Tag: malware

Disabling Flash on Chrome and Firefox (Latest versions) updated Oct-2017

POST UPDATED: OCTOBER 16, 2017

noflashFlash is phasing out. Every day fewer websites run with Flash since they have replaced it with HTML5 and other formats. Why? Among other things Flash is VERY insecure. For example, there are a lot of flash ads that right now are being injected with malicious code in order to infect everybody visiting certain sites with those ads. You don’t have to click on anything, you don’t have to download a file, you’ll be infected just by getting there.

Today as basically any other day new Flash vulnerabilities came to light; you can see the full list  https://www.cvedetails.com/vulnerability-list/vendor_id-53/product_id-6761/Adobe-Flash-Player.html. Vulnerabilities still unpatched (0day) could potentially allow remote access to your computer and data.

If you don’t use flash it’s best to disable it, but if you need it from time to time (certain websites and devices still only use Flash), set your browser to “Ask First” and update to the latest Adobe Flash Player Version https://get.adobe.com/es/flashplayer/.

Disabling Flash in Chrome

The easiest and fastest way to do it is typing on the location bar:

chrome://settings/content

settingscontent
Figure 1.  Content Settings

Or if you want the long and click-y version, click on the upper right menu and click on Settings.  settings

On the window that will appear go to the bottom and click on Advanced. More options will appear including “Content Settings

contentsett

Click on that option, it will show the same information that on Figure 1 above.

You’ll see an option for Flash, click on it.

If you want Chrome to ask before running Flash make sure your setup looks like the picture below. This picture shows that Chrome is allowing sites to run Flash but also to ask before running it on a website.

before

The next time a website is trying to use flash a dialog similar to this will appear:

askfirst2

If you want to completely disable Flash, disable Allow sites to run flash clicking on the blue button, the text now will change to Block sites from running Flash

block

This window also has the option to block and allow flash per website, either manually or if you selected “Ask First” it will remember your choice of Allow/Block for individual sites.

That’s it!

Disabling Flash in Firefox

Click on the menu symbol 2014-01-10-13-08-08-f52b8con the upper right corner and click on add-ons or on the location bar type about:addonsaddonfirefox

On the left side menu, click on Plugins  Search for Shockwave Flash or Shockwave for Director (Annoyingly this was the previous name for the Flash plugin).

ff2 Here you can choose  “Ask to Activate“, which in essence would make Firefox to ask to activate Flash in case a site needs it. (See Figure below). activateflash Nowadays, this would be rare, since most Flash on the Internet is in ads, not actual content, and even sites who use Flash have an alternate version without it. So you can disable Flash for good, selecting Never Activate. You will see something like this in a web page which only uses Flash. flashdisable

Final Notes

My personal recommendation is to disable Flash since these vulnerabilities are recurrent.

If you want to know how to disable Flash on Internet Explorer:

https://360techstuff.com/disable-flash-in-internet-explorer-latest-version/

If you want to know how to disable Flash on Microsoft Edge:

https://360techstuff.com/disable-flash-in-microsoft-edge-windows-10/

To improve your security:

  • Keep your Operating System, Browsers and Plugins/Add-Ons updated
  • Stay away of suspicious websites
  • Use an ad blocker like Ublock Origin or Adblock Plus
  • Install protection software like Malwarebytes anti Malware and Anti-Exploit

 

I hope this information is useful. Buy me a coffee?

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Cookies – What they are, why they matter and how to get rid of the nasty ones.

Cookies  cookies

At this point, most people at least have heard about cookies in a non-dessert but websites sense. But what they really are and how they work remain obscure for some. So, let’s try to break it down a little.

What is a cookie?

A cookie is a data message that is stored in your Web Browser (i.e., in a file in your computer) when you visit certain websites.

cookie

Basically, you access the site and you receive the cookie that the website sent you. After that, every time you access that website, your web browser (Chrome, Firefox…), sends the cookie back to the website that created in the first place, and which it’s the only one allowed to read and modify the cookie contents.

Why do websites use cookies?

cookie2

Basically, to remember you and your previous activity on the site.

Look at it this way, let’s say your name is Sam and you’re a regular in a coffee shop where you’re always served by John and you always order black coffee. Chances are the next time you go there, John greets you with a “Hi Sam, nice to have you back here, do you want the usual? Maybe you’re interested in this muffin who’s a match made in heaven for your black coffee.” Does it sound familiar?

Well, websites try to do the same thing, just in the virtual world.  Cookies allow the website to greet you, the remember what products you were browsing last time you visited the site, products in a shopping cart or wish list, what your languages preferences are, and a lot of other stuff, for as long as the cookie stays in your computer.

Also, cookies are a mechanism to let the website know if you’re already logged in the site, so it doesn’t bug you asking for your password again and again (e.g. in a paid news site). These cookies are known as authentication cookies.

Can a cookie have a virus?

Not really. A cookie file is just a text file, it’s not code, so the cookie cannot perform any action by itself. Hence, a cookie is neither a virus or malware and they can’t install those in your computer either. However, cookies can be used to help malicious behavior by third-parties as it is explained below.

Can a cookie represent a threat?

They might, but not by themselves. The cookie is just a small text file which in the wrong hands may represent a privacy threat if a 3rd party has access to unauthorized information.

An attacker can use a bug/attack in your web browser to read cookies and gather information about you, your shopping patterns, the websites you access, and even the passwords you use to access those sites.The attacker can even use your cookies to impersonate yourself into a website.

ProTip: Never save a password in your browser, seriously.

Cookies can also be used to identify a computer infected with a certain malware, so this computer can be compromised or used later to participate in an attack to some other target. Again, the computer had to be infected in some other way (not by the cookie).

The privacy concern

There’s a particular type of cookie which arises controversy: The tracking cookie.

Remember your old normal cookie who only sends information to a website when you visit it? Well, now imagine you left the website with a spy at your back.

A tracking cookie will report to a website of your activities online, even if those activities had nothing to do with the website that gave you the cookie. This cookie will tell on you (like an annoying brother), what you’ve been doing, which sites have you been visiting, etc. Your information, along with the information of many others (in the thousands or even millions) will be analyzed and used – sometimes even sold- mainly for marketing purposes; personalizing the ads you see in a webpage, for example.

Facebook uses tracking cookies, in case you were wondering.

Although this is not harmful to you or your computer, you might not want to share your information with everybody. Most legitimate sites will let you opt-out being tracked and most popular web browsers have an option to send websites a “Do not track” request. However, this does not work at 100%, because some sites simply ignore your “do-not-track-me” request.

In conclusion, cookies are useful and harmless in the good hands, but in the wrong hands they could turn their back on you.

Minimizing Risks

If order to minimize the risks cookies might represent you SHOULD always have an antivirus or malware scanner up to date and regularly analyze your computer. A malware scanner should be able to detect if a cookie has information of a malicious site. I recommend MalwareBytes.

Also, you can delete the cookies from your web browser manually or configure the browser to delete cookies every time you close the web browser.

Keep in mind that if you delete the cookies, you’ll lose some of the cool personalized stuff some websites are able to show you thanks to them. So, there’s an alternate way: The EFF Privacy Badger. The EFF Privacy badger is a web browser extension (Chrome and Firefox) able to recognize which type of cookies (and spy ads) are in a website.

When you visit a site, this extension will allow the good cookies and block the bad ones (trackers and/or related to potential harmful sites). The picture below shows a visit to CNN where the Privacy Badger blocked a tracker (in red).

badger

Thanks for reading!