Here we are getting ready for the holiday season, once again. For many of us it’s a wonderful time of the year, full of memories of previous Christmases, and great anticipation for all the good things to come.
During the last holiday season, like many of you, I took the opportunity to get together with family and friends. As so often happens on these occasions, I got quizzed on everyones, it seems to me, least favorite computer related topic; the state of computer security.
These informal “question and answer” gabfests are important to me, since they are a good way to stay in the loop of real world computing experienced by typical users, and not just the esoteric world of the typical “geeky” user.
At that time, some intriguing statistics had just been released from a survey which had been developed by the National Cyber Security Alliance, and security firm McAfee.
The overriding conclusion from the survey was: typical computer users are in need of a “reality check” when it comes to home computer security. Based on my own experiences, I believe this survey does not overstate the case and in fact, additional studies done in the last few months of this year seem to indicate the “security knowledge gap”, continues to widen.
The McAfee/NCSA study found that while 98 percent of computer users agree that having up-to-date security software is important for system security, a significant number of the survey respondents had computers with security software that was incomplete, or dangerously out of date.
Highlights of the survey:
Ninety-two percent of those surveyed believed their anti-virus software was up to date, but in fact, only 51 % had updated their anti-virus software within the previous week.
Seventy-three percent of those surveyed believed they had a firewall installed and enabled, yet only 64 % actually did.
Approximately 70 % of PC users believed they had anti-spyware software, but only 55 % actually had it installed.
Twenty five percent of survey participants believed they had anti-phishing software, but only 12 % actually had the software.
Where do you fit in all this?
Most of us now store a large volume of confidential personal information on our home computers, including information concerning our personal finances, taxes, health, and perhaps personal documentation of other types.
So, it may well be that we need to take the time to survey our computers to insure that all relevant security applications have been installed, are up to date, and are operating correctly.
One of the better applications that will produce a survey of your computer is Belarc Advisor which can be reviewed and downloaded, if you choose, from this Blog. As well, consider downloading and installing Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) which constantly monitors your system for insecure software installations, and notifies you when an insecure application is installed.
If you need to update, or add, additional security applications to your computer, then checkout The Best Free Spyware, Virus and Browser Protection, on this site for reviews and free security application downloads.
4 responses to “Computer Security – Time to Think About It”
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it’s never enough Bill! i’ve spent the better part of the day running every scan in my arsenal (most if not all i got from you thankyouverymuch) to thwart an attack i got from browsing for “avi compression software”. well, i visited a few sites and started getting an internet explorer popup (i don’t even use IE) and my avira and spyware terminator started bleeping away and scotty from winpatrol started popping up asking if i wanted nefarious programs to start at startup.
Avira caught the bad guys for the most part.
Spyware Terminator did it’s thing by alerting me.
Winpatrol didn’t let any bad guys run any exe at startup.
CCleaner got rid of the junk.
Topped it all off with a scan from Trend Micro which gave me a good bill of health so I’m not infected.
This whole process cost me about 3 hours today.
Looking through the quarantine, 3 trojans tried to break through and were caught before entering.
Thanks again Bill. Without your excellent advice, I’d be knee deep in trojans ’bout right now.
It’s crazy huh? A simple search turns into a humongous pain in the a**.
Because you’re an astute “geeky” user, you were able to stop the meltdown. Unfortunately, as you and I know well, a typical user would have been savaged by this type of attack.
Still, even for an astute user such as you, it cost you 3 hours of patient work to ensure your system had not been compromised. Major Bummer!
I think your experience with this attack is very enlightening, and I trust you will have no objection to me writing an article aimed at typical and less experienced users, illustrating the need for effective security applications, and as important, the procedures to take once an attack is underway.
Thanks Glenn, for this.
heh, every time i start to feel “astute”, i get my butt handed to me!
several years ago i had something similiar happen and i wasn’t very well prepared. long story short, my computer got savaged and had to be delivered to the local computer shop. $150 later my machine was back in order again.
it was also my start into the world of non mainstream software starting with spybot, avg, and firefox.
although i no longer use spybot or avg, with your help i’ve found better solutions to protecting my machine.
i’m just relieved i was able to cut this attack off at the pass.
on another note, i found some new software to replace the weak link i emailed you about – adobe acrobat and reader. i’ll be posting a blog about this whole episode and the new road it has allowed me to travel.
your readers need to know that mainstream software is not necessarily the most secure.