Category law and legal service

World Of Insecure Browsing

If you are surfing the web through a browser that isn't up to date then you fall under the pool of those 40% internet surfers who are more prone to malicious attack. Almost 59% people use the latest version of their internet browsers and they are safer compared to the above mentioned 40%. The numbers are disturbingly high for anyone working in IT security.

These figures are revealed as the result of a comprehensive study conducted by researchers at The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Google and IBM Internet Security Services. The researchers performed their analysis using Google's database of user information. The data between January 2007 and June 2008 was gathered for the analysis.

It was found during the research that although software vendors provide patches for security problems, users take days, weeks or months for updating their applications. However it was concluded that it's not solely the fault of users since the vendors haven't exactly made patching easy. Mozilla's Firefox was declared the best due to its auto-update feature, which tells users about the availability of a new patch and offers a one-click way to upgrade. According to the study, most Firefox users are up to date within three days. The updating features and installation wasn't found quick and easy for other browsers, such as Opera and Safari.

Who stays where?
IE7 is the oldest browser taken in the study but only 52.5 percent of the users surfing the web with Internet Explorer were using IE7. In spite of Microsoft's repeated and emphatic pleas to upgrade, 47.5 % IE users were still presumably using IE6. Firefox users were considered the best in upgrading, with 92.2 percent of Firefox users now using version 2 (Firefox 3.0 was not taken into account since the data gathered was between January 2007 and June 2008). 90.1 % of Opera users were using Opera 9 while 70.2 % of all Safari users currently running Safari 3.

Threats and recommendations
Web browsers are considered a weak link in the IT security chain. It becomes easy for hackers to gain control of a personal computer due to the software vulnerabilities. In the cases of hacking, hackers can perform malicious acts such as stealing personal data or turning PCs into spam-spewing drones.

The group suggested that auto-updates are a very good thing, and recommended that the feature be included in all browsers. The study recommended that corporate businesses should adopt URL Filters, or filters designed to prevent company employees from even touching websites carrying malicious content. One interesting recommendation is that the software industry follow the same type of labeling system as used by the food industry. If adopted, web browsers would be dated with a "Best before" label, and would automatically flag the user when the browser "expired."

Safes: To Crack Or Not To Crack, That Is The Question!

We once purchased a safe from an estate sale, and promptly locked the combination inside (dumb, yes, but lets assume the fault lies with one of our children!). Two possible scenarios came to mind to access the contents of the safe: one was the scene from the The Apple Dumpling Gang (a movie we recently felt compelled to expose our kids to from our own childhood). I don't remember the details of the scene, but it ended with a large explosion, money flying everywhere, and no one injured - only a bit of soot on everyone's face. Though there was no disclaimer, the scene screamed at me ?DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!? My next thought was of The Italian Job and Charlize Theron. She had quite a touch in opening the most difficult safe under stressful situations successfully and without causing any damage to the safe. Hmmm? Not knowing Charlize personally, I decided to call my local locksmith to get his take on the situation. It turned out that he had seen this problem before and had quite a ?sensitive? ear for this type of thing.

So, when needing to access a safe, there is one simple question to ask: Do I need to keep the safe intact? Though it was not a realistic option for me, brute force is one of the methods for opening a safe. The other main safecracking methods involve either lock manipulation or manipulating a weak point on the safe (or as seen in popular media: drilling).

The best method to use is lock manipulation. How sweet would be the satisfaction to leave no sign of having ever been there! The safe owner comes in on Monday morning, opens his safe, and all the gold bars are missing. There are no indications of a break-in. Though you could leave a calling card inside the safe, something that says, ?Safe cracked courtesy of the Ghost? (or whatever cool name you come up with).

Surprisingly enough, the first way a safecracker will usually attempt to open a safe is to guess the combination. Manufactured safes often come with a manufacturer-set combination, which many people fail to reset. Most of these try-out combinations are industry standard and are accessible to locksmiths and safecrackers. With time being an issue, you might as well try the easiest thing first. If the try-out combination does not work, then a quick search of the room may reveal the combination. Often people leave their combination written down somewhere close by, sometimes even on the safe itself! Or, the owner uses easy to remember numbers, such as a birth date.

If no number is to be found or guessed correctly, then the safecracker must move on to more difficult options. To have to sit there with patience and your ear pressed up against the safe is probably the most pure form of safecracking among the professionals. It takes a great deal of skill and practice. For us non-safecracking people, it is the romantic and mysterious way to crack a safe. But it is also scientific. Harry C. Miller in 1940, described the following three-step process to discover the combination to a safe:

  1. Determine contact points
  2. Discover the number of wheels
  3. Graph your results
    I am not going into detail now on how this works, but lets just say that once the numbers are graphed, you just have to try the different possibilities to discover what order they go in to open the safe.

There are also autodialing machines to open safes. Auto-dialers try all the different numerical possibilities until the combination is discovered. This can be very time consuming, and are best used if the combination only has 3 digits.

Another method is to compromise a weak point on a safe by drilling. Drilling can be used to give the safecracker visual access to the locking mechanism. If they can see the mechanism, they can open the safe. Most manufactured safes have an ideal drill point and these are published by the manufacturer, though it is closely guarded information by manufacturers and locksmiths. More secure safes have relockers that are triggered by drilling. It is a piece of glass mounted between the safe door and the lock. When the drill hits the glass, spring-loaded bolts are released that block the retraction of the main locking bolt. Sometimes this can be avoided if it is possible to drill in from the side or back of the safe. Instead of trying to visually access the combination, two holes are drilled, one for a borescope to see what you are doing, the other for an extra-long screwdriver to remove the back plate and gain accesses to the lock. The screwdriver can then be used position the wheels of the lock so that the safe door can be opened.

Obviously, manufacturers try to combat safe manipulation methods. Besides relockers, different materials are used (such as cobalt) that are almost impossible to drill through. Special drill bits are needed and a lot of time.

Now, if noise is not an issue (you have been able to physically remove the safe to a remote location), then sometimes more physical methods can be used. This can include plasma cutters to cut through the safe, or explosives such as jam shots using nitroglycerin or C-4 to blow the door off the safe.

If you are a homeowner like me, I would suggest messing around with your ear pressed against the safe, just for the fun of it, and then calling a locksmith. Then you can watch the magic at work and wonder if you could ever do it!

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