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September 18, 2006

Albert’s Cubicle, continued

The Ugly.  As I've already stated, free quality programs are available to protect a PC as it travels the Internet.  However, for a PC to be both buffed and armed on this journey, consider investing in an ISS suites that includes an anti-SPAM program with full featured FW and AV programs.  There is, of course, a catch, which is that understanding must accompany functionality to achieve benefit.  While an experienced embroidery digitizer might talk circles around a novice about the appropriate application of stitch length and density or the merits of various underlay stitch patterns with specific fabrics, the language of computers describes an equally rich and complex landscape at which the average computer user might blanch.  So, why do it? Why pay for that functionality? 

If you never type into a PC a password, a bank account number, or your social security number, then you may be okay.  If you never enter in your name and address, never use your credit card on line, and never expect to receive any email that you'll ever want to read, then you have nothing to worry about.  If your happy surfing the Internet at a small fraction of the speed  for which your paying each month, because you computer's engaged in activities for other people that you don't know, never met, and don't care about, then security is not an issue for you.  However, as a former colleague liked to tell me frequently, “The Internet is the future, prepare for assimilation, and woe be she who does so blithely.”

If an upgrade in PC security with a commercial ISS suite is in the future, consider engaging a local computer expert versed in computer security and able to put in the time to do it right.  Do the mechanically challenged take on the task of servicing their car’s brakes?  Should people whose daily language excludes terms like Phishing, Spoofing, and IP aliasing be expected to inoculate their PCs against the exotic, digital diseases from the far corners of the world?  Sometimes hiring an expert up front is cheaper than dealing with the consquences later.  Don’t know or can’t find a local expert, then call the Geek Squad. They do make house calls.

Regardless of whether you opt to use free security software or buff up your computer into a hard target, the time to install  Internet Security Software is before the computer ever accesses the Internet.  If the computer's been running unprotected or under protected for awhile, you may have a problem.  Perhaps it no longer runs very fast.  Maybe the web browser goes to wildly unexpected places or personal files begin disappearing without explanation.  Installing an ISS may not be good enough.  If a PC has a particularly virulent infection, even the best AV software may only be able to  identify the problem, requiring a real person to perform the equivalent of brain surgery on the PC to restore its health. 

Each year, I encounter customers, friends, and family asking me to explain why their computers don't work anymore.  Almost without fail, they've fallen victim to a virus attack.  Some have AV, FW or an ISS installed, but only after they're infected.  Others have allow their subscriptions to lapse and have fallen victim to a new, unrecognized virus.  Still, others do everything by the book and still fall victim, because a new and previously unidentified virus infiltrates the PC's defenses before it can be properly inoculated.  On occasion, even I fall victim to the newest, the most exotic, or most persistent of virus attacks.  However, my edge is that I recognize these attacks early and address them immediately by using my expertise and the added functionality of my security software.  - AW

Internet Security Software

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


In a nutshell, because brevity is bliss...

  • Good:  Install and turn on anti-virus and firewall software as soon as  you get your computer.
  • Better: Purchase and install an Internet Security Software suite before you ever  connect your PC to the Internet.
  • Best: Engage (hire) an Internet security professional to install and configure an Internet Security Software suite on your PC.


The Good.  You all know of the importance of anti-virus (AV) and firewall (FW) software in protecting your computer as you venture into the Wild Woolly World of the Internet.  You can get these programs individually for about $30 or even for free.  In fact, some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer these programs as part of their service.  You need only download and install them onto your system to begin protecting yourself from hackers.  What's more, if you own a fairly new computer, Microsoft's Windows XP operating system comes with both a firewall and anti-virus program, which are activated the first time you ever turn on your PC and remain so until you turn them off or replace them with other programs. A few years ago, security software companies began bundling their Internet security programs to include AV, FW, and SPAM filtering as a comprehensive approach to PC protection.  Several companies offer these Internet Security Software (ISS) suites, including Symantec (Norton), McAfee, and Zone Labs (ZoneAlarm).  These bundled solutions typically cost around $50, as of this writing, with annual subscription renewals about 20-40% less than buying it new.  So what makes them better than the free stuff?  What's the catch?


The Bad.  As with anything that's free, I can only quote the adage, “You get what you pay for.”  ISPs offer or direct their customers to free and evaluation versions of FW and AV software.  These free programs work quite well in capturing and containing most attacks with the added benefit of quieting, even if only a little, the amount of virus driven traffic broadcast from their customers's computers.  However, some of these free applications have relatively simple settings – low, medium, high, on and off.  Virus hackers and what they spawn are as aggressive and evolutionary as any avian flu that might spring up in the world.  A computer's free vaccination may protect it from the digital equivalent of polio and small pox, but may be ineffectual against the computer equivalent of weaponized anthrax or Ebola, either because it's improperly configured to stay abreast of the latest changes or the installed programs are no longer current.  Yes, with the aid of the Internet a PC can and does travel to the far corners of the world and sometimes those corners come to the PC, uninvited.  As such, these things do happen and I see them frequently with customers.  Still, any measure of protection taken is better than taking no measures at all. The hook with ISS suites is that they enforce updates by insisting on annual subscription renewal.  When the subscription runs out, the ISS first announces that it’s going to stop working and then it does.  Sometimes, tough love is the best kind.


The Close Out on our floral CD’s continues. They are almost gone. Check the home page for collections still available. Click on the photos on the home page to take you to that collection

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Copyright Laura Waterfield 2006




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