We are becoming an evermore security conscious society. We are constantly monitored by CCTV. Chip-and-pin has replaced the humble signature in the UK. Everything else in our lives is alarmed, locked or password protected.
Even so we blithely venture onto the Internet, download software, images, and documents without giving the possible consequences a second thought. After all, if you have a firewall and anti-virus software, what's to worry?
Well, firewalls are great for blocking the unwanted attention of hackers, and you should have one, but they do nothing to prevent you innocently downloading spyware and adware on the back of programs, image files, and music tracks, for example.
Worse still, you might download a havoc-wreaking virus that simply kills your system. This is bad enough for any home PC user but potentially devastating for a small business.
As a small office/home office (SOHO) user you might not have the money for an all-singing, all-dancing firewall. That's okay. Those nice people at Zone Labs offer their ZoneAlarm basic firewall completely free of charge. ZoneAlarm stops intruders from accessing your PC; makes your PC invisible to hackers; and blocks spyware and Trojans from communicating with the Internet. At the time of writing you'll find the freeware version of ZoneAlarm by visiting www.zonelabs.com. Look for the security feature comparison chart.
Prevention is better than cure
Before you download anything from the Internet ask yourself some simple questions. Can you trust this Web site? Do you really need the freeware or shareware on offer? How does this company benefit when they offer you something for nothing? What's the catch?
The likelihood is that your so-called freeware is in fact bundled with spyware or adware, which generates the revenue to cover this company's costs, and then some. File sharing utilities, popup blockers, and browser toolbars are just some of the common programs that bundle spyware and adware.hase other items from their security software range.
In case you were wondering, the free firewall offered by Zone Labs is genuinely free. They have simply adopted a marketing model that allows anyone to use the basic, entry level product knowing that a percentage of users will upgrade or purchase other items from their security software range.
Unscrupulous Web sites might also try and trick you into installing spyware or adware in the guise of a browser extension that you will supposedly need to view a particular Web page.
Beware. Don't download anything you're not sure is a legitimate browser extension, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, for example. Just leave the site.
However, the most divisive of the Internet's shadowy Web sites will exploit flaws in your browser to pour poison directly into your computer. You can partially protect yourself by keeping your browser updated with the latest security patches. You should also endeavour to avoid these dodgy Web sites like the plague.
The next question is how do you diagnose the symptoms of pernicious spyware infection? Common tell-tale signs are things like your computer running much slower than normal; annoying pop-up ads appear with increasing regularity; and your computer settings have mysteriously changed without your intervention.
Even more worrying, many of these programs are designed to collect private, personal, and business information without your consent. User names and passwords are always of particular interest. They also frequently disable or interfere with genuine programs and cause your systems to crash. Once again, this is bad enough for personal computer users but can be extremely damaging for a business. Crashes and systems failures will cost a business time, customers, and money.
If your computer presents any of the symptoms of spyware infection you'll be glad to know there are a number of cures. Microsoft Windows Defender (Beta 2) is a free anti-spyware program. It's quick and easy to install, and allows you to scan your system manually and automatically for contagion. The software then isolates suspect programs allowing you to quarantine or remove them.
Similarly, Lavasoft Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy offer genuinely free downloads of their popular and effective anti-spyware and anti-adware products plus regular updates.
One final word of warning, only install anti-spyware from a recommended, legitimate provider. Some spyware is packaged and peddled as the cure rather than the cause, so be on your guard. (See below for useful Web sites.)
Every time you venture onto the Internet you leave tracks, like footprints in the snow. As a SOHO enterprise these tracks might be items of commercially sensitive information; potentially damaging to your business in the wrong hands. Deleting items or uninstalling applications seldom removes them permanently from your PC. Most tracks cannot be erased with the tools provided by Windows. What's more, it's easy for someone else to recover this information from your hard drive.
Eusing Software provides a free software application that sponges away the tracks you create every time you use your PC. Free Internet Window Washer 1.2 erases Window's temp folders, run history, search history, open/save history, recent documents, your browser's cache, cookies, history, visited URLs, typed URLs, auto complete memory, index.dat files, and much more besides. You can also easily erase the tracks of up to 100 popular applications.
An added benefit is that Free Internet Window Washer 1.2 also releases valuable disk space. Visit www.eusing.com for your free copy. All Eusing Software asks in return is for voluntary contributions towards product development and upgrades.
Today anyone using a home PC or starting a small business can protect their fledgling enterprise from unwanted attention and destructive viruses completely free of charge. For more information and your free safety and security downloads, visit:
-- ZoneAlarm: www.zonelabs.com
-- Microsoft Windows Defender (Beta 2): www.microsoft.com
-- Lavasoft Ad-Aware: www.lavasoft.com
-- Spybot Search & Destroy: www.safer-networking.org
-- Free Internet Window Washer 1.2: www.eusing.com
Charlie Trumpess is a marketing communications copywriter with over a decade's corporate experience. Today he provides copywriting services to small and medium size businesses. For more details, visit http://small-business-usa.com/© 2006 Charlie Trumpess
The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.