only one antivirus software with real-time protection. If you install two or more, you will not be increasing your computer’s security. In fact, you will weaken it. That is because both antivirus software will be trying to kick and lock each other out. That’s just how they work. You can, however, install another scan-based antivirus software. There would be no conflict in that setup. You’ll end up with a real-time antivirus software and two scan-based antivirus software. (the real-time antivirus software almost always includes a scan-based antivirus software)

Spyware Software

When the Internet escaped from the educational institutions and military facilities and entered into the household, things got a little bit more complicated. People started to connect and viruses, worms, and trojans began spreading at a faster rate compared to the previous age of sneaker net. E-commerce emerged and credit card transactions followed. Then came a new breed of malware called spyware. These sneaky little pests are similar to viruses except that they mainly gather data instead of harming your computer.

Security software companies created spyware software to combat this specific threat. A lot of money is lost due to spyware and spyware software aims to prevent this. Spyware software operates similarly to an antivirus software. There are also real-time spyware software and scan-based spyware software. Since spyware hide in a lot of places, spyware software works double time in tracking them. A common place where spyware software hunts for spyware is in browser helper objects. Some antivirus software already include spyware software.

But even if spyware software is installed in your computer, you should still be very careful with what sites you visit. Spyware software is not yet as mature as antivirus software and new spyware pop up all the time. In addition, it seems to be easier to get infected by spyware than by a virus. Merely viewing a site can get you infected when you need to download and install something first unless it is just Flash or Silverlight. (Be wary of message like: click here to view this site.)

In addition to spyware software, you can also protect yourself by disabling scripting in your browser. (ActiveX, VBScript, or JavaScript) But you will also loose some website functionality if you do so. It’s a personal call and greatly depends on what sites you frequently visit. Me, I don’t disable it.

Firewall Software

The third security software that you’ve got to have is a firewall software. If your computer were a house it is one with a lot of doors. These doors are called ports and firewall software acts as the guard. There are 1,023 common ports or doors to your computer. Depending on installed software like messaging, chat and games, it could, however, go as high as 65,000! Not all of those will be open but a lot of them could be. And you have to know which. If you don’t guard your ports, hackers can easily enter your system while whistling a tune. Could you sleep at night if even one of your 65,000 doors are unlocked or open? How about a hundred? There is a reason why Microsoft included a built-in firewall software with their operating system.

Firewall software allows you to monitor your ports, specify which ports are opened, specify which program can access which ports and which protocol can be used by what program in which port. The best firewall software will allow you a very fine grained control over the above variables. Windows has a built-in firewall software but it only allows limited configuration. For ordinary purposes, though, I think this built-in firewall software is enough. Your question is probably which port should you open and which should be closed. Ideally, all unnecessary ports should be closed in you firewall software. And what is necessary would depend on what software you have in your machine. Windows default firewall setting is a nice place to start.

Note that firewall software screens incoming and outgoing data transmissions. This means that a firewall software can augment your spyware program. Aside from making sure that hackers cannot enter your system from the outside through open ports, it also prevents unauthorized outbound communications. As I said, spyware is meant to spy and gather data like account information, browsing or purchasing history, and data for determining demographics. It has to send this data some time. When it does, your firewall software can flag it and prevent the connection. So, even if a spyware managed to pass through your spyware software undetected, it can hopefully be caught by your firewall software.

There are a lot of things I want to write about these topics. I am even considering separate blogs for each of the topics above. They are so deep and change so fast. What I am able to provide here is just a bird’s eye view of sorts. I’ll try to probe deeper in succeeding posts. Or maybe, I’ll just write a book. ;) (kidding)

Install Security Software First

The first thing I do after buying or building a computer is to set up security software. There are three essential security software that I install: An antivirus software, a spyware software, and a firewall software. No other program gets installed on my machine after the operating system until these security software are up and running. Period.

I religiously followed this routine of installing security software first before anything else on my own systems since I built all of them myself (aside from my notebook). However, when Dee bought her laptop, it came with a lot of stuff already preinstalled! So, what I did was uninstall everything including all the manufacturer’s own computer system management and security software. Sorry, Acer. When only Vista and some signed drivers were left, only then did I install my set of security software. (Sorry, Dee, those stickers look good but security software first, then Firefox, then PSPad, before those lovely stars and cute smileys get pasted on the thing. lol)

Why install security software first? For one, that’s what I’ve learned; and recently, I found out the consequence of not installing security software first (or early in the program setup link). I could probably have installed the security software without deleting stuff like I did above but there are dangers in doing so—specially if the machine is old and has a lot of programs already. Take for instance this other computer in our network. It has been browsing and downloading lots of stuff already when I inherited it. And it already had a virus.

I installed my security software triangle and plugged it into the network. Nothing was detected. I only became aware of the existence of the virus later after observing that the network is slowing down, unaccountable usage of system resources, connection attempts to my computer from another within the network, and other signs (including, maybe, a sensation of a disturbance in the Force. ;) )

It seems that since the virus was there first, it sort of placed a blindfold on the security software when they were installed so that nothing would be detected. It also prevented the security software from updating its signature database to further ensure the invisibility of the malware. After replacing the antivirus part, the malware was detected but it still can’t be removed. I ended up manually searching and removing the virus and all its instances scattered around the system. It was excruciatingly painful. Had the security software been there first, the malware won’t even have the chance to take root.

If possible, always install security software first. Windows’ built-in firewall software seems to be okay but I heard that there are better alternative firewall software out there for free. After that, go grab an antivirus software and a spyware software and be safe.

Hacker | Cracker

I mentioned in a previous post how the word hacker had been inaccurately used to refer to a cracker who breaks into and compromises the security of computers and networks for personal gain or for the simple thrill of it. This confusion was started by the popular media. Given its influence and extensive reach, it’s too late to be able to do anything about that now. And while I defiantly resisted to go with the flow in the past, there are substantial reasons to give in finally.

One of the things I hope to do with this blog is to inform people about computer security, network risks, privacy, etc. With that, hopefully, they will have a better awareness of the dangers lurking in the unsavory regions of the Internet and hence, have better chances of survival. :) People do not often hesitate to visit a questionable site if they do not know, for example, that the site has the capability of storing some personal information including their browsing history and preference for a particular (ehem) cup size.

But before I could even think of informing, I need to reach out to them first. And I cannot do that if I use the correct term cracker instead of hacker because they mostly use the latter in their search queries. So, I finally decided to use the term hacker even when referring to crackers regardless of my feeling on the matter. Something’s gotta give and between me and the million, it’s not gonna be the million.

So, what do you think is the lesson in all this? For me, if enough people call a duck a dog, then that’s what it’ll be called. To the duck, all I could say is that it has my sympathy but that it should start learning how to bark. Now, imagine if enough people call you a Jedi Master… But you know I’m kidding, right? Seriously, there really are times when it’s sensible to give up even _ for a greater good.

Chess – Free Download

You got that right. One of the best computer games—chess is free to download. Some of them, at least; but definitely not Chessmaster or similar commercial chess programs. However, a lot of those chess games that are free to download are enough to make you scratch your head if your rating is below 1400.

My favorite free chess programs are Fritz, Rybka, Toga, and GNU chess. They are good chess engines that you can download for free. I’m a bit lazy to provide the links here but you can always search for them in the Net if you’re interested. You might also stumble upon new free chess games to download in the process. New stuff come out all the time, you know.

So, if you feel a bit disenchanted about blogging and don’t feel like tweeting, maybe you can have a go at chess. It’s free to download and fun to play. I’m sure you won’t have an easy time but please refrain from hitting the screen.

Can You Be Arrested for Being Drunk ...on Red Bull?

Apparently, yes. I found that out in A Red Bull High written by a law enforcement officer. This story is a bit funny, actually.

This officer chanced upon a guy appearing out of control and creating a disturbance. So, he arrested the guy and took him in for being a public nuisance due to being drunk. The officer, however, did not notice any alcohol breath from the guy but figured that he had to be under the influence of something as he was so hyped up.

But that's not as interesting as what happened after a few months. I don't know whether I want to laugh or cry at what the guy did. The officer received a subpoena ad testificandum because the guy chose to contest the charge and acted as his own attorney. Great. As Abraham Lincoln put it, a man who represents himself has a fool for a client.

So, what happened next? He talked his way to being found guilty. How? He said that he cannot be charged for causing a nuisance while being drunk because he did not drink alcohol. He merely drank Red Bull. In fact, according to him, the officer did not even give him a breath test or a field sobriety test. Then the judge was like "Uh, okay. Nuisance under the influence of Red Bull then.". Oops. Why is that bad? It's bad because now, there is legal basis that you can be arrested for being drunk on Red Bull; what's next, coffee? The guy should just have pleaded guilty and paid the fine; or at least sought the assistance of counsel if he really wanted to fight the charge.

High Schooler Pretending To Be A Girl, Criminally Accused

If you think it is impossible to face jail time of up to 293 years and a bail bond of 75 Thousand Dollars (Yup, that’s 75 Grand—$75,000.00) for pretending to be a girl in Facebook, think again. An Eighteen-year-old high school boy just found this out for himself. His attorney said that he will pay twenty dollars for electronic monitoring with a GPS device and have adult supervision if he is released from jail.

But to make things clearer, just pretending to be a fairy was not really what placed this boy in hot water. After pretending to be a she, he just cannot help himself from contacting 31 male classmates of his on Facebook and convincing them to send him naked pictures of themselves. Now, as if this cruel prank was not enough, he used those pictures to blackmail at least seven of those poor boys who thought that he was the fairest of them all.

What he blackmailed them for, you ask? Well, it’s for some boy on boy bed adventure. (I must admit that in this blog, I sometimes find it easier to spell longer words than three-lettered ones) Now that changes everything, don’t you think? (Oh, and investigators also found around 300 pictures of the accused’s male classmates)

Facebook and Privacy Law

Securing your privacy on the Web is a tenuous proposition at best. The more so when you participate in certain online activities like chat, email and now, Facebook. The site is alleged to have been breaking a Canadian privacy law otherwise known as The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. This law only allows the retention of personal information by companies when it is still necessary to meet appropriate purposes. Facebook, however, retains such personal information even after the termination of its service such as after an account has been deactivated or closed.

It’s not a secret that I’m fond of social media like Twitter. Hardly a day passes by without me sending tweets about links that I just discovered in the Web or in Twitter itself. And since Facebook is another form of social media, I have also been looking at it. But privacy has always been a concern. This is aggravated in Facebook due to the ever so popular applications. These applications made Facebook popular but are also a privacy concern since there are few restrictions on data access.

The privacy officer seems to be saying that people come to Facebook to share information and not to hide them. I don’t know if there are other ways of interpreting that statement but to me, what the officer is trying to say in effect is that privacy is not much of a concern there. I beg to differ. When someone joins a social networking site like Facebook, it may be true that she does not intend to hide information but I’m also sure that she also does not want to share it with just about anybody in the world.

Law In Cyberspace

There are laws that address cyber crimes in cyberspace. But there are still some problems in enforcement and prosecution. Imagine a hacker from China who broke into a workstation owned by a European company in the Philippines  which is then used to hack an Australian’s blog which is hosted in a server in the USA. Which court has jurisdiction? Which country’s law shall be applied? Who can represent who? A Philippine lawyer cannot appear in American or Australian courts unless admitted in those country’s bar.

I’ve been to Reyna Elena’s blog a few days ago and read that his site’s traffic had been rerouted. Based on his description, it sounds so much like a redirect hijack. It is not yet confirmed though. (Who’s going to confirm it anyway? Certainly not the hosting company.) On the other side of the blogosphere, I came across two Filipino bloggers who got their sites hacked and consequently, their ads replaced with that of the intruder’s. These acts are clearly illegal in most jurisdictions.

So who did these things and why? Crackers. Not the crunchy thing you eat when you’re hungry and there’s no food around, but those people who eat blogs for breakfast. Actually, you might have heard of them as hackers though I refuse to use that term here as it is simply erroneous and misleading. Hackers originally meant brilliant people in computers and computing such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman, to name a few. I’m certainly not about to honor network intruders by calling them hackers.

As to why, let’s look at Reyna’s blog first. His blog boasts a tremendous amount of traffic. As you might already know, this traffic can be converted; so the intruders weapon of choice? Web traffic redirection. They probably did it by breaking into Reyna’s installation and installed server-side scripts to the end that Reyna’s traffic is counted as that of the intruder’s. In short, they benefited from Reyna’s traffic.

The other two blogs are a different story. The owners of those blogs earn substantial AdSense revenues. So the crackers took a different approach. Instead of redirecting traffic, they replaced the original ads of the blog owners with their own ads so that clicks and impressions will be credited to their account. Smart.

Crackers or network intruders today have evolved from their immature beginnings. In the past, they would break into systems and tell the world that they’ve done it by defacing websites. It was sort of like their trophy. Not unlike a kid spray painting a wall with words like: “Hacker Doodz was here”. Today, their approach is more business like. They’re in it for the money. Most bloggers who get hacked probably would not even know it. Why would they be so loud when doing so means the end of their passive income? The only reason the blogger above learned of the ad swap is because he noticed that the ad’s color became slightly different. Good for him to notice that.

In cases like this, complex conflict of laws needs to be applied which is why a lot don’t even bother. This will hopefully be remedied in the future but at the moment, we just have to be vigilant.

I Just Had A Page Rank Of 2 But…

Now it’s gone. Talk about Murphy’s Law. That’s sad considering that I am just starting to consider blogging seriously and am hoping to get something out of it—even just a teensy bit.

Some online buddies like Roy of The Struggling Blogger and Ceblogger of Blog From Cebu showed me that there is another side to blogging. Some might say that this is the dark side of blogging but I’ll let each of you be the judge of that. The Chosen may be called by The Others as The Forsaken while The Unenlightened, The Faithful. For myself, I’m determined to at least take a peak at that wilde side.

But crossing to the other side, as my research showed, is not unlike entering the camp of the Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta—the better if you sport some badge showing higher rank than the norm. (With a matching green colored beret, of course) So here’s to hoping that that elusive rank be reinstated.

My Nominees For The Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs for 2009 Writing Project

Just great. A few minutes ago, I was playing SpongeBob SquarePants on my son's Nintendo DS. He also wanted to play with it; but of course, I won out. It's not because I'm the dad around here but because it's not like I get to play with it a lot. I seldom have the opportunity to immerse myself in a game. He, on the other hand, have plenty of time for it.

But it did not take long before the NDS had to return to his eager, waiting hands. You see, my lovely wife just told me that it might be a good idea to make my own list of top ten emerging influential bloggers. Make no mistake, while it sounds simply like a polite suggestion, I assure you that it definitely is not. Women have a way of wrapping a stern command in smooth velvet.

I tried to argue against the idea at first. Choosing has never been one of my strong points. Given the option, I would prefer not to have to choose. Between cookies and chocolates, for example, I'd just take both. That would save my brain cells from having to perform complex mathematical computations while allowing me to sample both delights at the same time. Besides, that list (which, as you'll learn later, became this list) would take extra work. But regardless of my well constructed argument, the next thing I know is that I'm sitting here in front of my computer and hammering out a bunch of text into GEdit.

However, if ever the thought crosses your mind that I jump and roll every time my wife says leap, then I must disabuse you of such belief. I do nothing of that sort. I simply jump.

Now that I have finally made it through the first few paragraphs, I think it's high time I present the blogs that I am nominating. First of all, though, let's tackle the requirements so that we can get those out of our way as soon as possible:

The Requirements

The Main Event

Tales From The Mom Side
Writing To Exhale
The Struggling Blogger
Jena Isle's Random Thoughts
It's All a Matter of Perspective: Mine
Home Buddies
I Love-Hate America by Bing
Mom Writes for a Cause
Jed Chan dot com

There you go. That is my list. I exercised due diligence in determining whether they all qualify for this contest; but if in case it turns out that such diligence fell short of the standard of care in this project, please notify me. It is also appreciated if you can bring to my attention anything which might disqualify this list and render nugatory the time I spent making it instead of playing as a yellow sea sponge.

Finally, while looking at my own list, I realized that the majority of my nominees are women. That could simply be because of coincidence; or maybe because more women blog so I know more of them; or maybe, it is my respect for their possession of the mysteries of childbirth, to which mysteries, men have been excluded.

...or it could also be because of fear of those gentle looking and seemingly weak creatures who can make you jump and do things with just a slight upward movement of an eyebrow.

A Bullet Proof Computer System Is Not Enough

I'm a bit of a paranoid when it comes to network security. The Windows installations in our home network, for example, is anything but a default installation—fine grained settings like local security and user permissions have been tweaked and tuned, and both operating system and router firewalls have been enabled. Additionally, an anti-malware software roam the premises to guard against viruses and trojan horses, while another guards against adware, spyware, keyloggers and such. On top of that, my Firefox browser have it's own anti-malware extensions like Adblock and NoScript. In a way, I built my system like a tank.

My concern for security started sometime in 1995 when I began learning about networks (particularly TCP/IP) and operating systems (Unix). In addition to all those alphabet soup, which would be sufficient to call the attention of the AAAAAAAA (American And Austral-Asian Association Against Acronym Abuse), I learned that the moment you are connected to the Internet, you are already a big, fat target. Specially if you are using a default installation of Windows in which you are running as a member of the Administrators group. And more specially if you are running Internet Explorer. (But I should say that the new IE8 has become a lot better) It is not a question of whether your system can be compromised or not but of when. Once you register as a blip in the network intruder's radar and she has set her sights on you, all you can do is pray.

But that's not the only reason for my online fears. There was a time when one of our computers got infected by a very nasty virus. You wouldn't know it was there. I just noticed it when the modem activity lights showed some kind of network activity even when I was not browsing. Then, the memory taken up by all declared running processes plus the available memory does not add up to the total memory; hence, some processes are running in the background undeclared. My anti-virus failed to clean my system and I ended up having to manually search and delete all infected files in safe mode by inspecting each alleged system file and checking its signature and file version. A tedious task. It is a very time consuming process that I do not wish to repeat again.

Building my system like a tank, however, is not enough. I also have to secure all my online accounts with strong passwords. That's not a problem though, because I have a program which could generate a password of any length with a random string of letters, numbers, punctuations and symbols. I prefer 14 characters—something like: 8%{tG7,dz;$F_4. Now, it would seem that remembering that string would be a problem specially because there are about a dozen more of them for all the email and online accounts I have. (I use different email accounts for blogging, friends, family, clients, throw aways, etc.) But my password generator can also store all of them encrypted with a master password. It even auto-fills the form in most login pages. So far, so good.

So I'm good, right? Wrong.

About three weeks ago, something came up which even my well thought of (at least that was what I thought it is) security precautions were not prepared to handle. Windows was doing its routinary downloading of updates while another software was indexing files in my hard disk. After the download and the automatic installation of updates, I turned off my computer and readied for bed. What I did not know was that my file system just failed at that moment. I do not know the cause either. It could be a clash between the system update and the indexing which had not been resolved since I had turned off my machine immediately, or maybe it's just the alignment of the stars that night.

What I do know, however, is that the next time I tried to boot up my system, it won't. It won't go past the NT boot loader because it cannot find a system file it needs—courtesy of a broken file system.

I used another machine to connect to the internet and consult Google. It has always been my friend. I'm sure it can help me out now. Most of the solutions I found recommend running Chkdsk with the F switch thrown in. I already know that but how can I run Chkdsk when I cannot even login to the system?

Unfortunately, I can't do all my troubleshooting in one sitting. There are other things on my list. But after some days and more Google search result pages later, I found another trick. It seems that one could boot up using the Windows Installation disc and do a repair from there. No need to do a reinstall; once the problematic Windows file system is detected, a new option to repair that partition would be added to the option of doing a fresh install.

That was just what I did. I booted the system up using my Windows Installation disc. But when the prompts came, there was not any option about repairing the broken file system. It looks like the file system was not only broken but was broken badly enough that it can't even be detected, much less repaired. At this point, I started thinking about my blog and all the comments I have not replied to yet. I started to panic and miss my friends in Twitter.

Then I had an idea. I thought about installing Linux in a separate partition of my hard disk. With Linux installed, I said to myself, I can run Firefox and hence tweet and manage my blog and my inbox from there. I would have liked a dedicated email client or a dedicated Twitter client but a browser would do for the meantime. For word-processing, I could use Google Docs also in Firefox. I could then repair my Windows file system when time permits. Or so, I thought.

The next evening, I had Linux installed (Jaunty Jackalope). Another evening after that, I had it updated, configured, massaged and ready to go. (I can't do everything in one sitting, remember? I do have a wife whose whims I need to take care of.) Wow, this is it, I said. First stop, Twitter. Uh, oh. It asked me for a password. I have not even thought of it since everything had been automatic in my previous environment. I didn't have to enter any passwords. And if you remembered the sort of password I described above, you now know that I have a problem, right? What about my email accounts or my JS-Kit? It looks like all of the things I did were useless. I still needed that Windows partition so that I can recover the passwords file.

Fast forward to a few days ago, I finally recovered everything; thanks to the advanced tools provided by Linux and the fact that the Windows file system, NTFS, is a journalized file system. I'll spare you the gruesome details of how I went through recovering it, like how I used a flame torch, a chainsaw and a sledgehammer on my system; (Just kidding. Kids, don't try this at home.) but suffice it to say that it took me almost as long as manually extracting the virus that infected our system in the past. Running Chkdsk alone almost took a total of 48 hours. (I also did it about three or four times though succeeding checks became a little faster as there were already fewer errors.)

Looking back, I spent a lot of time making sure that my system is almost impervious to external threats but failed to consider threats from within the system like a hard disk crash or failure, or a file system corruption. Those extra secure, incomprehensible passwords even made it more difficult for me after the system failed. In addition to locking out external threats, I should have considered a sound backup strategy in case of problems within the system. With a proper backup system in place, it would have been easier and much faster to do a reinstall and then to restore all the data.

Despite being a dull narrative of my misadventure with the Windows file system, I do hope you'll learn from this because it can happen to you too. And if it does, you might not be as lucky to recover any important files you may have. Anyway, a thumb drive or a dual-layer DVD, which are both portable and spacious, does not cost much nowadays.

My Windows system is now up but I'll still be sticking with Linux for a while until I'm totally sure that the Windows file system is healthy and won't thrash after an innocent write. So if your Google Analytics would show a couple of Jaunty Jackalopes, one of those might just be mine.

The Seven Ancient Sciences

I was searching the Net for some online resources about grammar. And after searching Google and following a chain of links, I came across a page defining science. Weird, I told myself. Since when did grammar became a science? Was it, really? I wasn’t sure so I became curious and visited that page in the hope of informing myself.

As it turned out, the ancients did consider grammar as a science. According to that site, the ancient sciences were classified into two: the Trivium and the Quadrivium. There were three sciences under the first and four under the second. After digging a little bit deeper for more, I found really interesting stuff—for me, at least.

The Seven Ancient Sciences:


  1. Grammar
  2. Logic
  3. Rhetoric


  1. Arithmetic
  2. Geometry
  3. Music
  4. Astronomy

So as not to confuse you, some sites refer to the Trivium and the Quadrivium as The Seven (Liberal) Arts instead of The Seven Sciences. But for this post, however, I am inclined to stick with the latter. Afterall, these seven were the pillars of ancient knowledge and the Latin word for knowledge is scientia.

Anyway, whatever people with laurel wreaths on their heads call these things, they are distinctly different from their modern counterparts today. Citing Sister Miriam Joseph, (The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric) Wikipedia described the Trivium as follows:

  • Logic is concerned with the thing as-it-is-known,
  • Grammar is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-symbolized, and
  • Rhetoric is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-communicated.

In other words, Grammar deals with how concepts and objects are represented in writing and in speech so that they may be dissected in thought using Logic and thereafter communicated to another mind with the aid of Rhetoric.

The Quadrivium, on the other hand, was said to be described by Proclus Diadochus in In primum Euclidis elementorum librum commentarii as follows:

  • Arithmetic is the Discrete At Rest
  • Astronomy is the Discrete In Motion
  • Geometry is the Continuous At Rest
  • Music is the Continuous In Motion

The Trivium was considered preparatory to the study of the Quadrivium. One needs to complete the former before the study of the latter could commence. Because of this, some people have the idea that the Trivium is the simpler or easier of the two and hence, unimportant or trivial.

I am of a different mind, however. Looking at the Trivium, I think it was considered preparatory because it is fundamental. There is no use in pursuing the Quadrivium if you don’t have a firm grasp of Rhetoric; and facility in Rhetoric can only be had after the constant exercise of Logic which in turn requires the study of Grammar. But before moving on, please understand that I am referring to Grammar as it is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-symbolized, and not the actual rules which I have the displeasure of wrestling against in this blog and elsewhere; although, it would be inaccurate if not irresponsible of me not to say that the former does comprise the latter.

The misconception that the Trivium is trivial leads to the Trivium being downplayed and deemphasized in our modern educational system. Why study it in-depth if it is only trivial? So we go through the motions and treat it as just a means to an end. (Either our high school diploma or our major)

As a consequence, we have a lot of otherwise educated people walking around with a poor grasp of the Trivium. But that’s not the problem, actually. The problem is that, since they are educated—or sometimes very well educated, these people are walking in the boardrooms, the Halls of Justice, the Senate, and in other important places.

Needless to say, these are the people who can get things done. But what is it that they do? In the Senate, we sometimes see people throwing things at others or splashing others with water; we also see them do acts which will generally earn a schoolboy a free trip to the guidance counselor’s office—all under the protection of privileged communication and under the pretense of debate. If this is true, I’m so gonna watch wrestling to improve my debating skills. It’s no wonder, really, considering that most people who can’t throw a descent argument curl their fingers and throw a punch instead.

But this is not how it should be. In our modern polite society, we sorely need the skills of effective communication, persuasion, argumentation and debate. We can learn these skills with the aid of the Trivium. With these skills in our hands, we can neutralize a potentially explosive situation without giving up what we want or believe in. As a bonus, we might even get what we want or, at the very least, understand where the other side is coming from and not feel bad about it. I dearly hope that it will be given the emphasis it rightly deserves in our educational system.

These skills will not make us argumentative—we already are; so, we might as well do it formally and properly. There will always be differences. What we need is the tool to settle them amicably lest we impulsively go for the red button a second too soon and blow all of us to kingdom come.

What about you? Do you think we should put emphasis back to these skills? Why, or why not?

A Walk In The Dark—A Poem

A Walk in The Dark

I walk in the Dark
with this goal in mind:
to touch whomsoever I find.

In the hope that one day,
this Darkness won't stay,
and cleared be the Blinders of sight.

I don't mind if it's scary
or if—I feel weary;
What matters is that this is right.

My (S)Word made of Light
will cut through the Night,
and bring that which has been foretold.

A world pure as gold,
and people not cold,
and goodness all over the land.

So please take this Flame
I hold in my hand,
and keep it inside of your heart.

May the Light shine on you,
forever so true,
and never again will depart.

Now come follow me,
in the Dark we shall be,
to spread out the Brightness of Day.

The World Wide Part of WWW

We all know that the Web had ended the tyranny of geography and had allowed people from all over the world to come together in forums or blogs to share their ideas with each other. But sometimes, people can still forget that not all the participants in some conversations have the same background and point of view.

I once participated in a discussion in one forum when a newcomer joined in. It was his first time in that forum so nobody really knew anything about him or where he came from. And unfortunately for him, the topic is a bit hot. It is of the mine-is-better-than-yours kind of topic. In fact, the embers were already starting to glow even before he came onboard.

Then he made a post in nonsensical English. I must admit that I could not understand what he was trying to say. If not for the individual words, I would have thought that it was written in a language other than English. He said things like “I lift me high verily ahead of you not me”. (or something like that. I can’t recall the exact words but I do recall that there is no discernible structure in his sentences. It seemed like the words were placed in a random order.) There was also something about catching a duck or something. And based on what happened next, the other participants seem to have the same problem.

They turned their virtual heads to this newcomer and either directed their annoyance toward him or mocked him. I myself was not sure at first if this person was truly serious or was merely trolling. After observing the exchange for a while though, I began to believe that he was quite serious because he really tried to explain earnestly what it is  he was trying to say by saying it in different ways. But his efforts were in vain. Not one seems to understand him.

So I asked myself “if he is not trolling, then why does he write that way?”. I mean, my English may not be good but his is incomprehensible. That question was answered when an enlightened soul came in and  asked the newcomer what translation software he used. He told the newcomer that he noticed, based on the newcomer’s IP, that he came from <country> and thus, he presumed that the newcomer did not speak English. So that was it.

That newcomer was trying his best to join and contribute to the forum, even bothered with translation, and got flamed and mocked in return for his efforts. How wrong was I to assume that everybody there spoke English! This is the World Wide Web after all.

Since that time, I have made it a point to check on people’s profile and even search them first in Google sometimes  before commenting. By doing that, I can have a glimpse on the person’s temperament. Not that I’m spying or something—it’s public, anyway—but it’s just nice to know where to place and how to phrase yourself properly.

I don’t do that all the time; but only in instances where the topic has explosive potential. In those instances, a Google search detonation kit might come in handy. For example, If most of the person’s comments are about how great L. Ron Hubbard is, then you should know better than to bash Scientology. You don’t have to agree with her but you don’t have to pick up a fight either. Afterall, we don’t have to be right all the time and impose our ideals and ideas to everybody, right? Right. So let’s go get some friends in the other side of the world.

About How This Blog Came To Be

Wow. This started with blog-hopping. I was a bit bored one time so I clicked through all the blogs in Dee’s sidebar. You know, the list you see at the side when you go to TalesFromTheMomSide.com. I planned to pass some time by reading what her friends in the blogosphere have to say.

I was very impressed. These people write so well. I did some lurking a little bit and some blog-hopping here and there until I decided to try dipping my toe into the water by dropping some comments. The first place where I did so was in Sa Labas Ng Mandaluyong. The author of that blog, Jan, (Not his real name. I have to protect his identity because this person is such a celebrity. The number of his devoted followers is increasing by the day and is almost near the point where organized religion will start to take notice.) is a very nice person who greeted me warmly. Seems like the water is warm after all.

After some time of leaving comments like crazy to every blog that would allow me to, it seemed like having a blog of my own is a good idea. After all, I want to improve my writing. And nothing could do that better than, well, writing. Dee, however, is hesitant. She is a thoughtful angel who does not want me to dress myself up like a clown for all the world to see. (Gee, thanks Dee. I appreciate the concern but a part of me always wants to make fun of people sometimes; and apparently, I am not immune to myself.) Anyway, Jan to the rescue. Jan of J.G. & Associates, my attorney-in-fact, made a well-constructed argument in a seemingly innocent comment in his blog. That did the trick. But it was not over yet; Dee made me sign an agreement. She also told me not to make fun of myself. I told her I’ll try.

The conditions of the agreement were simple. I’ll just have to educate myself by reading:

  • A small book she bought; and
  • This, this, this and this. (including the pages linked from those pages and pages linked from those linked pages.)

Of course, the dreaded portion is what I call the Or Else Clause.

I simply said that I’ll do it. But deep inside, I was laughing. Boy, could it get any easier than that? What a deal. Nope, not a deal; that was a steal! That small book? I’ll be done with it before she can even blink. Four webpages and their links? That’s nothing compared to the number of blogs I read.

So, I began. I started with the book’s table of contents to give me a glimpse of the terrain. Everything went fine in the early part of the book. That is, until I came across the term parenthetic expression. I’ll read on that in the Web later, I said to myself. Then came particulars, an appositive, an amplification, and an illustrative quotation. After that, my head began to spin.

I then decided that maybe I’ll have better luck with the Web pages. So, off I went to cyberspace. The first one was short. I followed some links, then another, then… Hey! How many links deep should I drill down? She did not tell me that. Great. And I thought this was the deal of my life. Geez, woman! Are you sure it’s okay with you if I blog or is this another way of saying no?

On a side note, I’d like to advise the members of the male species to watch out for what women say. Always keep in mind the song in the TV show The Wizards of Waverly Place. Everything is not what it seems. Sometimes they say yes but mean maybe or even no. To my mind, God created women to confuse men or maybe to exercise and test their comprehension skills. That, however, is in reference to women in general. If the woman also happens to be a lawyer, good luck. You’ll need lots of it. I did.

But going back to the terms and conditions, Dee said that they are more resolutory than suspensive. Meaning, I don’t have to comply with all those boring stuff first before I can start with the fun stuff. I can start right away with the understanding that I will continue with those readings. Stop the reading, stop the fun. Yes, ma’am!

The truth is, Dee did not want to keep me from blogging. She just hopes to prevent me from tripping over myself by making me read all those things. Well, that’s not a problem; because, to reiterate, the whole point of this blogging thing is to practice writing. That and the fun that it brings.

So, here’s my blog and here’s the first post. I had fun writing it; I hope you’ll also have fun reading it.

Recent Ramblings

In Twitterland...

I am the Sun at midnight; the Flame that is frozen; and the Snow of the desert.
...Follow me.

Come To The Dark Side