Horse Sense #88


Are You Testing Software for Someone Else?

In this issue of Horse Sense:

--Safe and Smart Online Shopping
--Tis the Malware Season
--Innovation and Security
--Are You Testing Software for Someone Else?
--Storage Needs are Getting Smaller (and Larger)!

Safe and Smart Online Shopping

Shop safe this holiday season with a few tips from the FTC: <>. This is a good site for consumer information on staying safe on line.

Deal with people and companies you feel you can trust.  Even better, deal with people who make your shopping easy.  Iron Horse does not have an on line store.  We have found that it takes less time to get to a much better result by actually talking to our clients.  A catalog web site frankly does not work for our clients.  They may be eligible for all sorts of special pricing, licensing agreements, bundles, or alternatives that can save them significant money or give them more bang for the buck.  There is a reason our return rate is less than 0.5% over 10 years.  I do not know of anyone else in the business who can claim that.  It is important to get it right, especially in business. Mistakes are costly.  Be sure to talk to someone who will say no to you and who will steer you towards the longer rather than shorter term.  For example, if you want it yesterday, and the person you are talking to is hesitant to commit to your time table, he may be doing you a great favor.  Few things in this world are truly instant or as easy as they sound in the advertisements.  Do not underestimate the value of having a real live human being you can reach out and touch before and after the sale.

Tis the Malware Season

Holidays are prime time for miscreants who want to infect your computer and steal your information.  Your best defense is to be aware and to know what the bad guys might try.  The bad guys often depend on our willingness to trust, lack of knowledge, and willingness to be helpful.  It may be in your nature to be trusting, but it will not hurt to verify credentials, will it?  Legitimate vendors will make it ridiculously easy to contact them both on line and off line.  The bad guys will not.  Financial institutions and governments will almost never send you an e mail unless you specifically told them to do so.  They especially will not ask you for personal or secure information in an e mail.  It is usually best to log in to your financial sites without clicking on supplied links in an e mail you get, just in case.  If you are the least bit suspicious, calling someone about a worrisome e mail is a good idea.  Any "dire consequence" financial e mails are suspect. Almost all legitimate offers or problems can stand waiting while you check them out.  Anyone that sends you an e mail asking for personal information is suspect, especially if it seems to come from someone who should already know your information.  Spelling mistakes and obvious grammatical errors in marketing e mails are often a give away that the sender is not legitimate.  Real marketers spend a lot of time proofreading and editing their e mails.  If the sending e mail address (check the envelope headers, not just the from address) does not match what you expect, the e mail is probably bogus.  Unfortunately, some of these e mails are exceptionally good and some malware delivery methods do not require you to actively do much of anything.  Keep your network and workstation firewalls up, your antispam running, your antivirus and malware protection software updated, your bad website blocking mechanisms active, your software patched, and make sure you have a good backup and a plan in case something does go wrong.  If this makes you nervous, good.  We want you to stay awake, aware, and safe.  And, if you need help making sure you are safe, call us!

Innovation and Security


These days, computers are boring.  Many of the neatest developments are not in computers, but in consumer electronics.  We now have smart phones (computers you wear on you hip), e readers (book replacements), set top boxes (specialized computers for delivering video to the masses), digital cameras, GPS devices (computers to show us the way), gaming systems, and Internet connected TVs.  Wait!  All of those things are or contain little computers now.  So, that begs the question, how secure are these devices?  Security depends on three things:  confidentiality (I want to keep what I want private), integrity (can I trust what it says?), and availability (will it be there when I need it?). Unfortunately, you are not as secure as you might think.  Your devices may gather information from you and report back to numerous companies. Deleted information is recoverable.  Infections by malware are possible.  And, a lot of this stuff simply will not work well without clean, uninterrupted power.  Unfortunately, you can't back many of them up either.  Today, you may be able to fix some of these issues with intelligent configuration choices, antimalware software, or uninterruptible power supplies, for example.  But, I expect many of the security issues we see with computers will come to plague our electronic devices.  There is currently a computer worm called Stuxnet operating around the world, but mostly in Iran, that is thought to interfere with the reliability of centrifuges used in separating nuclear isotopes, causing them to break down, so attacks against devices are already here.  I shudder to think how horrible it might be at my house if someone infected our TVs so my wife couldn't watch her favorite shows.

Are You Testing Software for Someone Else?

If you are a Norton customer, you probably are.  Symantec often adds new features to its Norton products that are not seen in its corporate products for quite some time (or at all).  That is because there is less to go wrong in the small office, home office, and individual user environment when compared to a larger corporate environment.  Norton 360, for example, has a more capable and faster scanning engine than does their corporate version, Symantec EndPoint Protection (SEP).  It also has built in secure backup to the Internet, parental controls, and maintenance programs that are not available in the SEP product either. Other companies do this kind of software testing as well, but Symantec is probably the biggest and best known.  What can you expect in the next version of SEP that is in the Norton product now?  Good guy signatures.  Right now, scanning for the bad guys partly depends on matching their signatures or modus operandi.  But what about the good guys?  Norton 360 has a technology that recognizes and characterizes good guys and then ignores them when it comes time to search for the bad ones.  This saves a lot of time and effort in scanning your system.

Storage Needs are Getting Smaller (and Larger)!

[From Seagate]

Seagate, the world's largest hard drive manufacturer, surveyed its customers recently and found out some interesting facts.  The mobile PC market is growing quickly and the desktop market is shrinking.  Laptops outsold desktops for the first time in 2008 and continue to do so today.  The use of 2.5 inch hard drives is growing at the expense of all other sizes because they can store enough information, take up less room, weigh less, and take less power to operate.

70% of people are currently using 40-80% of their storage.  At 80% storage use, almost everyone buys more storage.  [Keeping storage utilization below 80% prevents crashes and slowdowns.]

67% of corporate users expect to upgrade their laptops within the next year.  48% would have done so already had it not been for the poor economy.

©2010 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse