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Welcome to the Land Of Delight Communications Weblog (a.k.a. "Blog").  Updated 2-4 times a year.

Looking for daily news?  Try the tips & trivial page.

July 12, 2005
Instead of a new Blog entry, I've done a top-to-bottom redesign of the Land Of Delight Communications Web site.  Tell me what you think.

May 19, 2005

Well, I never evaluateded BitDefender 8 Professional Plus, but based on my experience, Norton (a.k.a. Symantec) is still the best all-around solution for the home or small business user.
 
I used to recommend the basic Norton Anti-Virus program, but I no longer think that's enough, especially if you are no longer using a dial-up Internet provider. When you move away from dial-up, your computer is connected to the Internet whenever the power is on, and that fact means you should have the full array of security programs - anti-virus, anti-spam, and firewall. Norton Internet Security provides all that, plus ad blocking and other conveniences, for about $80 retail (though it will often be available with a $10-20 rebate). 
 
However, so-called "Spyware" has gotten tricky enough that no one product is guaranteed to catch all of it. I recommend the free Lavasoft Ad-Aware Personal Edition to supplement the Norton product. Between the two of them, you should be pretty well set.
 
Also, for your reading pleasure, I've gone back and linked the slang or technical terms I use so that you can use Wikipedia, the excellent, free online encyclopedia, to look them up.

July 18, 2004

I've finished evaluating F-Secure. It slowed my PC down a bit, and it's help screens were typically nothing more that a re-statement of the obvious i.e. "type the IP address in the form", very little information about what *is* an IP address, or how to figure out which IP address to put there. Of course I knew what to put there, but to someone who wasn't sure, the help would have been spectacularly un-helpful. Worst of all, I'd kept a sample of the aforementioned virus. When I emailed it to myself, F-secure didn't manage to prevent it from trying to infect my computer! Happily I'd prepared for that, and was able to restore from backups without trouble. To be fair, F-Secure is probably able to prevent traditional viruses from doing any damage; it apparently lacks the ability to deal with particularly aggressive "Adware" or "Spyware".
 
Oddly, Charter Communications, who provide many of us with high-speed Internet around here, recommends F-Secure as it's "preferred vendor"! I hope Charter gets a fat commission or something for this recommendation, because otherwise I can't think of a reason to recommend it.
 
By the way, I've added Trend Micro Internet Security to my evaluation. I'm using the Trend Micro product right now, in fact. So far it's better than F-Secure, in that it neutralized my test virus while allowing me to keep on working. However, the firewall features of the product are hard to set up in anything but the default configuration. Worse still, even on the "high security" setting, they can easily be defeated. Finally, the spam detector is certainly better than nothing, but it detects a lot of innocent newsletters as spam, and yet lets some genuine spam get through undetected. They say you can submit examples of what it gets wrong and they'll work to improve the detector. If they do, it presumably takes a while before they release the improvements to the public. By then spammers will have come up with new forms of spam, in my experience. In August, 2004 the Trend Micro evaluation period ended. There is in fact no to work around the firewall's limitations, without making the firewall both hard to use and still ultimately vulnerable. ZoneAlert or even Symantec's firewall do a far better job. 
 
For October 2004, I'm evaluating BitDefender 8 Professional Plus. I'll be updating this page in November, after the Presidential Elections are behind us.
 
It will be interesting to see if products like Symantec's Norton Internet Security do a better job with spam detection. They brag about their adaptive spam detector that uses statistical pattern matching to "learn" your personal preferences and judgement as to what is spam and what is email you wanted to get.
June 20, 2004
Recently, I was sent a copy of the so-called "Citibank phishing email". This is spam email that appears to come from Citibank that asks you to take some action (e.g. verify your account information) before a certain deadline. Curious, but highly suspicious, I opened the email in question. It immediately tried to infect me with its Trojan-like virus program. Sure enough, my anti-virus software (a freeware program, I no longer remember where I got it) caught the virus...but there's more. Normally, anti-virus software would politely inform me of the problem and give me choices -- remove, disinfect, ignore, for example -- but this time it didn't! The fake "Citibank" program was able to freeze my computer. In other words, my computer stopped responding to a the keyboard, and the display became somewhat garbled and finally froze completely.
 
Happily, a reboot solved my problems, and I spent some time assuring myself that I wasn't infected by anything (I wasn't). What happened? My anti-virus program and the virus had fought to a standstill. This shouldn't ever happen -- the anti-virus program should vanquish all foes!. I am currently evaluating a number of different anti-virus and security programs to see if they can beat this virus and walk away from the battle. Here is the list, I'll update it as each one passes or fails.

 

  • Zone Labs - My favorite so far! But, it's orientent towards technically inclined, do-it-yourself types.
  • Symantec -  This is the dominant vendor for anti-virus and security for the home and small business user.  It catches most viruses, and best of all, is generally easy to use for a non-technical home or small business user. I reccomend it highly.
  • F-Secure -- Charter Communications makes a big deal of offering you a discount if you purchase F-Secure through them. In fact, if you get Charter's highest-speed Internet service (3 Megabits per second), they give you the F-Secure software for free (as of Spring, 2005). Sadly, I can't recommend F-Secure.
  • Trend Micro Internet Security a.k.a "PC-illin", a play on words. It's supposed to make you think of Penicillin for your PC. I can't recommend this one either. Perhaps they forgot that antibiotics are only good against bacterial infections.
  • McAfee -- this one comes pre-installed with many new Dell computers. I've had mixed results with McAfee.

 

Also, I want to mention Gibson Research Corporation (GRC). This is the best site I've found for plain language, but highly technical discussions of Windows computer security -- what it is, and why it matters. They have product reviews and tips on why many popular anti-virus/firewall programs, even Symantec, provide the illusion of security, rather than actual security.  GRC has a great anecdote to help you understand the hacker mentality (warning: it's technical, but pretty well-written).  They have a free service called "Shields UP!" that will test how good your Internet security is.  They also make a product called SpinRite that will help product against disk failures and rescue a dead or dying disk, if at all possible.
 
You can also read more about the "Citibank phishing email".

Land of Delight Communications is a one-man Internet consulting company based in Suttons Bay, Michigan, USA. I build web pages, design Internet solutions for small businesses, conduct one-on-one training, and Yes! I make house calls to homes and businesses anywhere in Leelanau County. I can solve your hardware, software and Internet problems. 
 
© John Hadjisky, 2005-present