Good Compsec Practices for Preppers, by T.

Saturday, Oct 18, 2008

Compsec is a subset of OPSEC that is concerned with computer security. It can not be ignored if you plan to use computers now and after a SHTF situation.
The personal computer is a powerful tool to help cope with any disaster or survival situation. The capacity for enormous data storage in a very small footprint makes it a valuable resource when the grid and net go down. You will have all the information you need at your finger tips; first aid and medical info, maps and topography, equipment and firearms manuals, personal records and pictures, and the list goes on and on. Just be sure you have back ups of your data on hard drives and DVDs and a spare system or two stowed away in an EMP-shielded cabinet. Laptops make sense as spares due to their transportability and lower power consumption.[JWR Adds: Like all of you other spare small electronics, any spare laptops should be stored in 40mm ammo cans, for EMP protection.] Make sure you have spare batteries and chargers, hard drives, etc. Consider having the rugged laptops that are shock, water and dust resistant. Here are some examples:

Dell Ruggedized Laptop
Panasonic Toughbook Laptop

See the recent article on how to power your PC with solar energy in Computer Power User magazine's November, 2008 issue. The article is titled: “Get Off The Grid”.
Solar Laptop chargers are available from:
Basegear
Ready Depot
[JWR Adds: Compact photovoltaic power systems are also available from Ready Made Resources, a loyal SurvivalBlog advertiser.]


Here are some sites with useful information that you might want to stow away before TSHTF:
USGS Topography Resources
KI4U Library
First Aid References
EquippedToSurvive (PDF)
NIH Medline
eBooks
There are many other treasure troves of information on the Internet. Look around and gather those free files now[, and make backups on CD-ROM].

You don't have to spend a fortune on software; if you leave Microsoft behind and enter the world of Open Source software where you will find a plethora of great software ranging from the LINUX operating system to office automation, databases, and hundreds of useful programs. Consider that most viruses and malware are written for Microsoft products, so open source is generally more secure for that reason alone. Check out these web sites for some alternative ways to go:
Ubuntu
Red Hat
SourceForge
Tucows
If you prefer to stick with the tried and true Microsoft, do indeed follow their security recommendations and make sure you get all the updates installed as soon as they come out. I recommend using the automatic updates for the operating system and software packages as well as virus and spyware scanners.

Scott McNealy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems once said, “You have no privacy [in the Internet era]. Get over it.” That is definitely a true statement. There are gigantic databases all over the world with data on any minutiae that may have been recorded from many diverse sources which can then be correlated by high power computers to produce a pretty good picture of you as an individual should someone wish to. Some of the data is obtained legally from public records and news sources; some is obtained illicitly through hacking or purchasing outright what should be private information. The data may also come from spybots and Trojan horses right on your very own personal computer.

Anything that is stored on a computer that is connected to the internet is susceptible to data harvesting. Anything you posted to an on-line message board, or an email you sent, or a form you filled out, may well still exist somewhere on the internet even after it seemingly is gone. In the unthinkably large database of Google it may live a long, long time or on a back up tape in some obscure data center somewhere. It may even attain near immortality in the “Wayback Machine”, a database that archives web pages.

Even though using the internet can be hazardous, there are ways to make your surfing safer. By all means install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and update it frequently. Another essential is to have a firewall. Most operating systems now come with firewalls so make sure it is enabled. It can be made even more secure if you do the homework.It’s not a good idea to leave your computer running on-line 24/7 unless you have a specific reason to do so. It gives the hackers a lot of time to work on cracking your system and once cracked hackers can use your PC in their zombie army to launch more attacks and collect more data, all in the dead of night while you sleep. You won’t notice the hard drive and network activity.

Use strong passwords, it’s a pain, but weak passwords are easily cracked and once that is done, you have absolutely no security at all. Change passwords regularly because even a strong password can eventually be cracked by brute force cracking which simply tries random character patterns until it finds the one that works. If you use words that can be found in a dictionary or even words slightly modified, be aware that these are much faster to be cracked.
You can learn about strong passwords here:
Microsoft Password Checker
LINUX Password Checker
Free Ultra-Secure Password Generator from Gibson Research
Pay attention to security settings on your web browser. I use the Firefox browser because it has better security features [than others like Microsoft Internet Explorer], such as clearing of private data when exiting, the ability to manage individual cookies, and the ability to disable the “HTTP referrer” information that tells the next web site you visit where you just came from.

Whatever browser and operating system you use, make sure that it is as secure as it can be and still be functional for your needs. The basic philosophy of system hardening is to close all the open doors, install locks, and only open up those that you absolutely must in order to operate. There are many open doors and loosely guarded doors in an unsecured system which comes right from the manufacturer that way. You need to look into all the setting and options that are available with what ever hardware and software you have, and then start tightening up as much as possible.

Another problem with most PCs running a Microsoft OS is that they become laden with junk over time. As you install new software and hardware your registry grows to a huge size and you accumulate startup programs that start up when you logon and run even if you may not need them. They make the login slower and slower as they accumulate and some of them may even be spybots reporting back to home base of your activities. I’m willing to bet that most PC users are running software for programs they never even use anymore.

Here are a few sites to learn about how to clean your PC of these start-up parasites:
Info on start-up programs
This a database of good, bad and optional programs that might be running on your PC.
Microsoft registry cleaner. There are other commercial products available, be careful to select the option to make backups before you clean up the registry. The cleaners occasionally clean too much and break a program that you need.
Here is a cleaner I have used successfully.

Visit these web sites to give yourself some good security check-outs:
Tons of good compsec information.
Free Tools and Utilities.
The Junkbusters site will tell you if your browser is giving out too much information.
Gibson Research. Click on the services tab and select Shields Up! to give your system a security check up. Check out all their other good security info.
This page will tell you about your Internet "persona" and check out other good information.

Surf anonymously. This will help keep those who do not have a need to know, out of your affairs. Just remember that ‘somebody’ will know what your internet IP addresses is, and that ‘somebody’ is the anonymity provider or proxy server. It can be traced to your PC.
Here are two free anonymizers:
CEXX.org
ComputerBytesMan

One note of caution about encrypted files and web sites that your browser accesses: The browser will copy it to cache and it will be in clear text allowing anybody to read it or a Trojan to copy the page back to its home base server. The solution is to clear browser cache immediately after accessing encrypted pages.

Using a search engine link will provide the web site you visit with all the search terms you used to make the search. Instead, copy and paste the link into the browser navigation bar for a little extra anonymity. If you have a Google account and have logged in to check your Gmail then it is possible for Google to link your login to your searches thus reducing your anonymity even more. [JWR Adds: I recommend that SurvivalBlog readers go a step further and use the Scroogle Scraper intermediary portal to do any Google searches.]

I hope this information has been helpful for those preparing for those tough times ahead that lay ahead. I do believe the personal computer can be a powerful survival tool if, or should I say when, the TSHTF. Visit Set2Survive.com for more information, links and resources.


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