Keep installed anti-virus software on that new PC

Helpline

July 29, 2004|By James Coates | James Coates,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

I have just acquired a laptop and have questions regarding security.

What should I do about possible virus attacks and other hacker problems? I get confusing offers of Norton firewalls and anti-spam protections and pop-up stoppers and so on. My last computer had McAfee anti-virus, and I didn't worry about this issue. Now that I have a new machine I need some advice.

It rankles a bit to urge you to agree to the Norton AntiVirus update subscription after the Norton software loaded on your computer by the manufacturer expires, but that's what I would do.

If you prefer your former anti-virus outfit then by all means go to www.mcafee.com and download McAfee anti-virus and subscribe to their automatic update of new virus countermeasures. Both companies have large programming staffs that continually seek out new viruses and then create antidotes for them.

It's possible to wait until you get hit with a virus and then go to the Web sites of companies like these and download the new fix that surely will be posted once the virus surfaces. This is what I mostly do, but I mess around with computers all the time.

There is much less bother in just paying the outfits' protection demands up front.

The other offerings by these companies -- firewalls, fancy undelete schemes, pop-up and spam stoppers, etc. -- are a cigar of another color altogether. Windows has a built-in firewall that is adequate for almost everybody, and one can get free and pretty powerful pop-up stoppers by adding a toolbar to your Internet browser from Google, America Online or the Microsoft Network.

The addresses are toolbar. google.com, toolbar.aol.com and toolbar.msn.com. They all add a new line to the browser toolbars that includes a search entry box for the provider's service.

Finally, there is a setting in Windows XP that lets one activate the Windows Internet Connection Firewall that flat out shuts down all the ports that hackers can use. Click on the My Network Places icon and then select Internet Connections in the menu that comes up. Look for the Advanced tab there and you will find a check box to activate the Windows firewall. This firewall is a total barrier and won't let users do things like join peer-to-peer file sharing, acquire certain music downloads and other things.

For most of us, it's all we need.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. James Coates may be reached via e-mail at jcoates tribune.com.

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