Horse Sense #74

In this issue of Horse Sense:
  • DNS Security Hole Exploited
  • August Deal: Buy 4 get $10
  • (Federal Clients Only) What Federal Buyers Need to Know BEFORE Making a Purchase
  • USB Flash Drives Are NOT All the Same
  • Wet Electronics--What to do!
  • Is Someone You Know a Criminal?
  • Avoid Toll Call Fraud
DNS Security Hole Exploited
As discussed in the last issue of Horse Sense, a hijacked DNS server can send you to a web address other than the one you typed. When you type in, DNS changes this into a number that your computer "dials" to reach a server. If a criminal can poison a DNS cache, he can send you to instead and you might never know it. Please update your systems and make sure your DNS provider has updated theirs or you might fall victim to this attack. To test to see if your DNS has been updated, go to and run the test. If that test fails, call and ask us what you should do. While you are at it, ask us how we can make your DNS more secure and how you can use it to lower the amount of unwanted e mails you receive.

August Deal: Buy 4 get $10
For every four Xerox toners or ink stick packs you buy from Iron Horse in August, we will take $10 off your invoice. See and click on the “Buy 4 get $10 off” graphic for your coupon.

What Federal Buyers Need to Know BEFORE Making a Purchase
Are you trying to make the most of your dwindling 2008 IT budget? Do you need advice and do not know where to turn? Does the idea of buying computer equipment, services, software or supplies seem overwhelming? Do you need to plan for 2009? Boy, are you lucky to be reading this! Call Iron Horse at 703-866-6413 today. We will help you figure out what makes the most sense for you, how to fit it into your present and future budgets, and get you the products you need quickly and painlessly. We have been helping federal workers just like you do that for over 18 years.
Blown all your money but still need help? Call us anyway. We can tell you how we have saved agency money or got it reprogrammed to do what they needed to do. We will even talk to you if you are really and truly broke. We can help you plan for better times.

USB Flash Drives Are NOT All the Same
Solid state data storage prices are dropping rapidly. Some 8GB USB flash drives are less than $35, and we have seen 32GB drives available on the market for less than $150. 32GB is bigger than many hard disks I see in use! While these prices are enticing, the features you usually get at these price points are not.
If you are not worried about keeping the information on your USB flash drive secure, you should be. I was sitting in front of a lady the other day at a coffee shop when someone walked off with her laptop and the keys to her digital identity. She was understandably upset. We have products here at Iron Horse that prevent laptop theft, aid in the recovery of stolen laptops, and protect valuable data from prying eyes. However, these same tools do not apply to USB flash drives. Most USB flash drives do nothing to protect your data. They are also more likely to be lost, stolen, or destroyed than laptops.
What does an advanced USB flash drive look like? It is reliable: I have an IronKey 1G USB flash drive that has some notable features. You can read and write data to it many more times than you can standard USB flash drives. It will store data 10 times longer. Yes, USB flash drives DO wear out. Cheaply built drives can wear out quickly and could take your data with them. The IronKey drive has a crush and water resistant metal shell versus leaky plastic found on low end USB flash drives.
It is fast: The IronKey drive can be read at 28MBps and written to at 14MBps, four to ten times faster than most flash drives on the market and a significant fraction of the 60MBps USB 2.0 total bandwidth. For comparison, the new Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 desktop drive can deliver about 80MBps and is considered exceptionally fast. Flash memory is now getting to the point where it can perform at least as well as a hard drive. The time it takes to find where to read or write your data on traditional hard drives (latency) is in the millisecond range. With USB flash drives, the latency is essentially zero. With large file transfers, hard drives have an advantage because of their generally higher transfer rates, but with smaller files or small reads and writes, flash memory wins.
It keeps your data secure: The IronKey also comes with military grade hardware encryption built in. IronKey originally designed these products to secure federal government secrets. You do not have to copy or install programs to your hard drive first. You can even centrally administer and enforce security policies on your IronKey drives. Too many incorrect password tries will result in the drive erasing itself, while their backup services allow you secure access to your encrypted data. IronKey drives can even be used as a security key for getting on to secure networks.
It is flexible: IronKey drives can run applications like a secure web browser directly. Handy software is already preloaded on the drive.
You may not need all of these features in your next USB flash drive, but before you plunk down money for a new USB flash drive, make sure it meets your needs! Is it fast enough? What happens if I lose it?... If you want advice, we are only a phone call or e mail away!

Wet Electronics--What to do!
Tips for Handling Water-Damaged Hard Drives and Other Removable Media from Kroll OnTrack
Here is what to do if your data ends up under water.
-- Never assume that data is unrecoverable, no matter what it has been through;
-- Do not attempt to power up visibly damaged devices;
-- Do not shake or disassemble any hard drive or server that has been damaged - improper handling can make recovery operations more difficult which can lead to valuable information being permanently lost;
-- Do not attempt to clean or dry water-logged drives or other media;
-- Before storing or shipping wet media, it should be placed in a container that will keep it damp and protect shipping material from getting wet. Wet boxes can break apart during transit causing further damage to the drive;
-- Do not use common software utility programs on broken or water-damaged devices;
-- For mission critical situations, contact Iron Horse before any attempts are made to reconfigure, reinstall or reformat;
-- When shipping hard drives, tapes or other removable media, package them in a box (we suggest a box twice the size of your media) that has enough room for both the media and some type of packing material that allows for NO movement. If the media can slide around at all, it is not ready to ship. The box should also have sufficient barrier room around the inside edges to absorb any impacts the box will take;
-- If you have multiple drives, tapes or other removable media that need recovery, ship them in separate boxes or make sure they are separated by enough packing material so there will be no contact.

More Tips from Iron Horse:
It is quite possible to salvage electronics that have gotten wet. Especially if they were not powered on when it happened, you can dry them out thoroughly (try putting them in a bag with dry rice or use dryer pellets and pill bottles). My brother-in-law washed a USB flash drive he left in a pants pocket. He is still using after drying it thoroughly.
For tips on saving a wet cell phone see:
I would also add the following: Do not use heat on your phone. Heat damages electronics. Distilled water can help remove salt water, salt, or other crud from your phone before you start drying it. Denatured alcohol can help remove crud and dry out a phone, but it can also unstick labels, so use it only if you have to remove stubborn dirt and do not use heat to dry an alcohol treated phone. Beware a cell phone with a foggy display. That probably means there is still water in the phone.
When you first start testing the phone, plug the phone into the charger. Put the phone a distance away from you and under a towel or a box. THEN plug in the charger. If the phone were to have a catastrophic failure, you would have some protection. If the phone works, you are ready to put the battery back in. When you go to put the battery back in, consider putting on gloves to protect your hands. Consumer electronics have numerous safeguards, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful. If it does not work with the old battery, try a new battery for that phone. Most phone stores will have replacement batteries on hand.
Carriers usually will not replace a phone that has water damage. Most phones have a small, round sticker behind the battery cover that is used to check for moisture damage. The sticker, which is usually white, will turn pink or red if it has been exposed to water.

Is Someone You Know a Criminal?
Maybe someone you know is a criminal. At you can see if they might be.

Avoid Toll Call Fraud
Beware of toll fraud calls to the 809 area code.

©2008 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse