We may call the glorious series of tubes the World Wide Web, but that doesn’t mean you can view every website’s content all around the globe. Many of the big name content providers – like Steam, Netflix, Pandora and BBC – employ region locks to limit their services to specific countries. But this is the Internet we’re talking about, so naturally, there are ways around the roadblocks.
As antivirus programs and end users alike become more adept at identifying badware, malware authors are getting even sneakier in their quest to infect your computer. Social engineering is the name of the game now – just ask the NBC News exec who clicked on an infected Christmas tree attachment from an unknown sender. A new report says that scammers have begun using a novel trick to get users to open malicious files; they send emails that claim to be from the office’s printer/scanner, which is actually pretty friggin’ clever.
We imagine getting Rickrolled would be just as annoying today as it ever was, only we wouldn't know because hardly anyone is lame enough to keep this prank going. But hey, if you do happen to fraternize with idiots who still get a kick out of Rickrolling, there's a new Firefox add-on that may help.
At this point, we can't even call it fashionably late to the party, it's just plain late. But whatever, "RickRemoval" version 1.0 promises to thwart Rickrolling attempts by cross-referencing every site you visit against a database of over 200 known Rickroll pages.
There's also a second layer of protection applied to YouTube destinations. The add-on scours the video page looking for any suspicious keywords, and if it finds too many warning signs, it won't load the page.
Sound like something you need? Then find a new group of friends. Barring that, you can grab the add-on here.
One of the bigger sources for URL spoofing, malware insertion, and general Internet annoyance can be found in the legions of URL shortening services that exist on today's Web. You can't go three clicks deep on a page without finding some kind of cleverly named way to transform a 108-character URL into an 8-character shortcut. Regardless of the service you personally prefer for all of your URL-shortening needs, one common element remains constant through all of them: When you come across a shortened URL, you have no native way to tell where it is you're going.
The last thing you need is to be sent to some kind of horrific site that compromises your system's security (or, worse, some horrific site that compromises your job security). If you're a fan of the Google Chrome browser--and I bet you are, given that you're reading the Extension of the Week article--you'll definitely want to check out a little add-on called Explode.
Oh, you internet tricksters. Had I a nickel every time somebody erroneously sent me to a filthy, filthy Web site via a common tinyurl or bit.ly shortened url, I wouldn't have to write articles for Maximum PC just to pay my monthly Internet bills. But alas, I am quite gullible. Or at least, I was... until I ran across a lifesaving Chrome extension called Expand.
I often use this point in these mini-profiles to make some kind of joke along the lines of, "oh I bet you know what this does, don't you?" Try to envision that in the voice of Stan the salesman, if you can. Suffice, it is pretty easy to guess what the Expand extension does by name alone. In fact, there's only one configuration option that comes with this extension. The rest is all taken care of automatically and behind-the-scenes during your general browsing experience. Install this extension, sit back, and reap the benefits of its simple--yet powerful--functionality.
So, er, what exactly does it do? You'll find out after the jump!
What a wonderful world that open and closed platforms have created on the World Wide Web. I can have an untold number of features and applications inserted into my Web browser without having to lift much more than a finger to access them. I can take my favorite Web platforms and expand their usefulness by linking them to other Web-based services. I can even download a variant of my Web browser of choice that bridges the best of two worlds under one new roof: new innovations mixed with standard familiarity.
So, what happens when these architectures fight back?
It's a stupid thing to say on its face, because I don't believe that it's up to a particular program or application to breach your defenses and fight its way into your cyber-life. Most, if not all instances of malware, spoofing, and hijacking (to name a few) can be directly traced to user stupidity in some fashion. Either a person leaves the ol' back door unlocked, fails to frisk the guests as they enter the home, or actively invites a heap of trouble to come on over for a party.
Simplified examples, perhaps, but the underlying fact remains a constant: You are the gatekeeper for your PC. Unfortunately, as we begin to adopt an "everyone's allowed" mindset for Web integration, we're only making it easier for the bad guys to do what they do best. Unfriendly, if not downright hostile bits of malware can be pushed back with but a few simple changes in behavior--are you as security-focused as you should be in today's cross-platform world?