A Basic Evolution of the Virus

In the early days of networking computers, viruses were little more than proof of concept bits of code. Can I write a program or exploit a function where I can remotely open a CD drive on another computer or cause some other strange behavior?

These prank style antics grew bigger in scope and power and quickly began to spread around the Internet. Then the environment took a more sinister turn, by bulking up the things these viruses could do. Viruses became punishing programs that would eat up CPU speed, bloat up free hard drive space, spin drives faster than they were designed for and even delete user or operating system data.

They were deployed by people to punish others and destroy property and data. Without tangible rewards creating viruses start to get a bit bland. Viruses then started evolving to an end game or reward. Viruses that previously may have taken a computer offline either by design or by unmitigated spread of the infection fell out of favor. It was becoming more and more important to not have the target go offline or notice the infection. If the target went offline, the attacker wasn’t able to reap the benefits of the infection.

And what were those benefits? In that generation, most of the time it was stealing address book entries to sell to spammers. Personal information was rarely targeted, but corporate data was ripe for the picking.

This is the era of BotNet. Many viruses infect, spread and lay totally dormant. These infected computers are now slaves to the whims of the attacker. If an attacker wants to take down a large site with a DDOS attack, they can wake up 1,000’s of these sleeping infections to begin slamming a site with traffic. Each computer sending out just enough traffic not to be noticed but when combined as a whole their effects can be devastating. These “Bots” can also be put to task to sneak out little bits of Spam here and there. Not enough to get flagged by the normal detection practices of a modern ISP, but combined with the sheer numbers of those infected can wreak a lot of junk mail havoc.

The virus/malware industry has gone thru a major transformation over the years. Viruses have evolved from simple pranks to a hacker’s tool with which to make money, create mass damage or capture information. Viruses don’t say “Happy 1999!” on your screen anymore and stop there. These new viruses like to hide, wait and use the power of their combined infection numbers to make the criminals involved a lot of money.

DHCPatriot 5.4.0 has been released

  1. When unsuspending a user device in Auth DHCP Actions -> Suspend User, the limit displayed entries was not saved during the unsuspend process. This has been corrected and list limits are now remembered as user devices are unsuspended.
  2. IPv6 logins to the web administration interface were impossible. This was traced to storage of the remote IP address being to small. The size has been increased so that it can store IPv6 addresses. The DHCPatriot system can now be administered from an IPv6 address.
  3. Discovered that there was a problem where sometimes cron would no longer rotate logs or database files until it was restarted. Cron now restarts once per day to avoid this situation.
  4. Both IPv4 and IPv6 versions of Firewall setup under System Configuration now support assigning several services to an IP address simultaneously. Previously you had to repeat the process several times to open the firewall for more than one service to a specific IP or subnet.
  5. IPv6 Ping and Trace route are now supported in the web administration interface as well as the CLI admin menu. Options 12 and 13 are ping6 and trace6 respectively. Reboot and shutdown have moved to options 14 and 15 respectively
  6. API: Unsuspending via the API can now perform a RADIUS authentication check as the web administration interface does if the parameter AuthTest=true is passed to the API. Example: https://patriot.network1.net/cli/? function=SuspendEnable&username=apiuser&password=apipass&action=unsuspend&us er=bobaaron&AuthTest=true
  7. API: StickyIP ADD: It is now possible to add a sticky IP via the API by using a URL of the following format: https://patriot.network1.net/cli/? username=&password=&function=StickyIPs&action=ADD&Stickymac=&Stickyuserna me=&Stickyip=&Stickynote=

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19 Years in Business!

Today, July 1st, 2014, First Network Group celebrates its 19th year in business! All of us here have been very happy and proud to serve you these last 19 years. We would like to thank all of our dedicated and hardworking employees as well as our fantastic customers. We couldn’t have done this without you!

To The Great Beyond!

Happy April Fools! 😉

First Network Group, Inc. is proud to announce the next step in our near 20 year history. The First Space Network Group and its flagship the NCC-001 “Vint Cerf”.

thespaceshipToday we embark on our greatest adventure yet by bringing the internet to low earth orbit. No longer will people be plagued with limited or no access between 200 and 385 miles above the surface of the Earth.

This project has been the culmination of countless hours of work and planning (we were too busy working to actually count them). It is our fervent desire to make sure the entire world is connected and can share in the vast resource of the modern internet.

Our first launch of the Vint Cerf is scheduled for later today and will begin the ground work of floating miles of fiber optic cable encircling the planet.

Phase two will consist of the construction of node links to these fiber backbones and the creation of way stations where you can dock and connect any standard ethernet cable to the service.

Phase three will be the roll-out of our Orbital Wireless Technology Feature (oWTF) which will enable near node transmission and reception of wireless internet access with the network. This will enable less docking and maneuvering for the spacefarer on the go.

Access will be granted via our very own DHCPatriot. While widely deployed across the United States serving ISP’s of all sizes, college campuses and businesses, this will be its first venture into space.

If you are interested in joining us in the exciting adventure, or any of our other terrestrial services, please contact us to come on board!

HOW I GOT ON YOUR WIFI: WPS FAIL!

Router manufacturers have been developing ways to make their routers more secure but at the same time still easy to connect to. This led to the development of WiFi Protected Setup (WPS).

WPS allows you to connect to a router in two ways, either by providing an 8 digit pin code (that is printed on the router) or by pressing the WPS button on the router and opening up a short connection “window”. Both of these methods require physical access to the router and
thus should be secure from “drive-by” hacking. However, that is not the case.

While I would need physical access to push the WPS button, the pin code method is the default and first available under the standard. The biggest issue with this is that the router authenticates the pin in two 4 digit parts. There are 10,000 combination of 4 digit numbers
and since most routers, don’t time-out or ban me for hammering attempts they are extremely easy to run a brute-force attack on. Once I have the first 4 digit number, then I brute-force the second 4 digit number and I’m on your network. We highly recommend setting the connection passphrase setup to WPA2-PSK (pre-shared key) and setting that key to something long and randomized. To be even more secure, make sure you disable the WPS function on your router.

The End of Windows XP

Twelve years ago, Microsoft released Windows XP. After 3 Service Packs and well over 300 updates, Microsoft ended their official “Mainstream Support” for Windows XP on April 14, 2009 and it entered the “Extended Support” cycle for Windows XP. On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will end their “Extended Support” cycle for Windows XP closing the final chapter on one of the most successful operating systems in the history of computing.

Windows XP was so successful that it took nearly 30 months for their Windows 7 operating system to overtake the global Windows XP install base. Today Windows XP still enjoys an install base of ~35% or roughly 800 million of the world’s computers.

What  does  the  end  of  the  “Extended  Support”  cycle  for  Windows  XP  mean  moving forward?  The  Mainstream  Support  life  cycle  allowed  Microsoft  to  release  “hotfixes”, security  updates  and  provide  direct  commercial  and  end-user  support.  The  “Extended Support”  cycle  moved  the  product  into  only  receiving  security  updates  to  the  product and ended all other support. While Microsoft has made some allowances in the past for profound security-related issues for products outside of their Support Lifecycle system, on April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer be providing any new updates to Windows XP, including “hotfixes”, service packs or security updates.

This will expose Windows XP users to a myriad of new and evolving security, malware and virus threats. Microsoft Security Intelligence Report volume 14 (PDF) reports the following infection rates by operating system and service pack for the fourth quarter of 2012. While Windows XP Service Pack 3 has made a significant reduction in the amount of security vulnerabilities and infections on the XP platform, XP still leads the pack in infection rates across all Windows operating systems. The combination of large user base with lack of security patches leaves a large target on the venerable operating system.

To mitigate the risk moving forward, users must begin the transition from Windows XP when and where possible. The best option would be moving towards the latest operating system, Windows 8, as it is the most secure and reliable system Microsoft has yet to produce. That might not be an option for many people, so the next best option would be Windows 7. Between Windows XP and Windows 7 was Windows Vista, however, Vista is not an option as it is also nearing the end of its support life cycle.

Infection Attack Vectors Q4 2012

Infection Attack Vectors Q4 2012 by Operating System

If Windows XP must be used, for whatever reason, then a hardened security presence on the system must be maintained and updated regularly. There are many anti-virus, anti-malware and firewall software options available from Microsoft and third party vendors – both free and paid. The number of unprotected or under-protected Windows XP systems moving forward could create a ticking time bomb if left unchecked and unprotected.

We are urgently recommending the following actions be taken when and wherever possible:

  • Upgrade. Windows Vista and 7 will still be supported for a few years and Windows 8 even longer.

If you must continue to use Windows XP:

  • Make sure your copy of Windows XP is running Service Pack 3.
  • Stop using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer entirely. Use only a currently updated and supported web browser like Mozilla Firefox. Access to Internet Explorer can even be fully removed via the “Windows Components” feature in Add/Remove Programs.
  • Stop using Microsoft’s Outlook Express entirely. Use only a currently updated and supported email client like Mozilla Thunderbird or better yet a web-based email client.
  • Uninstall the Java runtime environment from your computer unless you absolutely cannot live without it.
  • Install a supported anti-virus client. Keep it updated and do a full system scan weekly.
  • Make sure Windows Firewall is enabled or use the one that comes with your 3rd party security software.
  • Limit your installation of programs off the internet to only trusted sites from trusted companies.

Remote Assistance

“This direct control allows the technician to check several things faster than the caller.” Contacting technical support can take many forms, from support websites to simple email interaction all the way to talking to a live person via the telephone any time of the a day or night.

Each form of support provides a different level of interaction appropriate to the level of need of the customer. Some customers simply need to know if the SMTP server supports authentication and will find that via a non-interactive means such as your support website. Other users have a unique situation or need and require a bit more interaction so they will seek online chat, email or telephone support.

Then there are times when a customer needs even deeper immersion and interaction than that. In this case our Remote Presence utility is the pinnacle of support and interaction. This technical support feature is a totally secure remote support solution that allows us to directly interact with and view the customers computer. This tool helps when it’s hard for the customer to accurately describe a problem that needs to be visualized to be understood.

The software is small, downloads quickly and can be fully customized with your company’s logo and credentials. When the software is opened it provides the customer with a way for our technicians to securely connect and view and control their computer. Each session and connection is unique and secured with AES-256 bit encryption.

This direct control allows the technician to check several things faster than the caller. It is also a unique way to show customers how to get the most of out of their computer and online experience. Our Remote Presence software is completely free of charge and is yet another of our support tools that create the best technical support your customers can experience. Unlike some other support centers, we do not charge extra for the feature-rich improvements to our process.

Contact us today for a price quote and evaluation, to find out what others have known for nearly two decades, that First Network Group Technical Support is the leader in value and service. Contact Cory Lykins, VP of Tech Services at 1-800-578-6381, option 6, to find out more.

PARENTAL CONTROLS ARE BUILT IN

Keeping your children safe online has always been an issue, but never before has this task been so easy. Both Microsoft Windows 7 and Apple OSX feature built-in parental controls to help you with this task. Now there is no need for third-party applications that can be easy to circumvent or require costly monthly fees to maintain.

Proud-parents

On Apple OSX platform you can accomplish this by creating an account for your child with his/her own username and password (done via Accounts in System Preferences). Make sure this account is set to Standard. Select this account and check “Enable Parental controls” and then click the “Open Parental Controls” button.

In Parental Controls you will have options to limit what specific applications the account is allowed to use on the “System” section. To control web browsing, select “Content” at the top and enable the “Website Restrictions” option of your choice. You can even choose specific websites to be blocked. Other options include limiting chat and email to specific contacts and setting online time limits.

On Microsoft Windows 7 & 8 platforms you can accomplish this by creating an account for your child via “User Accounts” in the Control Panel or by opening Start and typing “User”. To access the Parental Controls, open Start and simply type “Parental” and you will see the Parental Controls option appear in the “Control Panel” section of the results. With Windows you can select what times of day and how long your child can use the computer.

You can also select age appropriate limits on the computer games installed on the computer or block specific programs. To greatly expand your options you can download “Windows Live Family Safety”, part of the Windows Live suite of free programs. By default this enables basic filtering of websites as well as specific websites. A Microsoft Windows Live ID is required for this service such as a Hotmail or Live account.

First Network Group employees are happy to help your users setup the various Parental Control options they may have on their operating system. If you are already use us to provide your End-User technical support, this process is included in the service. If you aren’t currently using our End-User technical support services to provide your customers with the best 24×7 service options, contact us today to find out how a solution from First Network Group can help. Contact Cory Lykins, VP of Tech Services at 1-800-578-6381, option 6, to find out more.

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

xboxps4The 2013 holiday season will be huge for gaming. Microsoft and Sony have both announced their newest consoles, the XBOX One and the PlayStation 4. And while the previous consoles, the Microsoft XBOX 360 and the Sony PlayStation 3 aren’t leaving the entertainment space, the new gaming consoles are poised to dominate this holiday buying season. This will mean even more expansion of Internet usage in today’s digital living rooms. We have seen Smart TV sales surge, but nothing trumps the undisputed king of online access in the living room – the video game console. The XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3 boast more than 70 million active online users combined. According to Microsoft, XBOX 360 users spend an average of 40 hours a week on the service. Our own internal tracking puts game console calls in the top 20 of systems for help requests.

This means more and more customers are not only seeking faster Internet speeds but also a vast array of assistance to consume and enjoy this content. In addition, it’s not all just fun and games. Over the past year, the amount of time spent watching TV or a movie on a video game console has grown 157 percent! It also means that customers will want to expand their current local networking options in their homes: this means new routers, new connection practices, network keys and new security concerns. First Network Group’s Technical Support department has your customers completely covered in all these respects. We can easily guide any level of user thru the unboxing and setup of a wireless router, and connecting any gaming console out there. We take our time and explain each step of the way so the customer understands the benefits of
different setups and best practices in wireless security standards.

If you are already providing superior customer service and technical support to your customers by using First Network Group Technical Support, then you can rest assured that this explosive demographic of customer is completely supported from beginning to end. If you have not yet had a chance to find out how our technical support service can provide total support coverage, give us a call and find out just how we can make sure your customers are getting the most out of your product.

Managed Hosted Servers and Off-Site Storage Now Available

Do you need to host a server at a remote location for redundancy or disaster recovery? Just need to host an important application, and don’t want the hassle of having to deal with the hardware and software yourself?

Do you require off-site storage for backups or disaster recovery? First Network Group, Inc. now offers fully managed servers, hosted at our location, as well as hosted storage solutions to meet all of your needs.

FNGi has a broad range of offerings, from shared web hosting to dedicated virtual servers to collocation of your own servers. Let us build you a solution that fits your needs. We specialize in ISP solutions for hosting mail, web, DNS and other services. Whether you need to cover a few users, or thousands of users, we have you covered.

Take advantage of our fully redundant network, protected by battery backup and on-site diesel generator. Virtual servers are hosted on a redundant server cluster which utilize a cluster of NetApp storage systems for ultimate resiliency. We also have options to have data replicated to an off-site system.

servers

If you wish to host servers at your own location, but need off-site backups, we can do that too. From simple backup storage to live synchronization of NetApp storage systems, we can cover your data backup and disaster recovery
needs.

First Network Group, Inc. has the resources and information you need to plan your IPv6 deployment. Contact Randy Carpenter at 1-800-578-6381, option 1 today to discuss your needs.