How to Browse the Web Safe From Viruses for Free
Posted on by Beau AdkinsCategories Computer Security, Light Point Web, Resources, Security, Web SecurityLeave a comment on How to Browse the Web Safe From Viruses for Free

VirtualBoxToday, I’m going to walk you through the process of being able to browse the web in complete safety. The title of this post explicitly mentions “viruses”, but I’m using this as a more well-known moniker for the term “malware”. Malware is a more generic term which encompasses viruses, spyware, trojans, etc.

What I mean by “complete safety”, is that you do not have to worry about malware infecting your computer. It does not mean you are safe from being tricked into giving your banking passwords to a site that is only pretending to be your bank.

Step 1. Set up VirtualBox

The method I will be describing in this post relies on Virtual Machines for security. Think of a virtual machine as a fake computer inside your real computer. By using a virtual machine, you can perform tasks on a computer in a way that is completely isolated from your real computer. With this, you can browse the web inside the virtual machine, so that if you stumble on some malware, only the virtual machine will be infected. The virtual machine management software will also allow you to rollback all changes made to a virtual machine to a known state. Using these abilities correctly will allow you to browse in safety.

The first step is to install a virtual machine management software package, also known as a “hypervisor”. There are many different options for this, but I’m going to recommend VirtualBox. You can download and execute the installer from here. Just click the “VirtualBox x.x.x for Windows hosts” link (assuming you are using Windows). Once it is downloaded, just run the installer.

Step 2. Download Your Guest OS

Next, you will need an Operating System to use inside the Virtual Machine. You could install Windows as the Operating System, but you would need to buy a license. For a free alternative, I suggest installing Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a Linux-based Operating System. It is very high quality, and completely free.

When you download Ubuntu, you do not get an installer. Instead you get an “ISO” file. An ISO file is a bit-for-bit copy of a CD that you would use to install it on another computer. Its a rather large file. To start the download, go here and choose your version (either is fine). You need to remember where you download this file to.

Step 3. Set up Your Virtual Machine

Now that you have VirtualBox installed and an OS ISO file ready, you can create your first Virtual Machine. Start up VirtualBox (you probably have a shortcut on your desktop). Click the button at the top labeled “New”. Give your Virtual Machine a name, for example, “Browsing Machine”. Choose “Linux” as the Operating System, and the Version as “Ubuntu”.

Next, you need to select how much RAM to give this Virtual Machine. I would recommend 1 Gig at the least. Enter “1024” in the box labeled “MB”. This means 1024 Megabytes, which is equal to 1 Gigabyte. Note: you need to have more RAM than this on your computer. If you do not have more than a Gig of RAM on your computer, then unfortunately, you probably do not have system requirements to use virtual machines.

On the next screen, leave the default options (“Boot Hard Disk”, and “Create new hard disk”). Continue on to the “Hard Disk Storage Type” screen. Leave the default option of “Dynamically expanding storage”. On the next screen, leave the defaults in place and continue on.

VirtualBox SettingsOnce you get through all the options mentioned above, you will be returned to the main VirtualBox screen, but now you will see a new entry for your Virtual Machine in the pane on the left. Click on it to select it, and then click the “Settings” button at the top. In the settings dialog, select “Storage” in the left hand pane.

VirtualBox Settings Highlighted

In the center of the screen, click on the disk image labeled “Empty” under the “IDE Controller” entry. Next, on the right of the screen, click the disk icon next to the “CD/DVD Drive: IDE Secondary Master” entry, and in the popup, select “Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file”. A file select dialog will appear. In this dialog, select the ISO file you downloaded in Step 2. Now click the “OK” button at the bottom of the settings dialog.

You are now back to the main VirtualBox screen again. You can now click the “Start” button at the top, to start your virtual machine. At this point a blank Virtual Machine will start, and it will begin the install process for your downloaded OS. It will ask you a lot of setup questions that I will not walk-through here.

When the Ubuntu setup process is finished it will tell you to eject the CD from the drive before continuing. Because this is a virtual machine attached to an ISO file, this is not possible. Ignore this, and keep going. You will see the virtual machine shut down, and then start up again. Once it has began starting again, click the “X” at the top right of the Virtual Machine’s window to close it. It will ask you how you want to close it. Choose “Power off the machine” and click “OK”. The virtual machine is now shut down.

VirtualBox Settings With ISO Mounted and Highlighted

Now that the virtual machine is off, we need to detach the ISO image we have set previously. Return to the settings screen, and on the left, select “Storage” as you had down previously. Next select the entry below the “IDE Controller” in the center. Finally, on the right, click the disk icon next to “CD/DVD Drive: IDE Secondary Master” and choose “Remove disk from virtual drive”. Finally, click “OK” at the bottom of the settings screen.

Step 4. Create a Restore Point

At this point, your Virtual Machine is a totally fresh install. You may want to take a moment to get the Virtual Machine customized to your liking. After you have done so, you should make a restore point, also called a “snap shot”. VirtualBox can use a snap shot to restore your virtual machine to a known state. For example, if you stumble upon an infected website, your virtual machine can become infected as well. But, you can then revert your virtual machine to its state from before the infection. It is like it never happened.

First, start your virtual machine using the “Start” button at the top of the VirtualBox window. Once your Virtual Machine starts, take a moment to do any one time customizations, such as installing a browser of your choice, upgrading software, etc. Once you are finished, shut the machine back down.

Back on the main VirtualBox window, on the upper right hand side of the screen, you will see an icon that looks like a camera, labeled “Snapshots”. Click this button to show you the snap shots. You will see an entry labled “Current State”. Just above it is another camera icon. Click it to take a snap shot. A dialog will appear that will ask for a name and description of this snap shot. Enter something useful meaningful to you, so you know what you have changed. Click “OK” to take the snap shot.

Once the snap shot is taken, you will see an entry with the name you choose for the snapshot, with a “Current State” entry below it. You now have your restore point.

Step 5. Browse the Web

You can now start your Virtual Machine and use it to browse the web whenever you want. The websites you visit in the virtual machine are isolated and separated from your actual computer. You may have some problems downloading files or printing things from within the virtual machine, so some tasks may have to be done on your real computer.

Step 6. Restore Your Snap Shot

Whenever you are done browsing, you should shutdown the virtual machine, and restore it to the snapshot created in step 4. The easiest way to do this is to simply click the “X” in the top right of the Virtual Machine to close the window. It will ask you how you want to close it. Choose “Power off the machine”, and check the box labeled “Restore current snapshot…”. This will turn off the Virtual Machine, and throw away all the changes you made since the snapshot was created.

Drawbacks of Using This Method

While this is an effective way to browse the web safely, it is not entirely painless. First off, using a virtual machine takes an enormous amount of resources. While the Virtual Machine is on, it will consume a large amount of memory, and maybe a lot of processing power.

Additionally, it can be frustrating to have your changes wiped out all the time. For example, if you add a bookmark to your browser, it will be lost when you revert.

It can also be annoying that it takes so much time to start the virtual machine. If you want to browse the web right now, waiting a minute or two for a virtual machine to start is painful.

Another Option

The method described above is basically the technology behind Light Point Web, except we do our best to shield you from the downsides just mentioned.

For example, we run the virtual machine on our computers, so your computer is not bogged down with it. We also integrate into your existing browser, so you are not prevented from changing settings in your browser or saving bookmarks.

Finally, our Virtual Machines are always running, so you do not need to wait for one to start when you are ready to browse.

If you are concerned about browser security, give this method a try. It is free, but it does take some time and effort. If you would rather someone else handle the work and headaches, give Light Point Web a try. We offer a free trial, so what do you have to lose?

Does Light Point Security Track Your Browsing? Absolutely Not!
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Computer Security, Light Point WebLeave a comment on Does Light Point Security Track Your Browsing? Absolutely Not!
No Red Sign
Image credit: net_efekt

No. Nope. N O.

We absolutely do not track our users’ activities online. In fact, that goes totally against what we stand for – to protect you while on the web.

I get this question a lot, so I’d like to clarify this in a blog post.

Some people I talk to don’t come right out and ask, but they do hint at it. The last such conversation I had was with a few male friends of mine. We were talking about Light Point Web, and as it often happens, it led to the topic of porn. We joked about how they could use Light Point Web to look at porn without getting viruses, but they quickly deflect it. As we continued to talk it became clear to me that they were afraid that Light Point Web would track their online activity, and that I would know they were looking at porn…something they didn’t want to happen.

What Does Light Point Web Track?

I want to be crystal clear, we do not track our users’ browsing activities. We make money by charging a subscription fee to use our service, not by selling your information.

We do, however, log one small thing. When a user attempts to connect to Light Point Web, our server will log the outcome of that attempt. This is the one and only time Light Point Web logs something.

During a connection attempt, the user’s computer will send the user’s username and password to the server.  One of three possible outcomes will be logged:

  1. If the server fails to read this information from the user, a parse error is logged, which will contain the user’s IP address.
  2. If there are no parse errors, the server can attempt to complete the connection. If this fails for any reason, this failure is logged with the user’s username and the reason for the failure. Examples include: incorrect username/password, no active subscription for the user, no available servers.
  3. The last possible outcome is a successful connection. In this case, we just log that a successful connection occurred with the user’s username.

Neither a user’s password, nor any browsing information is ever logged or exposed to human eyes.

Additionally, our user website,, will log unsuccessful log in attempts along with the username used, and IP address of the incoming connection. This is done to stop brute force password guessing attacks.

Why Log Connection Attempts?

The reason for logging this small bit of data is twofold.

  • Provide better customer support. If a customer contacts us with problems related to logging into his/her account, we can work to identify what the problem is, and fix it. And in general, it’s a way for us to detect if we are having critical failures on our end that need to be fixed right away.
  • Prevent unauthorized access to our service. By logging failed login attempts we can detect if someone is trying to brute force their way into fraudulently using our service. It’s also a way to detect Denial of Service attacks.

We Want to Protect You

We are here for you. We’re doing everything we can to protect you while on the web, and that includes your privacy.

You may not be aware of it, but every time you visit a website you are unknowingly trusting them with your privacy. You are trusting them not to track you. Unfortunately, many businesses make money by gathering, and sometimes selling, this data. Researchers at U.C. Berkeley recently discovered that popular websites like Hulu, Spotify, GigaOm, Etsy, and AOL’s are using a tracking service that can’t be evaded – even when users block cookies, turn off storage in Flash, or use browsers’ incognito functions.

Not only does Light Point Web not track you, but it also prevents those other sites from tracking you.

I hope this clears up any privacy concerns about Light Point Web. If you have any unanswered questions, please contact us.



Managing Projects with Subversion and Trac: Free eBook
Posted on by Beau AdkinsCategories Business of Software, Events, Resources, Startups1 Comment on Managing Projects with Subversion and Trac: Free eBook
Beau Adkins Business of Software 2011
Image credit: Betsy Weber

Along with Zuly, I attended Business of Software (BoS2011) this year. This was my first time attending, and I have to say it was an intense 3 days; lots of learning and lots of networking. Although I had a good time and met a lot of really nice people, I’m glad to be back home programming. It was a bit draining for an introvert like myself.

Workshop sessions were held during BoS2011 by both speakers and attendees. Zuly held a workshop session with Ricardo Sanchez and Jason Cohen on Practicing Your Startup Pitch, which was well received.

I held a workshop on Managing Software Projects with Subversion and Trac. I designed the workshop so that it would be easy for novices to follow, but it also contains some advanced topics. I created a simple eBook for the workshop that walks you through step by step on setting up Subversion and Trac. You can download the Managing Software Projects with Subversion and Trac eBook for free.

If you download the eBook, I would love to hear what you think of it. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, or contact me via email.

Business of Software 2011: 48 Tweetable Quotes
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Business of Software, Events, Startups3 Comments on Business of Software 2011: 48 Tweetable Quotes

This year I was fortunate enough to attend Business of Software (BoS2011) thanks to the kind folks at Stack Exchange. From time to time Stack Exchange sponsors community members to attend community related conferences. As an active participant on OnStartups Answers, I was selected to attend Business of Software this year, and I am very grateful for the opportunity.

Business of Software is a great conference, and I recommend anyone that can afford to do so, to attend. The speakers are excellent, and so is the networking. It’s an expensive conference, but well worth the cost. This year’s speaker lineup included Professor Clayton Christensen, Patrick McKenzie, Laura Fitton, Jason Cohen, and Alexis Ohanian.

I plan on summarizing a few of the presentations in future posts, but for now here are 48 tweetable quotes from the BoS2011 speakers.

Clayton Christensen

Clay Christensen Business of Software 2011
Image Credit: Betsy Weber

–    “Worry about the bottom when thinking about who can kill you.”
–    “Pick a fight where the giant is more motivated to flee than fight you.”
–    “The market to make something more affordable and simple is often times a bigger market.”
–    “A business unit is not designed to evolve.”
–    “The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it is selling him.” ~ Peter Drucker
–    “Help people do what they want to do even better.”
–    “Invest when you don’t need the results of the investment. Innovation is a long term investment.”

Jason Cohen

Jason Cohen Business of Software 2011
Image Credit: Betsy Weber

–    “Most people don’t do things that are difficult to do.”
–    “Honesty has to become a critical policy for every company on earth.” ~ Gary Vaynerchuk
–    “Honesty is big right now. See how we can spin that.” ~ Anderson cartoon
–    “My idea was to be as real and honest as possible.” ~ Howard Stern

Dharmesh Shah

Dharmesh Shah Business of Software 2011
Image Credit: © Software Promotions

–    “The purpose of your business is to create delighted customers.”
–    “High churn rates are scarier than clowns.”
–    “Don’t fall in love with your business model too early.”
–    “Pricing is hard. It’s very, very hard.” ~ Simester (MIT Professor)
–    “The price is always greener in your neighbor’s company.”
–    “Pricing is hard. Raising prices is even harder.”
–    “Assume customers are connected and united.”
–    “You want to get really good at choosing your customers.”
–    “You want the right features in both your product and your customers.”
–    “Strategic is code for we don’t have any data.”
–    “Not every insight needs to be counter-intuitive.”
–    “As code hackers we need to appreciate the value of business hackers.”
–    “Smart people will often get their asses kicked by other smart people that worked harder.”
–    “Generalists are great in the beginning. Specialists are great as you grow.”

Jeff Lawson

Jeff Lawson Business of Software 2011
Image Credit: Betsy Weber

–    “People are your customers.”
–    “Consumers are not rational. Businesses are rational.”
–    “Be proud and put a price on your SaaS.”
–    “Too many pricing options will result in lack of sales.”

Laura Fitton

Laura Fitton Business of Software 2011
Image Credit: © Software Promotions

–    Social media in two words: “Be useful.”
–    Social media in four words: “Listen. Learn. Care. Serve.”
–    “Make the customer the hero of your story.”
–    “Either do something worth writing, or write something worth doing.”
–    “Measure what matters.”
–    “You don’t just want a following. You want screaming, raging fans.”
–    “Use social media to solve a problem you are already spending time on.”
–    “You don’t get a prize for getting the most followers. You get a prize for growing your business.”

Josh Linkner

Josh Linkner Business of Software 2011
Image Credit: © Software Promotions

–    “Your job is to disrupt, or be disrupted.”
–    “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”
–    “Being safe is the riskiest move of all.”
–    “From failures we learn. From successes we don’t.”

David Cancel

David Cancel Business of Software 2011
Image Credit: © Dirk Paessler

–    “Talking, reading and dreaming are worthless.”
–    “Data alone is useless.”
–    “Use data to validate your assumptions.”
–    “Optimize your business for learning, not data.”
–    “Always be testing.”
–    “We have a strategic plan. It’s doing things.”
–    “In God we trust. For the rest bring data.”

Also take a look at the top 11 tweetable quotes from last year’s Business of Software conference. And here’s a summary of BoS2010.

Did you attend BoS2011, or watch the live stream? If so, what were your favorite quotes? If not, do you have any other startup related quotes you’d like to share with us?