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E-Banking on a Locked Down (Non-Microsoft) PC

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In past Live Online chats and blog posts, I've mentioned any easy way to temporarily convert a Windows PC into a Linux-based computer in order to ensure that your online banking credentials positively can't be swiped by password-stealing malicious software. What follows is a brief tutorial on how to do that with Ubuntu, one of the more popular bootable Linux installations.

Also known as "Live CDs," these are generally free, Linux-based operating systems that one can download and burn to a CD-Rom or DVD. The beauty of Live CDs is that they can be used to turn a Windows based PC into a provisional Linux computer, as Live CDs allow the user to boot into a Linux operating system without installing anything to the hard drive. Programs on a LiveCD are loaded into system memory, and any changes - such as browsing history or other activity -- are completely wiped away after the machine is shut down. To return to Windows, simply remove the CD from the drive and reboot.

More importantly, malware that is built to steal data from Windows-based systems simply won't load or work when the user is booting from LiveCD.

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Consider Linux for Secure Online Banking Do you make online financial transactions from a Windows computer? If so, you may want to re-visit that decision.

It's a given that almost all malicious software targets Windows. In my opinion, while it is possible to secure a Windows computer, the process is too hard, too time-consuming and/or technically over the head of most people.

A recent article at described multiple organizations whose bank accounts were emptied by malicious software on their Windows computers. In one case, the Clampi Trojan sat undetected for a year on the computer of the Controller of a small business, before it decided to make withdrawals from their bank account.

According to recent news reports, "Fraudsters are taking advantage of the widely used but obscure Automated Clearing House (ACH) Network in order to pull off their attacks." Businesses don't have the same safeguards as consumers from this type of theft. Both articles describe serious losses and lawsuits.

In response to this, I wrote Defending against the Clampi Trojan, which applies to all Windows based malicious software (malware). In short, the advice boils down to this:

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