|Submitted by Elteto on Sun, 07/16/2006 - 19:02|
The battle is on to defend your computer
BusinessWeek has an excellent article that is definitely a wake-up call for many computer users who have not been aware of the extent of the adware/spyware problem. Unfortunately, preventive security measures are a quintessential fact of Internet life. If your PC is connected in any manner to the web, it is at risk.
There are many precautions that can minimize your risk of exposure. Switching to a Mac or to Linux is not necessarily the best or the only solution. Your computer can still be pinged, your IP address can still be detected, your traffic can still be "sniffed", and your location can still be traced.
Having a firewall software such as ZoneAlarm installed is a good start, but only in addition to a capable and regularly updated virus scanner. McAfee, Symantec, F-Secure, Trend Micro; take your pick. Many of these companies' software packages offer adware/spyware monitoring/prevention/removal tools. You can also purchase or download dedicated anti-spyware tools such as SpySweeper or AdAware. Keeping your Windows Firewall and your Windows Security Center on in addition to these programs is a good idea if your computer has resources to support it. However, if you have an always-on broadband connection, while your computer is booting up, it is vulnerable until Windows starts and initializes all the security programs.
A basic hardware firewall, one that is included in most widely available home routers, can increase your security very effectively. Or, you can update to dedicated firewalls, which cost more, but are even more effective and offer more customizing. Entry level models are worth the investment if you run a home network or a small/home-based business.
Let us not forget about keeping the operating system always updated and patched, regardless of the OS. Alternate browsers, such as FireFox or Opera, are very stable, capable, and security-minded, in addition to their expandability and customizability. If you run a wireless network, use at least WPA encryption, as WEP is no longer a secure standard. Whenever you can, use wires for networking, though.
The human component , however, is the most obvious weakness in any security system. Even with all the top-notch security tools, the operator himself or herself has to be suspicious, distrusting, and careful. Finally, for the somewhat (but healthily) paranoid users, you can use anonymizer services that encrypt and redirect your web traffic through servers, or split it up and route it through multiple, unlogged servers. With a hardware firewall, and automated, unattended updates and nightly scans in firewall and anti-virus software, I have operated an incident-free wireless/wired home and mobile network for years. With a solid security foundation to start with, maintenance and worries become minimal, and you can concentrate on using and enjoying your network, instead of worrying about it.