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Bill Bennett


Tag: security

Norton Internet Security Windows 7 update

Norton Internet Security has been my main PC protection in recent years. I have a few criticisms, but it has done a good job guarding my desktop, laptop and family laptops. The computers run Windows XP and Vista.

One problem is PC performance drops a few percent while the program is running – which is all the time. A small performance hit doesn’t matter when surfing the web or using Microsoft Word. It is noticeable when there’s heavy-duty video, audio or Photoshop processing.

Earlier this year I switched from Microsoft Windows Vista to Windows 7 RC. The new operating system performs better than Vista. It appears stable enough to for everyday use. It is everything Windows Vista was not, but it doesn’t work with some popular anti-virus packages.

Beta problems with Norton

Symantec Norton Internet Security didn’t work with Windows 7. So I tried a beta version of an updated version for the new operating system.

I promptly ran into problems with the beta version of Symantec Norton Internet Security 2010. There are great features, but the performance overhead is huge.

It’s flaky around the edges. Of course, the software is beta and Symantec made no promises about performance. But the system crashed two or three times a day.

There were also installation problems. Sadly this isn’t a one-off pain, the software repeatedly timed out. Each time this happens you need to download and install a new version. There were times – many times when the older version timed out before a new build was ready and the PC was left vulnerable for days at a time.

The beta appears to be the only version of Norton Internet Security that runs properly on Windows 7, so I needed to find an alternative security package. For details see: Alternatives to Norton Internet Security

Twitter spam

It was time to act when an email appeared titled “making money w/mlm is now following you on Twitter!”

That’s one follower I certainly won’t follow back. This spammer did little to hide his or her intent, other Twitter spam merchants are more stealthy.

I weed them out this way:

How to spot a Twitter spam account

  • Giveaway names
    ‘Making money w/mlm’ is a dead giveaway. Names are slightly more obtuse or lyrical and yes, spammers hide behind real-sounding names
  • Glamorous photographs
    Let’s face it, attractive young blond women who look vaguely like supermodels or Playboy pin-ups are unlikely followers. Of course there are good-looking people among my genuine followers, but spammers use over-glamorous photographs as a lure.
  • Number following
    Nobody, but nobody, has 3000 friends. So people who are following large numbers of Twitter accounts are automatically suspect. The exception to this rule are people in roles such as tech support.
  • Following follower ratio
    Someone who follows many people but only has a few followers in return is automatically suspect. You can find tools to help automate the process of purging these from your follower list.
  • Location
    I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but I  don’t know anyone in India or the Philippines. Of course that doesn’t make everyone from those places a spammer.
  • Bio
    If the bio includes a phrase like “Entrepreneurial marketing leader – passionate about brands marketing technology” the person behind it is almost certainly a spammer. Incidentally this bio is a real one from someone who followed me yesterday.
  • Links
    Web links with terms like erasedebt.com richness.com and so on are dead giveaways.

If a new follower arrives and I can tick the boxes on more than two of these bullet points, I’m going to block them.

Can you think of any warning signs I may have missed?

Update: if you haven’t seen Twitter spam, this explains it: Something’s Going Down @Twitter

Sacked workers steal data

CEO magazine reports a survey by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Symantec says 59 percent of sacked workers admitted stealing company data and 67 percent used their ex-company’s confidential information to help secure a new job.

The story has a lot of information about the nature of the data theft — CDs, memory sticks and sending out emails. It also talks about their job descriptions and industry sectors. At a guess I’d say all the respondents were in the USA, although this isn’t made clear any where. I’d like to know the nature of the stolen information. Are we talking customer databases, financial details etc or is are people pinching minor things?

It reminds me of something I learnt as a young journalist in my first job. If you purchased your own address book and used that to store your contact details, then it wouldn’t be regarded as theft when you left your job. On the other hand, if you put your contacts in a company-owned book or card index it would have to stay behind. A journalists’ contact book is one of his or her most valuable possessions.

CIO > More than half of fired workers steal data on way out.

Computer security: What to buy or download for free

Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2009

Although at NZ$55* for a downloaded version it is one of the most expensive standalone antivirus programs on sale in New Zealand, Kaspersky is the most effective. The company is also quickest off the mark when it comes to delivering updates to protect customers against the latest emerging threats. The program is one of the easiest to use with a polished user interface and clearly labelled options – though you’ll have to set up its scheduled scan yourself. I’ve not tested Kaspersky’s Internet Security 2009.

  • When I visited the online store points New Zealand customers to an Australian site where the download price is A$55.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009

The best-known name in PC security combines a first-rate antivirus program that also pounces on spyware with a solid firewall in its security suite.

All the security functions are accessible from a control centre which clearly shows when something’s wrong – clicking this will normally fix things in a jiffy. If you run a home network, you can inspect the security settings of all computers from a single screen.

Norton Internet Security 2009 will slow your machine a tad, but in practice I find it far less disruptive than McAfee’s products and a noticeable improvement on earlier versions of the Norton software. Norton also stays out-of-the-way when you are working. At A$99 or NZ$99 to protect three home computers the price is good too.

Trend Micro HouseCall

If you’ve been slack with your computer security and suddenly feel under threat Trend Micro’s Housecall (http://housecall.trendmicro.com) is a free web-based antivirus and spyware service that can check your system for problems and then fix them. It works with both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, you download some code and then set it to work in your browser while you get on with other tasks. It works just like any other anti-spyware product and is at least as good at finding nasty software. While using HouseCall isn’t as safe as having security software running on your machine, it is a great quick fix.

Kaspersky offers an alternative online scanner at http://www.kaspersky.com/virusscanner. It works fine, but is  tricky if you’re running Windows Vista as you have to open your browser in administrator mode. That’s a non-trivial road block.

McAfee Total Protection 2009

In the past McAfee’s security tools haven’t been the best. I’ve found them to deliver less than first-rate protection while slowing down my computer and getting in the way of everyday work. What’s more, the company seems heavy-handed about extracting money from customers with pop-ups and constant email reminders.

And to cap it all, McAfee’s products are expensive. Total Protection 2009 costs A$130 in Australia and NZ$130 for customers buying direct from the web site. Computer stores may sell it for less but the rival programs are cheaper and have a better track record so why risk it? While I haven’t had the chance to test McAfee Total Protection 2009 personally, the marketing blurb says its simpler to user and uses fewer resources. It’s not the product I’d choose, but there are people who swear by McAfee.


Avast Antivirus

Avast is free for home users. You can’t argue with the price. Avast expects business users to pay, but prices are low in comparison to other antivirus options. It’s a light program and uses hardly any computer resources which means it won’t slow you down. It’s also simple enough for non-technical people to use without being bamboozled. You’ll get regular automatic updates as required too.


AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.0

As the name suggests, the price tag on AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.0 is a big fat zero. Unlike Avast, AVG makes the free version harder to find on its website and goes to great lengths to persuade you the paid for products make more sense, but in reality, it’s a good anti-virus tool at a keen price.


Comodo Firewall

Don’t be lured into a false sense of security by the firewalls built into Microsoft Windows Vista or Windows XP. That’s Comodo’s sales message. The company says you need better protection. The paid-for internet security suites all include robust firewalls, Comodo is widely regarded as the best free option. You might find it annoying at first when it keeps asking you about programs, but after a while it’ll settle down and keep the worst malware at bay.


How to buy small business PC security

Go for the suite spot. If you run a small business, you need antivirus, firewall and anti-spyware software to keep safe from most PC security threats. While some expert users manage to run products from different vendors, the applications may not play nicely together. They may even cause your system to crash.

Applications dovetail smoothly in security suites. They give a single interface to control everything. What’s more, suites are cheaper than the sum of their components. You may need to find separate spam filtering, anti-phishing and adware software.

Check the PC security extras

Many security suites go beyond the basics offering features like parental controls, spam filtering and tools to stop private information like passwords, account details or telephone numbers from being transmitted.

Don’t double up

It’s tempting to think that running two firewalls or antivirus programs will make your system safer – it won’t. Overlapping security tools create havoc, slowing your computer and making it hard to troubleshoot problems. Stick with one of everything, it’ll be safer not to mention cheaper.

Watch the calendar

Commercial security software products often come as one or more applications coupled with links to automatic updates. Typically when you buy the product one year’s worth of updates come as part of the deal. When the year is up you pay a fee to get a further updates.

That’s convenient, but typically the cost of an extra year’s subscription is the same as new applications. As security vendors constantly update technology and add more features – buying a fresh product is the better option. What’s more, avoiding the subscription gives you an opportunity to avoid lock-in and move to a rival company’s offering.

Also, watch out for arrangements where a security software company takes your credit card details and automatically invoices for updates. They try to tell you this is a service to make life easier for you. They do it because they make a lot more money that way.