Web Chat: Viruses are the next challenge for home computing

As the framework of American and world computing continue to grow, computer hackers have seemingly stayed one step ahead, pushing the boundaries of intrusion into what was once a relatively secure medium.

The millions of dollars lost during the "Love Bug" scare or the recent hosting of a "Web Chat" for hackers on the Pentagon Web site reminds us that software programming can be decoded and manipulated as easily as it can be written. Though commercial sites are most often targeted by Web vandals, personal computers are more susceptible because of a general lack of preventative strategies.

Seasoned veterans - those who have been networking for years - know that files have to be backed up and anti-virus software has to be constantly updated. E-mail with suspicious attachments should be deleted and computers should be scanned for problems.

As complicated as these safeguards sound, they can be easily implemented. The secret is finding the right tools and developing a strategy for their use. Many software companies give users this extra protection.

www.symantec.com/nav/: Norton Antivirus is one of the most common in personal computing. Commercial users have long since seen the value in keeping abreast of the latest virus detection downloads. Click on "home users" to find out product information.

For about $70, Norton will send its software bundle to your home. It can be easily installed with incredible automatic features. By following installation instructions, users can have updates (which identify new viruses) automatically download over the Internet. Without knowing that your computer is conferring with the site, the software updates are incorporated into the software bundle that is doing its work on your desktop.

Easy setup configurations allow the user to run the software during startups, at time intervals or at the click of a mouse. Suspicious e-mail, floppies, compact disks and other files will be determined clean, or suspicious. Suspicious material can automatically be deleted.

Norton Antivirus is available for most computer platforms.

www.mcafee.com: Like Symantec, McAfee manufactures virus protection software that guards against rogue files.

Upgrades are easy to find on the McAfee Web site and the company has developed programs that search for hidden viruses written to discreetly sit on the user's hard drive until activated or passed to another machine.

The software can also be customized for users who don't need all of the available features. Ethernet users can use a product specific to inter-office networks, Internet users can use the product to surf the Web. There is even a customized software bundle for students.

McAfee supports most operating systems, including Linux.

www.hasp.com: The Aladdin company is a great source for the latest information for viruses that are infecting the software that we use everyday. Click on the "Security for Home Users" button in the upper right-hand corner.

Information about the 40,000-plus viruses that have been detected and the level to which companies and home users suffer is transmitted in an easy-to-use format.

Of course the site also pushes Aladdin's software, a formidable player in the field of encryption and other security measures. For users that have their personal computers set up for public visitation, Aladdin promises high-security.

In the world of viruses, also look for problems to become more visible in personal devices such as cellular phones and personal organizers such as the 3Com Palm Pilot.

Viruses have already started to plague these types of products. Look for the toaster virus, or even the washing machine virus as computer connectivity becomes more prolific.

Ideas? Feedback? Please contact me at jimscripps@tahoe.com

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