Sunday, May 25, 2008

Firewalls and Free Security Software

“Unprotected PCs Fall To Hacker Bots In Just Four Minutes” was the title of a blog entry by Gregg Keizer on the techweb network on Nov. 30,2004. You can still find it here. The same article appeared one day later on the Australian web site PC Authority and after that on many other blogs and web sites.

In my opinion a few technical facts are noteworthy:

1. All computers without any firewall where nothing but sitting ducks.

2. Even the 'minimal' firewall in Windows XP Service Pack 2 does a good job at a firewalls primary job, that is to protect a computer from incoming attacks.

3. When the front line defenses against malicious software getting into your computer are working as intended you'll likely never need what third-party firewall companies tout as their products added advantage, so called “outgoing protection”.

By now (2008) the frequency of these attacks has certainly increased. But in my experience it takes only a few things to be safe without having to hassle with third party firewall programs:

1. Keep MS Windows up-to-date. The Windows function Automatic Updates just does NOT do it dependably, it is always advisable to regularly check manually via Microsoft Update.

2. Keep your anti virus program and it's definition files up-to-date.

3. Have good adware and spyware removal programs on your computer, update and run them regularly.

The best protective measures will not help when the human using the computer becomes the weakest link.

Be VERY prudent when you surf the Internet. McAfee Siteadvisor is an excellent tool to warn you even before you end up on a malicious web site or with an infected screen saver download.

Be even more prudent and careful before you open any email attachment, unexpected email greeting cards or the like.

And be most prudent when whoever on the Internet promises free software, especially so called free security software. We all like something for free, I know.

I look at it this way: All the free software offers on the Internet are like a big gravel pit full of rocks. Each rock represents one of these free programs. If you look closely at these rocks you will realize they are bone hard dried chunks of manure. In other words, the whole gravel pit is full of s**t. Hidden in his pile of s**t are are a few gems, true nuggets, really valuable pearls. But you have to know where to find these really useful free programs.

My customers have some of these pearls on their computers.

Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.

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