SafeRun - a useful tool - why is it there and how do I use it
Whether a PC is set-up home or business use it needs to as safe and secure as
possible, especially from desparate hackers trawling the Internet for weaknesses.
I won't attempt to describe other aspects of a typical armoury but the one I describe
here is one that we have created for a specific purpose described below.
The ONE THING you NEED TO KNOW when you first use the facility is that IT DELIBERATELY
STOPS you from INSTALLING SOFTWARE directly FROM the INTERNET.
It forces you as a user to download or detach (from e-mail) any software into a
folder which you then have to separately open and execute!
Why is this needed and won't it slow me down in my every-day work?
Firstly, as an end-user of a PC I would be worried if you were spending more than
10 minutes per month downloading software - that can only happen if the latter (software)
is in some way deficient or otherwise badly designed and/or implemented.
Secondly, although many people still think that you need to 'click in a bad place'.
THIS IS NOW INCORRECT! You can now easily catch what is referred-to as a
'Drive-By Virus' JUST by visiting ONE PAGE of a SITE!
And if you think that those are not the type of sites that YOU visit
THINK AGAIN because over 10% of web sites are contaminated with viruses AND THAT INCLUDES
BIG BRANDS - see Sophos link below - ITV, Sony, Adobe, BusinessWeek, Yahoo!, UK NHS, UNICEF, MySpace
Sophos alone finds one new infected page every 4.5 seconds OF THE YEAR! that's over 6m! p.a.
And ... don't think that Firefox and the deliberate lack of support for Active-X
will help you. MS Internet Explorer may be the most exposed but Firefox has problems too...
In short - not only is there a serious threat to all users of the Web but in terms
of your own daily actions you may think you have not done anything to be concerned
about and indeed - the latest malware (bad software) actually WANTS YOU to FEEL SAFE
because it doesn't want to alert you to the fact that it has taken over your PC and
is sending information about you, your family, your browsing habits, your passwords,
your e-mail and other accounts etc. back to China, Russia or wherever their
paymaster is located today! See Making money out of Spam for the economics of malware.
What is SafeRun and how do I use it?
SafeRun will be on your PC's hard drive ready to be launched whenever you click on
an application that is likely to be at risk.
It takes the request and before it launches the application it tells Windows XP to
run it as what is known with 'Limited User' priviliges even though you will
very, very likely be (logged on as) an Administrator of your PC.
If malware attempts to make changes to Windows XP while it is running as a limited
user it will be stopped from doing so in most cases.
There may be loopholes, perhaps even as yet unknown to the world that a new breed of
malware can exploit to 'get out of jail'! but it is an excellent first start because:
- It does force any user of legitimate software to take a two-step approach to
installing software - this in itself is good discipline as the complaints from
users about PCs running slowly always stem from this cause although the source
can of course be CDs or other ways of loading software - products automatically
updating themselves over the Internet for instance!!!
- As at March 2009 we have yet to hear of malware that can escape the straightjacket
that is created - although it will inevitably happen, hopefully it will be difficult!
So links to applications (see below for a list) that show up with the word
'SafeR' at the end of them should be launched in this 'Safer' manner.
If there are links in the Start Menu or on the Desktop which do NOT have the word
'SafeR' on them then please assume that they offer no such protection because
it is quite common for software to 're-install itself with links' whenever there
is a major refresh or version change (see Self Updating Software)
- especially if there is a change of Icon
as there was moving from MS Internet Explorer version 6 to 7.
What application are launched using SafeRun?
This depends upon when AND IF! your PC software was installed by us, in chronological
order of appearance they have been (since July 2008 to March 2009) the following added
to the list:
- Internet Explorer
- Outlook Express
- Windows Media Player
- Firefox Web browser
- Thundebird e-mail
- MSN Messenger
- Media Player Classic
- Windows Messenger
- Windows Live Messenger
- Windows Explorer**
- Net Meeting
- Remote Assistance
Note ** above means that this is NOT the default but is available when appropriate.
Please feel free to comment and make suggestions for new entries to this list.
If it isn't obvious they are primarily programs which use the Internet to interact
with a variety of other software and more tangible targets beyond that - people,
companies, mail servers, music etc..