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How To: Copy Protect PDF Files

This article will overview PDF copy protection and the available options. A couple of things worth mentioning before getting into the details:

  • Encryption is different than copy protection. Encryption is a technology solution where the PDF owner assigns a password to the document and after the user enters that password the user can do anything they want with the file. Print, share, screen capture, etc. The idea for encryption is the document being unattainable until a password is entered.
  • Copy protection does not use a password and anyone can see the file. However; the file cannot be copied, printed, shared or screen captured. The idea behind copy protection is the PDF being viewed by anyone, but nothing can be done with the file. When people are searching for PDF copy protection, this is the solution most likely sought after.

PDF or Portable Document Format is an open standard. What this means is the document format was designed to be used in just about any document reader program. The goal for the PDF specification was to make the format as universal as possible. For this reason, it is a bit more difficult than one would think to copy protect a PDF file.

Windows comes pre-installed with Adobe Reader. In addition, Windows has embedded Adobe API code to read PDF files. Even if Adobe Reader was not installed on your computer, or uninstalled, the underlying code is still there to open a PDF. In additional to Adobe Reader (#1 PDF reader in the market) there are dozens of additional PDF reader programs. Again, the goal for all these readers is to open and read a portable document file.

Adobe copy protection solutions are very well known for being cracked. If you Google “Adobe copy protection crack” you will find pages of ways the Adobe security features are compromised. Here and here are two examples of Google search results with web pages dedicated to hacking.

The fundamental problem with copy protection are the lack of controls when viewing a PDF. Meaning a PDF content owner (you) does not have the control over Adobe Reader, or other programs, to stop the user (your client/customer/student) from printing, screen grabbing, sharing and saving.

The idea behind a PDF copy protection solution is a framework where the PDF can be opened and viewed, while you (the content owner) maintains control of the document.

Of course Adobe Reader, FoxIt Reader and others, will not provide the tools to block a user from printing or saving from within their program. In contrast, we need a “reader” or “viewer” with controls to block those functions.

With this in mind, it is difficult to provide a reader with these security functions. Most users who receive a PDF do not want to download and install another program just to read a PDF file. The ease and beauty of a PDF gets lost in that process. No longer is the PDF a portable document format. In addition, a software program that can be downloaded to view a PDF can also be downloaded by a hacker to be reverse engineered. There needs to be something more than just a secure reader/viewer to control the PDF.

The most secure way to copy protect a PDF file is to associate it with something physical. There are some software (only) solutions, but those are not as secure as a solution with something physical.

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How Does USB Copy Protection Work?

In this article we will detail how the Nexcopy USB copy protection solution works. Before we start there are important definitions we must all agree upon. As in today’s market place there are multiple vendors using the wrong definitions to explain copy protection.

Copy protection is different than encryption; although copy protection does use a form of encryption in the overall solution.

Encryption is scrambling up data and requiring a password to piece all the data together and display it. Once the password is entered the data can be viewed. The potential security issue is the user who entered the password can now do anything they wish with the files, print, save, share, etc.

Copy protection is different in two ways. First, there is no password required to view the data. Second, the files cannot be saved, printed, shared, streamed when viewed by even the most trusted user.

The later, copy protection, is what most people want when it comes to multi-media files like PDF, video, audio and HTML pages. Most users want the data to be seen by as many people as possible, yet the data cannot be saved, shared, streamed, printed or screen captured.

So with that in mind, let us review how the Nexcopy solution works for USB copy protection.

Here are six bullet points regarding features Nexcopy provides which others do not:

  • Copy protected content plays on both Mac and Windows computers
  • There are no Admin rights required to play the content
  • There is no installation required on the host computer
  • The content runs 100% from the flash drive
  • The USB stick is write protect, so files cannot be deleted or changed
  • The solution is both hardware and software, ultra-secure

The Nexcopy USB copy protection solution runs with the assumption the content owner does not want to share the data with even duplication service companies. It is assumed the content owner wants total control of the data before, during and after the USB duplication process.

Here are the steps for using the Copy Secure drives as the content owner:

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How To: Scan USB Flash Drive With Windows Defender (Automatically)

You never know where a flash drive has been.

It’s always best to scan a USB flash drive.

Did you know Windows Defender can be setup to scan a USB stick automatically, when it’s plugged in? Below are the steps to make that configuration setup.

By default, Windows 10 does not have this setting configured. We are not sure why, as USB sticks and downloads from internet sites are probably the two most vunerable ways to get a computer infected. Our only guess, is the scan process of a USB stick can take some time, and for a user to have that step done with each connection, could reduce the user experience.

This tutorial will take about three minutes to setup. I would suggest read the rest of this article and when done, go back and perform the few steps required to make the Windows Defender scan for USB flash drives.

We are going to make a Group Policy to scan USB flash drives using Windows Defender.

Let us run the Group Policy editor.

Press the Windows Key + R

Type gpedit.msc and press Enter or OK.

Look for the Administrative Templates under the top Computer Configuration directory, expand this directory (folder)

Scroll down to Windows Components, expand it

In that directory scroll down more and look for Windows Defender Antivirus, expand it

Finally, look for the Scan folder and click that folder.

On the right side of the dialogue box you will see additional settings, search for the Scan removable drives and double click that setting

This setting is disabled by default. Please click the radial enable button to enable this setting for your Windows computer.

Click Apply in the bottom right and then click OK.

That is it. Your Windows computer will now automatically scan USB flash drives using Windows Defender.

Alternatively, you can insert a USB stick and right click the drive letter and select Scan with Windows Defender but the problem here, is the USB could have already done it’s virus work before you had a chance to scan for malicious code.

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What is Fuzzing and How Did It Find 26 USB Bugs?

Fuzzing is a method of testing with automated software which provides invalid, unexpected, and random data as inputs to a computer program. The testing program then monitors for crashes, assertions and potential memory leaks.

A research team based from Purdue University came up with USBFuzz, which pushes enormous amounts of random data through the USB bus of a system. Hui Peng and Mathias payer (from the Swiss Federal Institute of Tech) came up with the idea and program.

Please don’t lose any sleep over the bugs found.

Peng and Mathias found one bug in FreeBSD, three in MacOS (two resulting in an unplanned reboot and one freezing the system), four in Windows 8 and Windows 10 (resulting in Blue Screens of Death) and the vast majority of bugs, in Linux — 18 in total.

Of all these bugs, Windows users do not need to worry, they have been fixed. Of the 18 found in Linux, 16 of them have been corrected already. Those correct where major security flaws.

What we like about the USBFuzz is the underlying theme to improve the security of the USB platform and continued improvement. We also like USBFuzz becoming an open source bit of code that everyone may use to strengthen thier USB product. The team will release a version on GitHub later this year, 2020.

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Remote access to USB security keys

If you are an avid user of USB security dongles, you might know how challenging it may be to get remote access to these devices. To simplify this task, Electronic Team, Inc. has developed a dedicated software solution capable of sharing USB protection dongles over the network.

Donglify is a lightweight desktop application that allows connecting USB hardware keys to remote computers over the Internet and LAN. The software uses the 2048-bit SSL encryption to secure your connections, so you don’t need to worry that your sensitive data will be intercepted or lost.

One of the nicest things about Donglify is that it can redirect one USB dongle to several remote PCs simultaneously. In order to make a USB hardware key available for use on multiple computers, you can just connect the device to your local PC and share it over the network with nothing more than a couple of clicks. This option, currently, works with HASP HL Pro, Sentinel HL Pro, SafeNet eToken 5110, and CodeMeter CmStick security keys.

USB hardware keys of other types can also be shared over the Internet but you’ll be able to access them from one remote machine at a time.

Donglify is available by subscription and comes with a 30-day free trial. When the trial period is over, you can continue using the service for $19.99 a month.

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QuadCore Raspberry Pi 4

Update:

From this article, the Raspberry Pi 4’s USB-C power port was designed outside of official USB-IF specifications, making it incompatible with many USB-C chargers and/or power supplies. You can read more about from the link above and the information gathered to come to such a conclusion was done by a well known Google engineer, Benson Leung.

The raspberry Pi is a collection of small computer boards put together in a simplistic way to create the foundation of a computer system. The Raspberry Pi (also known as RPi) was released back in Feb of 2012 in the United Kingdom. The original intent of the RPi was to develop a low cost and simplistic computer which students could learn and develop.

The original model became far more popular than anticipated, and started selling outside its target market for uses such as robotics. It does not include peripherals (such as keyboards and mice) or even come inside a case. Literally a bare-bones product.

To give you an idea of the popularity, the RPi products have sold over 19 million units between its release in 2012 to the end of fiscal year 2018. This makes the RPi one of the best-selling computers in the world, although a computer with limited resources. Until now.

This week the Raspberry Pi Foundation has released the Pi 4. This is one hell of a great product. Check out these specifications:

  • A 1.5GHz quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 CPU (~3× performance)
  • 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB of LPDDR4 SDRAM
  • Full-throughput Gigabit Ethernet
  • Dual-band 802.11ac wireless networking
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports
  • Dual monitor support, at resolutions up to 4K
  • VideoCore VI graphics, supporting OpenGL ES 3.x
  • 4Kp60 hardware decode of HEVC video
  • Complete compatibility with earlier Raspberry Pi products

In addition to the hardware improvements, the Raspberry Pi Foundation says

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EaseUS Data Recovery Software – Free

It’s been a hard day because your USB stick or SD card with important content doesn’t have the file you are looking for. Somehow, maybe your kid, formatted the device and what you are looking for is no longer there.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get some recovery software to find that file?

Better yet, wouldn’t it be nice to have a free download to show you what files can be seen… and then you can decide to buy the software? I mean, your day has already been bad enough, why spend money for a shot in the dark?

EaseUS Data Recovery software is just what you need. Today is a review of this software. Our first and last impression, it’s good stuff!

Here is the “Readers Digest” version of the data recovery software review. Oh, and if you’re a millennial who doesn’t know what “Readers Digest” is, it was a small magazine that would provide short stories and reviews and jokes. Nothing long, everything quick and to the point.

The EaseUS Data Recovery software is free for download with upgrade options.

The fee download gives you the ability to recover up-to one GB of data. The types of situations the free software is best used for is when the file was deleted or the file was formatted off the drive.

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Chromebook Gets a USBGuard

Anyone in tech has seen the reports and news about USB sticks with a virus ruined a company network or infect computers.  Google built a small and affective feature into their latest Chromebooks.

USBGuard, Chromebook

The USBGuard is a feature which blocks interaction between the mass storage device and the Chrome operating system.  The OS will give power to the device, but not let data transmit.

The USBGuard blocks this activity when the Chromebook is in locked mode.  When the Chromebook is not in lock mode, the USB will interact as expected as a read/write device.

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Extra Facebook Security With USB Keys

Account security is one of the most vital pieces of the busy and interconnected world right now and nobody wants strangers accessing their personal information online. You might use a password manager as well as two-factor authentication like we mentioned in a previous post, but now there’s another way to stay protected.

Data Cable



In response to similar approaches from Google and Dropbox, Facebook has added support for safe login security keys. When you log into your account, this device will prove your identity rather than a code which sends to your phone. In addition to the superior security, they’re also potentially faster. With just a tap on the device you can have access to your Facebook account and feel safer in knowing only you can unlock it. It’s a welcome move from the company in an age where cyberattacks and identity theft are on the rise and as a universal rule on the internet, it’s never a bad time to strengthen your defences.

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How To: Make a USB Read Only

There are two ways to make a USB stick read only. One way is a universal solution and is 100% permanent, the other way is PC specific and a good deterrent. When we say 100% permanent, this means the USB stick is read only (write protected) on all computers, whether it be a Mac, PC, Linux, etc type computer, the USB is read only and the status cannot be changed. The other method flags a USB device to be read only in relationship to the PC it is connected to so that whenever that USB stick is connected to that computer, it makes the USB read only and blocks all write commands to the device.

Most times an IT manager or content owner wants the USB stick to be read only so the files cannot be deleted or formatted off the drive. Another reason for making a USB read only is for the original files to remain the same and blocks the ability for files to be changed or manipulated. Finally, it’s smart to have USBs read only so that virus’ don’t jump onto the drive and possibly spread to other computers.

Let us start with the less permanent way because it’s easier to do and doesn’t require any specific hardware. You will need a Windows7 machine or higher. The Windows7 machine will have DiskPart utility which allows us to perform all sorts of cool things to flash drives, like setting write protection.

  • Connect the USB to your Windows computer.
  • To begin, go to your Windows Start and in the Search Field type “cmd”

This will run your Command prompt.

  • Next, you will want to get to the C root of the Command prompt and if you are signed in as a user you can simply type cd\ this will get you back to the root of the C drive.
  • Type DISKPART
  • Type LIST DISK

Now you will need to find the USB stick connected to your PC. Most likely it’s DISK 1

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Stand alone Windows Password Reset Tool

One of the most classic and – yet still perversely prevalent – issues IT staff face is resetting Windows passwords for users who have forgotten them (again). While remote administration has reduced the need to physically reactivate and reset passwords in most scenarios, a copy of L0phtcrack still remains in every experienced admins ‘toolbox’. Of course, having to reboot the system and use a copy of Bart PE or other portable OS’ to run L0phtcrack has a PITA factor all its own. USB key reset tool   Well, it seems that entrepreneur Jonty Lovell has done something about it as the all new – and fully funded – Password Reset Key has been designed to take the hassle out of this common issue. In fact, as long as you have physical access to the system even home owners can now reset their forgotten password within mere moments. The secret to the Password Reset Key is the fact that it combines a key shaped 1GB flash drive – available in black, stainless steel, or ‘gold’ – with a simple OS that auto-loads his custom software upon startup. Just as with L0phtcrack, with a simple click or three, you can scan, reset and even test how secure a given systems login passwords are. Because of its ‘key’ form factor, it will be hard to lose as you can simply stick on your keychain and always have it close at hand. However, be warned that this $15 – $50 device (depending on which option to choose) may get you in trouble with your IT staff as resetting the ‘administrator’ password will greatly ‘annoy’ them if they find out. Continue Reading

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USB copy protection with digital rights management for data loaded on USB flash drives.

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