Detect, Protect, Dis-infect

Written By: Robert Rogers

Consumers Online 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 nations consumer protection agency, says computer users from grade school kids to grandparents need to know exactly why they need online security products and what theyre 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 dont have an IDS. Sometimes a firewall is bundled with an IDS. If not, and if you want an IDS, be sure its 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 cant catch them. Similarly, an IDS wont 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 www.spycollege.com

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