Mike Thoene


FBI to investigate the school who uses laptop webcams to spy on students

by on Feb.19, 2010, under Security

Yesterday I reported how a school in the Lower Merion High School district in Pennsylvania was using web cams on laptops to spy on some of their students. Well, an FBI official spoke to The Associated Press confirmed that they will be opening up this case and giving it a full criminal investigation.

Students who were given the laptops in the school district were given computers that had their web cams remotely activated whenever the schools administrators thought it was time to do so, and apparently this type of event has been going on for the past 14 months but wasn’t really brought to light until a student, Blake Robbins, was punished in school for “improper behavior in his home.” Normally this would be something that might be pushed aside as just an overly strict school, but because the Vice Principal provided a photo of the matter as evidence, he pretty much dug his own grave.

According to Boing Boing, a class action law suit has been filed against the school on behalf of all students issued the laptops.

The school is fighting back with this response to the reports stating that “the security feature was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was report lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student.” They claim that they have never once used it to spy on students, and frankly I don’t believe that because why would it have been activated unless it was reported missing? Just for fun? Apparently the web cams have been activated 42 times to find missing laptops in the past 14 months.

To wrap things up, Dr. Christopher McGinley, Superintendent at the Lower Merion School District also said the school was sorry for its actions. “We regret if this situation has caused any concern or inconvenience among our students and families,” he said.

I don’t think saying sorry will cover up this one, Doctor. You are definitely no Tiger Woods.

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A rootkit has been confirmed to cause all of this Windows XP BSOD madness

by on Feb.18, 2010, under Microsoft, Security

Last week, Microsoft issued an update for Windows XP that made them suddenly get the Blue Screen of Death each and every time you tried to boot up. Microsoft had to try pretty hard to figure out what the problem was, and they found out that it wasn’t technically the patch they put out, but it was some malware that was already inside of thousands of users computers!

Windows XP users who were already infected with the Alureon rootkit would be the ones who experienced these crashes, but only after the update from Microsoft was applied.

Microsoft’s Mike Reavey writes on its TechNet blog:

We wanted to provide you with an update on our ongoing investigation into the “blue screen” issues affecting a limited number of customers who installed MS10-015.  We have been working around the clock with our customers, partners and several teams at Microsoft to determine the cause of these issues.  Our investigation has concluded that the reboot occurs because the system is infected with malware, specifically the Alureon rootkit.  We were able to reach this conclusion after the comprehensive analysis of memory dumps obtained from multiple customer machines and extensive testing against third party applications and software.  The restarts are the result of modifications the Alureon rootkit makes to Windows Kernel binaries, which places these systems in an unstable state.  In every investigated incident, we have not found quality issues with security update MS10-015.  Our guidance remains the same: customers should continue to deploy this month’s security updates and make sure their systems are up-to-date with the latest anti-virus software.

Check out Sophos Anti-Virus for removal of the rootkit, or Contact Me if you are in the Naperville area and you aren’t sure what exactly to do.

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Schools are using laptops to spy on students.. be careful kids!

by on Feb.18, 2010, under Security

For many students, renting laptops from schools to use is an effective and inexpensive way to get work done. Even some universities offer the same deal, but no student ever stops to ask, what cost do the laptops truly come at? For those enrolled in schools around the Lower Merion High School district, it may very well cost you almost all of your privacy.

Students issued laptops in the aforementioned district were given computers that could have their webcams remotely activated at the will of the school administrators, though it’s unclear how long the disturbing practice had gone on for. It was only discovered recently when a school punished a student named Blake Robbins for “improper behavior in his home,” with the Vice Principal even providing a photo as evidence. According to Boing Boing, a class action suit has been filed against the school, on behalf of all students issued the laptops.

This truly is a frightening event for students and parents, and is one of the most disturbing violations of privacy in recent news. Schools are constantly telling students to be careful with their privacy, and not to let anybody online know too much about them, but it’s hard to stay private when you’re being spied on by your own school – people you should be able to trust – in your very own home. You can read the class action suit details here, in .PDF format.

Source: Neowin

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Kaspersky has officially patented a hardware-based anti-virus

by on Feb.18, 2010, under Hardware, Security

Kaspersky, an already great anti-virus company, has just been granted a patent for a hardware-based anti-virus, something which seems like it will potentially revolutionize the way anti-virus software works.  The hardware-based anti-virus will be able to work independently or in combination with any software on the computer or machine.

The patented device by Kaspersky will connect inside of the computer or machine between the hard drive (HDD or SSD) and the computing unit, between the CPU and RAM. The device is also connected on the system bus or integrated into the disk controller. This mean’s it wont be connected by PCIe like other hardware is, it will be an intercept on the hard drive.

The hardware-based anti-virus will effectively allow or block any writing to the hard disk, preventing viruses from starting in the first place.  Users will be alerted of the potential risk, preventing or denying the infection from being written to disk.

The patent shows that the device will be self-supported with an ARM processor and RAM, so it will not take away from the machines performance what so ever.  The device will also have its own database for malicious code and faulty records during definition updates.

Kaspersky did mention this could be sold and used on a consumer based market, but will help prevent miscellaneous code from spreading in servers and specialized machines initially, such as ATMs. So don’t look for this any time soon, but know that you will be more safe getting your money out of those conveniently placed boxes.

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More Google Buzz problems.. they probably should've went beta first

by on Feb.17, 2010, under Google, Security

Only a week after the release of Google Buzz, some hackers have found an exploit after tirelessly looking for one. Awesome! They found an exploit that can completely compromise your Google buzz account! According to ha.ckers.org, the exploit actually is inside the code on the mobile side of things. (continue reading…)

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