Detect, Protect, Dis-infect Viruses
SCAMS SPECIAL INVESTIGATION SERIES
By Robert Rogers
Wednesday, January 05, 2005; 6:40pm EST
Face Wide Choices in Security Products
With new threats to computer
security and data integrity a regular feature of the evening news, a
panoply of products that promise to detect, protect, and dis-infect
are being marketed to consumers. Intrusion detection systems,
firewalls and anti-virus software are critical to online security,
but the Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection
agency, says computer users ' from grade school kids to grandparents
' need to know exactly why they need online security products and
what they're buying.
Why the Need
Computers 'talk' to each other
over the Internet by sending data through their communications
ports. If a port is open, it 'listens' for communications from the
Internet. A computer has thousands of ports: which ones are open
depends on the software the computer is running. Hackers can
'eavesdrop' or scan the ports to determine which are open and
vulnerable to unauthorized access.
An intrusion detection
system (IDS) monitors incoming Internet traffic, much like a
security camera 'watches' your front door to see who might be trying
to come in. When the IDS detects a suspicious pattern, it sends an
alert (and creates a record) that an intruder may be trying to break
in to your computer. Some IDS alerts ' but not all ' show a pop-up
message on your screen. An IDS alone cannot prevent an unauthorized
entry into your computer; only a firewall can do that.
Firewalls block hackers' access to your computer by creating a
barrier ' like a wall ' between your ports and the Internet that
allows you to control the data that comes and goes through your
ports. Your firewall protects your ports even if you don't have an
IDS. Sometimes a firewall is bundled with an IDS. If not, and if you
want an IDS, be sure it's compatible with your firewall.
Anti-virus software detects and deletes viruses that are in your
computer. Viruses often attach themselves to your computer through
email attachments and floppy disks. That means a firewall can't
catch them. Similarly, an IDS won't alert you when a virus is
attacking your computer. Look for anti-virus software that
recognizes current viruses, as well as older ones; that can
effectively reverse the damage; and that updates automatically.
About the Author
Robert Rogers is a writer in the Washington DC area and specializes in
computer security. For More Information - Visit http://spycollege.com.