You’ve treated yourself to a new PC, but how can you be sure there aren’t any backdoors or unwanted software running on it? How can you ensure your data is safe?
Here are some tools and techniques for finding out exactly what’s installed on your new machine.
Sure it’s new, but is it really safe?
Recently, computer vendor Lenovo got into serious hot water over its practice of installing a nasty piece of adware. The company claims it didn’t know that the program could be used for man-in-the-middle attacks. Reportedly, the Superfish code would intercept secure-sockets transmissions and unencrypt them in order to offer up additional advertising while you browsed the Internet.
The problem was so pervasive that Microsoft added Superfish detection-and-removal to its March 10 Malicious Software Removal Tool release, as noted in an MS Malware Protection Center blog post. Microsoft also updated its real-time-detection malware tools.
The problems were limited to some Lenovo laptops, but the event should be a wake-up call to anyone who’s buying a new PC.
Before I get into the details of this problem, let me come clean concerning a bit of personal paranoia. Recently, the media has issued a stream of reports about foreign countries attempting to infiltrate U.S. military computer systems. That scares me — mostly because some of the countries mentioned also make most of the digital products we consumers currently use.
Another fact only adds to my worries. Many security communities regularly demonstrate that all digital technology can be compromised. For example, at the 2012 Black Hat security conference, researcher Jonathan Brossard showed how malware could be inserted into a PC’s BIOS or firmware. Since then, there have been other reports of vulnerabilities in our phones, routers, and possibly even our computer-aided cars.