Monday, October 20, 2014

The best Live CD to rescue data

*UPDATED - September 5 2015*

Hello! It's been 16 days (or 17) since I wrote a tech post. This one is very important for me in that it took me a long time to analyse all the available solutions on the market. It took my brains out and kept them engaged them all day and night, just to conclude which is the best Live CD for any system that I encounter. Some are dead simple to use, few are totally command-line (or terminal) and most are hybrids. Personally I prefer the third option. A large number of people will prefer the first type.

I have ranked them countdown wise with big numbers.

I will list all the utilities I will require for rescuing data from a system crash (for example, when it is impossible to boot into Windows, or if you forgot your Windows or BIOS password). Here they are:
  • Web browser (eg. Firefox)
  • Disk cloning tool (like Clonezilla?)
  • Hard disk wiping tool
  • 'dd' backup option
  • gzip and bzip2 CMD apps
  • Nice bootloader
  • Diagnostic tools
  • Text editor (to make notes or scripts on-the-spot)
  • Data recovery tool (TestDisk?)
  • Complete Internet connectivity support
  • Support for any filesystem (Linux or Mac or Windows)
  • CD/DVD burning tool (in case you want to backup data onto them)

best Live CD

I tested every possible Live CD and distro "specially made" for this task. I will highlight some of the best ones here: Damn Small Linux (DSL), SystemRescueCD, Trinity Rescue Kit, Parted Magic, Rescatux, Redo Backup, Ultimate Boot CD.

Why I did not include CloneZilla Live?

It is because it does not tick any box except the first one in my checklist.

Why I included DSL?

It does not have disk cloning tool, disk wiping tool and data recovery tool. But it can be your best bet on the old Pentium 486 machine with 16 MB RAM.

1. DSL 4.11 RC2


(to be used with the best at the bottom of article)
It is a good and fast Live CD for doing dd backups. It has Firefox and text editor, and looks great while having lot of functionality in 50 MBs in a time when you have 15 GB Windows 8.1 installations.
So which one did I choose as the best of the lot?
 

6. Parted Magic 01/08/2013


Remember Parted Magic is now paid, and the last free version (01/08/2013) is lethal poison to your PC's hardware. As quoted by Parted Magic author Patrick on his site:
"WARNING! A few sites on the internet are offering a file called pmagic_2013_08_01.iso for free download. This version was released with a very destructive USB corruption bug in the Linux kernel. We removed this file from our official mirrors to minimize the damage and quickly released version 2013_08_10 to replace it. The 2013_08_01 version also included a bug in the OLD Secure Erase GUI that would allow a user to erase an ATA disk through a USB interface. In some cases it would brick the expensive USB device. The OLD GUI would also set the secure erase password to NULL by default and using the disk on a Lenovo BIOS is not possible because a password cannot be entered. Version 2013_09_26 does not contain these flaws and is completely safe to use. Sorry for any inconvenience or loss suffered by using this unofficial/unsupported FREE pmagic_2013_08_01.iso. You have been warned."
Parted Magic is a paid option, and you need to give $10 for personal copy of the latest version, which means for an organisation or group it can be very costly.
  

5. Ultimate Boot CD 5.3.5


It is CMOS utilities plus diagnostic tools plus the state-of-the-art disk wiping tool DBAN plus Parted Magic free version. As warned, Parted Magic is extremely dangerous to use hence strictly not recommended.
  

4. Trinity Rescue Kit 3.4


It has text user interface (text menu) but a lot of the work has to be done through terminal (or command line). So if you do not want to dirty your hands and work in the dingy environment, keep scrolling down.
   

3. Rescatux 0.32 beta 3


It is a nice and easy to use Live CD for rescue operation. It can promote and erase Windows passwords and recover data and lot more in a button-style wizard mode. But the only concern is that it is still in beta mode and thus makes some users uncomortable using it. Though it is stable to a large extent.
  

2. Redo Backup and Recovery 1.0.4


It is the 2nd best in my test. It wins the prize for looks straight off. Super polished, while remaining small (261 MB) and has everything you would look for. It even has Facebook and Twitter apps. You can also add and use Skype during serious work. I find things like Facebook and Skype useless during such a task. Only one cons here: it cannot restore a partition backup to a single partition. Instead, it will erase any other hard disk contents and replace that with the backup. Bad when you want to restore backups to partition.
  

1. SystemRescueCD 4.5.4


This is the best of all and offers everything I want. It does not offer CloneZilla. Instead it offers the app on which CloneZilla runs: PartClone. Same text-based interface and same colours. Pretty much the same as CloneZilla, except the name "CloneZilla". It can burn backups and data on CD or DVD. It offers options for erasing Windows passwords and supports even Windows 7 for that. It offers text-based, command line interfaces and graphical interface by writing "startx" in command line. It also has diagnostic tools. A treasure for system administrators and tech geeks in short, while not being hard on the newbie with its quick and extremely descriptive online guides.


Conclusion


SystemRescueCD is the best for any system and the most functional, while not having Facebook or multimedia stuff. In short, for serious work while not getting messy with command line. DSL is for the weak and old hardware systems.

Comments in the form of disagreements would be considered. But my opinion stands still till then.

Friday, October 03, 2014

The best security for Windows for FREE

*UPDATED - September 5 2015*

Hello! I am gonna try my hands on this task, which seems 89.9-degree uphill. For the "freeware only" people. For those who want everything for free. Antivirus for Windows.

free vs paid security for windows


Windows is insecure as hell, with Microsoft not recommending its own Security Essentials. It spoofed its Windows Defender well. It had to move users from other security options, and it made people ditch everything for Security Essentials for sometime... till it got its marketshare and ditched it, just like other Microsoft programs.

See this article: http://hctechbyte.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/microsoft-self-destruct-countdown-begins/

It did its job well at its peak, catching 99% viruses for free, and real-time. The Windows Firewall also worked well. But now people have moved on, and as people move on to free solutions, they are boggled by the amount of articles declaring different solutions. My article may be one of them tomorrow. But if you read carefully, you will actually notice my solution works best.

So based on my personal experience, I will suggest you the best and rock-solid security for your Windows PC. It incldes all aspects. But before all that, I would like to tell you all the possible sources of viruses and malware (no article on the Internet specifying all possibilties till now). Here are possible virus sources:

  • USB and CD/DVD and memory card autorun (INI files)
  • Standalone EXEs, setups, BATs and COMs
  • Cracks and keygens
  • Fake and spoofed sites (porn and religious alike)
  • Network attacks
  • Malicious scripts (Javascript and/or ActiveX)
  • PDF/DOC(X)/XLS(X) documents embedded with virus
  • Malicious email attachments
  • Adware/spyware/toolbars embedded in setups commonly

I tackle each with efficiency. First instruction: Use or replace your browser with Firefox. Only then follow my instructions.

Let's start off with the easiest:


Email attachments

Stop using offline email clients. Login with browser and logout. Do not open these emails. Look at the email address where it has come from. If its your friends', phone him to confirm about attachments. Else delete it. Period.


Fake and spoofed sites

Install LinkExtend and WOT add-ons inside Firefox. Red means bad, green means safe. Any one flags any website as red, and you avoid it.


Cracks and keygens

Stop using paid software illegally. Try better free replacements for your softwares. There is hardly any software which does not have free alternative (exception WinRAR and CorelDraw).

Malicious scripts

Install NoScript add-on inside Firefox. Period.


PDF/DOC(X)/XLS(X) malicious documents

Upload each to VirusTotal. If any one flags it as danger, trash it. Contact author to clean up virus and then send it to you.


Network attacks

Use Comodo Firewall. It is the best and SHOULD be installed immediately after fresh Windows installation.

If it produces BSODs (which it does upon Windows installations crippled by registry cleaning, malware and junk installs), then install Emsisoft Online Armor.

If Emsisoft does not work in your case, use Private Firewall. It is quite impressive while keeping secure enough.

NOTE: Comodo producing BSODs is a great misconception. A well maintained or freshly installed Windows setup NEVER annoys.


USB and CD/DVD and memory card autorun (INI files)

If using Windows Vista and above, click Start and search AutoPlay. Open AutoPlay. Uncheck the box that says "Use AutoPlay for all media and devices". Do not leave it partially checked. Then install Ninja Pendisk on your PC. Turn on "Auto Clean" and "Disable AutoPlay" by right-clicking the green ninja in the taskbar tray. Use Unlocker software for the more problematic ones. (Below suggesting antivirus.)


How to immune my USB drive from other PCs?

There is only one solution, albeit free, to do this. This concept is weird in that your USB does not have any power to protect itself even after being opened in an infected PC. Get MX One. Install it on your USB drive and keep it updated.


Standalone EXEs, setups, BATs and COMs (long explanation)

People say often now that Panda Cloud AV is the best. Indeed it is, due to 100% detection rates at real-time for free! The top-end ones like Kaspersky and BitDefender are the ones to do that, which means pay, which you do not want to do.
Long story cut short, use Avira Antivirus Free 15. It does not depend on the cloud a.k.a. Internet to detect viruses, and most people are not online 24x7. Offline protection is where Panda fails miserably, and this is where Avira excels. But does not have detection rates like Panda (it has 99%) but better for offline security, and in cases where virus intrudes your system and disables your Internet connection permanently.
Panda is known to cache cloud database on a PC but only for previously detected viruses, not any other viruses. And it only protects you from current viruses, not MS-DOS or others which can still be effective.
Avira is known to have the largest virus database in free category (arguable, 360 Total Security or Avast?) and shields your PC overall (inarguable). It has much better protection than most free effective solutions.


Adware/spyware/toolbars embedded in setups commonly

Use free WinPatrol. Period.


Conclusion

Firefox + NoScript + LinkExtend + WOT + VirusTotal (online) + Comodo Firewall Free + Ninja Pendisk + MX One + Avira Antivirus Free + WinPatrol = FREE SOLID PROTECTION

P.S. I use Kaspersky PURE 3.0 with free WinPatrol instead of all that. Costs me 900 INR per year. Better security for some money. Can be worth it.