UnNeighborly Security

Hack me now!I recently ran into some unneighborly security. It happens all the time to those of us who know how to build, upgrade, secure, and troubleshoot hardware and software.

I’m over at my neighbor’s house and he says, “Hey, you work with computers, so can you take a look at mine?”

There goes the afternoon.

To make a long story much shorter, here’s what I found:

  • A computer with way too many viruses. Full of those useless applications that people love to download, and hackers love for people to download.
  • All computer accounts, which are of course, administrator accounts, have no password. The default administrator account has no password.
  • Windows Update had not run in 6 months.
  • Windows Defender could not run due to an error.
  • Expired antivirus (Norton, of course,–I hate that stuff).
  • A wireless router with a default admin password and no encryption.
  • The SSID, which is broadcasting, is their cat’s name. Strangely enough, my neighbor’s iPad had a password, which was also the cat’s name (4 characters).

So I went home and retrieved my “rescue USB” with all my updated software tools on it. I love this USB because it has a hardware read-only switch, which prevent my USB (and me) from getting infected.

While I worked, we had the usual discussions about why basic security is important, and why hackers value home computers, even if the owner is a nobody and has nothing to steal or hide*.

* Some still don’t understand that the computers of uninteresting, boring, people are used by hackers to hack computers of interesting people, create botnets, send spam, store child pornography, and more.

But this time was different. My neighbor actually had a reason as to why he didn’t care much about security: the chemical company, at which he works, has basically no security either. Except that they are required to use only 3-character passwords, and the only time it’s changed is when you leave the company. No kidding.

While I can’t change his company, I can practice the 3rd greatest commandment:

Secure your neighbor as yourself.

Read other Security Scout posts.



Filed under Security, Security Scout, Technology

4 responses to “UnNeighborly Security

  1. Question, what do you have on your “rescue USB”.
    Curious as to what programs you use? Perhaps make myself abit more effective. Also, can you recommend a decent flash drive with a HRO switch such as yours?


    • Hi Christian,
      My USB is a Lexar JumpDrive 2.0, pretty old. The only one I’ve ever had with a hardware switch.
      On my USB, I have programs for Windows (all are free) like:
      – ClamWinPortable, an antivirus solution that does not require install (I always update my AV definitions prior to use so I can lock the drive again against writes while it’s in the infected machine).
      – Superantispywareportable, another AV solution that runs from the USB.
      – ProcessExplorer, which is a great way to see what processes are running on the machine, and kill them. With this app, if you kill a process and that starts another process, it’s real easy to see.
      – Mike Lin’s excellent Startup Control Panel, which allows you to easily identify and kill programs that start up when Windows boots.
      – Lavasoft Adaware; also Malwarebytes, which I install and run on the machine after it’s as clean as possible.

      As for recommendations, I’d just search Google for “usb with hardware write protection” and stick with a name brand.

      You might also want to see my post entitled, My Favorite Windows Software.


  2. It boggles the mind that a company, especially in that line of business does not stop to think about security. Does make you wonder who runs their IT. Where is management to set the tone for managing risk?


    • Kwame,
      Yes, I am always boggled at this. I understand that this company is a smaller organization that grew out of a mom-pop company. It’s probably a company of mostly chemists who have no clue about IT or security. Things have been good for years, so no need to change. Bad things only happen to big companies like Dow.

      That’s no excuse, but that’s how this company operates. For now.

      Eventually, it will be compromised, and if it survives, things will improve.

      Or it is already compromised and they don’t know it.. That’s even scarier.


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