WHEN IT COMES to computer security, it seems you can never have a moment’s complacency. E-mail and Web-based viruses, spam, spyware, and other threats to the security and safety of your computer files abound, and no software solution can ever do away with all risk.
All kinds of people, ranging from frisky to downright malicious, are constantly inventing new ways to use e-mail and the Internet to circumvent software programs and security systems already in place. The attacks, which can come from any front anytime, can waste employee hours, result in downtime of a particular workstation or an entire company network and cause myriad difficulties from breached security. And, if you lose access to project information or to job estimates and bids, the effects can be devastating.
Nevertheless, far too many offices that use high-speed broadband connections (and are therefore online all day) operate either without any protection or with spotty protection, at best. But the concept of keeping cyber threats at bay has spawned an entire genre of software that aims to thwart new attacks or at least neutralize their effects. Your office should take advantage.
Just like flu shots that each year are engineered to combat the latest strain of viruses at the time of development, security software offers fixes designed to counter already recognized dangers to your system.
Because those nasty hackers out there never seem to rest on their laurels, unless the programs you rely on have automatic updating, you need to constantly monitor the software developer’s site and download every patch (a fix designed to handle a new problem) as soon as it is posted. Some security programs offer an automatic update feature that detects Internet connection and then checks for and retrieves any new updates that could beef up the defenses.
While it is possible to buy individual programs that address a specific type of threat — viruses or spam, for example — the easiest way to get blanket protection is to buy a suite that integrates a number of dedicated solutions without overlapping functionality. Such a virus protection suite requires only a single install and only a single periodic update. Moreover, buying this protection all together on one disk is less expensive than purchasing them separately.
A few integrated suites on the market offer protection against a broad spectrum of threats. Symantec Corp.’s Norton Internet Security 2004 Professional for Windows, for example, includes the latest versions of Norton AntiVirus, Personal Firewall, Intrusion Detection, Privacy Control, AntiSpam and Parental Control software in a single integrated suite.
Working in the background, the software sends everyone on your e-mail list a copy without any user interaction. The solution also removes Trojan horses (e-mailed to you by an individual), which can release private information sitting on your computer to the sender or can act as a dialer to use your modem to call a 900 phone number, which accrues charges you would have to pay.
Supplying protection against hackers, Norton Personal Firewall provides a barrier between Internet threats launched by hackers and your computer. It automatically controls inbound and outbound Internet connections, examines all content of Internet traffic for attacks and, when called for, triggers appropriate action. It also prevents confidential information from being sent to unsecured Web sites through e-mail, MS Office attachments or instant messaging services. The solution also blocks banner ads, pop-ups and other Web distractions.
Other features include a network wizard that helps the user configure the software for local area network/ work groups and a network detector that provides protection for laptop users tapping onto wireless or other networks by identifying the network and adjusting the security settings.
AntiSpam flags spam in standard e-mail connections. The program, which integrates with Outlook, Outlook Express and Eudora, creates a folder into which all identified spam is dropped. Users can develop a list of contacts of approved senders and configure the product to accept e-mail only from them and can create a list of addresses from which no spam is accepted.
The suite, which is optimized for small office/home office PC users, also includes a data recovery component that recovers lost and damaged files and a data-cleaning component that deletes unwanted files left over from Internet sessions.
A LiveUpdate feature automatically updates virus definitions, firewall rules, anti-spam software and intrusion detection signatures to ensure users have up-to-date protection.
The solution detects spyware programs, which attempt to gain access to private data by detecting passwords or other confidential information and sending them to another computer, and adware programs. These secretly collect personal information through the Internet and send it to another computer for advertising purposes.
William and Patti Feldman provide Web content for companies and write for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].