09 Mar

The Importance of HTTPS

Very few internet users understand the meaning of the padlock icon in their web browser’s address bar. It represents HTTPS, a security feature that authenticates websites and protects the information users submit to them. Let’s go over some user-friendly HTTPS best practices to help you surf the web safely.


HTTPS Encryption


Older web protocols lack data encryption. When you visit a website that doesn’t use HTTPS, everything you type or click on that website is sent across the network in plain text. So, if your bank’s website doesn’t use the latest protocols, your login information can be intercepted by anyone with the right tools.


HTTPS Certificates


The second thing outdated web browsing lacks is publisher certificates. When you enter a web address into your browser, your computer uses an online directory to translate that text into numerical addresses (e.g., www.google.com = then saves that information on your computer so it doesn’t need to check the online directory every time you visit a known website.

The problem is, if your computer is hacked it could be tricked into directing www.google.com to, even if that’s a malicious website. Oftentimes, this strategy is implemented to send users to sites that look exactly like what they expected, but are actually false-front sites designed to trick you into providing your credentials.

HTTPS created a new ecosystem of certificates that are issued by the online directories mentioned earlier. These certificates make it impossible for you to be redirected to a false-front website.


What this means for daily browsing


Most people hop from site to site too quickly to check each one for padlocks and certificates. Unfortunately, HTTPS is way too important to ignore. Here are a few things to consider when browsing:

If your browser marks a website as “unsafe” do not click “proceed anyway” unless you are absolutely certain nothing private will be transmitted.
There are web browser extensions that create encrypted connections to unencrypted websites (HTTPS Everywhere is great for Chrome and Firefox).
HTTPS certificates don’t mean anything if you don’t recognize the company’s name. For example, goog1e.com (with the ‘l’ replaced with a one) could have a certificate, but that doesn’t mean it’s a trustworthy site.


Avoiding sites that don’t use the HTTPS protocol is just one of many things you need to do to stay safe when browsing the internet. When you’re ready for IT support that handles the finer points of cybersecurity like safe web browsing, give our office a call. You can reach us at 1-866-BIT-WISE or sales@eitnetworks.net

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09 Oct

Best Browser Extensions for Security

Protecting your privacy online is crucial in today’s world to avoid data breaches, malware attacks, and other mischief hackers can throw your way. The easiest way to do this is through browser extensions, but the question is which is best? Here, we’ll take a look at the most popular browser extensions that promise to protect your online privacy.


AdBlock Plus (Chrome/Firefox/Safari)


AdBlock Plus blocks ads, scripts, and popups on your browser. It kills third-party scripts and widgets that send your data to who-knows-where. Be careful you use it properly, the extension can break the sites you read, which is why you have to first figure out what to allow and what to block. AdBlock Plus also stops you from visiting known malware-hosting domains, and it allows power users to play with different subscription lists while basic users can just enable it and walk away. Best of all, it is completely free.


Disconnect (Chrome/Firefox/Safari)


Disconnect Private Browsing protects you from tracking, malware, and malvertising while offering secure Wi-Fi and bandwidth optimization features. Third party tracking cookies become a thing of the past, and you can enjoy total control over all site scripts and elements from a user-friendly toolbar menu. You’re completely guarded from ads injected by malware or ad networks that are hijacked by embedded malware.

Disconnect also protects you from tracking by social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, which use your browsing experience even when off-site in order to collect data about you. What’s more, you’ll never have to worry about sidejacking, which is where an attacker uses stolen cookies to access your personal data without having to know your password. Available in free version and Premium, the main difference is that Premium adds mobile malware blocking and tracking to its arsenal, too.


HTTPS Everywhere (Chrome/Firefox/Opera)


One of the must-have tools for your browsing experience, HTTPS Everywhere shunts your connection to SSL whenever possible, and will try to find secure versions of the sites you visit. This protects your browsing experience and online privacy without you really having to do anything. Updates have also just been rolled out to keep you safe on thousands more sites around the web, and this extension is free for download.


Tunnelbear (Chrome)


This Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts all of your internet traffic, secures your browser data, and offers robust protection from prying eyes. Best of all, this won’t cost you a dime. Unfortunately, though, Tunnelbear is only available on Chrome at the moment; Safari and Firefox users will have to wait a little longer for this extension to come their way.


Web of Trust (Chrome/Firefox/Safari/IE)


Web of Trust (WOT) is a free extension that ranks sites by reputation and shows you whether a specific site has been known to host malware or is loaded with tracking cookies and scripts that could wreak havoc on your system.


If you’ve been browsing the web without any protection, or feel like your online privacy is at risk, talk to one of our experts at 1-866-BIT-WISE or sales@eitnetworks.net, and we’ll be happy to help.

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28 Nov

Freeware, Freeware Everywhere!

The Internet is loaded with free software, which is a good thing. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Some of this software is as good as or better than similar commercial products. For instance, GIMP is a free image editor/paint program that offers more features than some payware. It is amazing that people will produce such superb software and simply share it with society. If you are on a tight budget, you can look to freeware to keep your wallet happy. Of course, there is a dark side. With adware or spyware, you may get more than you bargained for. Here are some tips on keeping your computer or laptop safe while benefiting from the generosity of gracious software developers.

Do Your Research

Let’s say you need a free audio editor. You could simply type in “free audio editor” into your browser’s search bar, click on the first page that comes up, and download that particular audio editor. Don’t do that. Chances are it will be a perfectly fine website with secure downloads, but how do you know if it is a good product or not? What if it comes bundled with any unwanted junk? Will it turn your computer into a digital billboard for, say, NOS energy drinks? This is where research comes into play. Search for “best free audio editor” instead and look at multiple articles. If you see one particular program that consistently shows up at the top of the list, it may be the one for you. Just be sure to look at its strengths and weaknesses before downloading it.

Download the Right Product from the Right Website

Using the example of an audio editor once again, let’s assume you’ve found a good one called AudioEditorExtreme+ (fictional). Who makes this wonderful program you want? Well, you found out through the research process that it is produced by a company called AEEInc (again, fictional). The problem is that there is another freeware download called AudioEditExtreme+ made by VirusesRUs. You don’t want that one. It is a bad program. Yes, I know this is a ridiculous example, but it is here to serve the point that you should take great care in downloading the right program. The best method is to go directly to the official company website to retrieve it. If you do go to a site such as CNET.com, just be sure that the freeware you download is the right one and not one with a similar name!

Read the EULA, Whydontcha?

End User License Agreements are boring. Who reads them, anyway? Well, when installing freeware, it is a good idea to at least take a glance at it. If there is anything at all in there that makes you uncomfortable, it may be best to go back and find another program. For instance, if the EULA states that during the installation process a port will be opened that allows data to be continually streamed from your PC to the software developer’s server, you may want to pass! This is another extreme example, but you would be surprised at the data collection methods some companies utilize. There is a virtual plethora of freeware out there, so if you do not like the EULA for one, move on to another.

Be as Cautious as a Cat

Have you ever seen a cat hunt? It takes its time. It moves slowly and carefully as it nears its prey. It does not just run in willy-nilly, but creeps in close and gets the jump on a potentially faster animal. When it comes to the installation process, be like a cat. Take your time and read everything. Do not merely click “Next” or “Yes” without seeing what you are agreeing to. Even highly-rated, legitimate freeware may come bundled with garbage you do not want, including (but not limited to) browser toolbars, antivirus software, weather apps, registry scanners, or search engines. All of these can slow down your computer or laptop or just flat-out annoy you. Even worse, some can open up a “backdoor” into your system that hackers can exploit. Therefore, during the installation process, uncheck all of these extra programs. If even just one of these bundled items is mandatory, cancel the installation altogether and download a different program. Remember, this is YOUR system we are talking about, and YOU are in charge. Do not become prey on your own property!

Run an Anti-Malware Scan Afterwards

This may seem like overkill to you. After all, if you followed all the steps so far, why worry about malware? Well, you shouldn’t worry about it, per se, but remember that you are dealing with freeware, which is notorious for containing unwanted stuff. Even after following all of these steps, you never know what bad stuff may be hidden among the good stuff. An anti-malware scan is a great way to give you peace of mind about the new files on your hard drive. Besides, running frequent scans is ALWAYS a good practice, and what better time is there to run one than after accessing various websites and downloading programs? Chances are extremely high that you will never say to yourself, “Self, I wish I hadn’t run that anti-malware scan.”

There is a lot of great freeware available these days. Again, it is wonderful that certain individuals have dedicated a portion of their lives in making products to share with their fellow man. However, you should understand the risk inherent in freeware. Stick to the ideas in this article and you’ll have much better success in keeping your system clean. On a side note, if you have REALLY enjoyed a free program or service for an extended period of time, perhaps a donation is in order. If you realize they kept you from having to buy an expensive program, think about donating a little something to show them you appreciate their generosity!

EIT Networks offers IT consultation, network security, and 24/7 managed IT services. To find out more about how EIT Networks can assist your business, contact us at 1-866-BIT-WISE or sales@eitnetworks.net

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09 Feb

Heard the buzz about Java?

The security of the technical systems in an office is something many businesses take seriously. They want to be assured that the systems they run and the programs they use are secure. Many of the obvious programs are secure enough that keeping them updated will minimize over 90% of potential security threats. However, there is one program found on nearly every computer, regardless of OS, that has recently been ranked at high risk.

That program is Java – a programming language and application that allows developers to create web applications, and users to view much of the visual content and animations on the Internet. The problem isn’t with the programming language per se, but with the application developed by Oracle Systems.

Oracle released an update to Java – Java 7, Update 10 – in December, but it was found to have some serious security flaws. These issues were quickly spotted by hacker groups who released exploit kits – software making it easy to exploit Java 7′s security weaknesses – giving them full security privileges. This exposed any computer running Java 7 to potential malware and attack. Because Java runs at the browser level, every OS could be targeted. To make matters worse, 30 security flaws were patched back in September, after nearly 1 billion computers were found to be at risk.

It’s this string of security red flags that had the US Department of Homeland Security issue a warning that users should disable Java on their browsers. In response to this, Oracle updated Java again, to Java 7, Update 11 on January 12, and noted that the security flaw had been fixed. Many experts, including those at the Department of Homeland Security, aren’t convinced though, and are still suggesting that users disable Java because new vulnerabilities will likely be discovered.


How do I disable Java?

Chrome users

  1. Open Chrome and enter Chrome://plugins/ in a blank tab’s URL bar.
  2. Find Java (TM).
  3. Click Disable.
  4. Restart Chrome.

Firefox users

  1. Open Firefox and click Tools from the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  2. Select Add-ons followed by Plugins.
  3. Find the Java plug-in, it’s usually called Java Applet Plug-in (Mac) or Java(TM) (Windows) and click Disable.
  4. Close and restart Firefox.

Safari users

  1. Open Safari and click File followed by Preferences.
  2. Click the Security tab.
  3. Uncheck the box that says Enable Java.
  4. Close and restart Safari.

Internet Explorer users

There is no way for you to disable Java in the browser, you will instead have to completely disable Java from your computer. This can be done by following the steps on the Java website.

If you do disable Java, some websites will no longer work. This can be a bit of an annoyance, but in all honesty, security of your systems is more important, not to mention the potential costs of dealing with a massive malware infection. Besides that, many websites no longer use Java, so you can probably get by without it. At the very least, we recommend you go download the latest update from the Java website and apply it to all computers.

One issue that we need to be clear on is that these security flaws are part of the Java plug-in. You may see something called JavaScript. While the name sounds similar, they are different. JavaScript is largely used in HTML documents, and allows them to function, and is secure. If you do run across it, it’s best to leave the script alone.

If you would like to learn more about this update, you can visit an excellent FAQ here. Before you do update, or disable Java, we recommend you contact us. We can help advise you on what steps to take next if you use Java.

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