Computer Security Software Considerations

Article (PSA-0023)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: Computer Security Software Considerations
Original release date: June 10, 2023

Is more security really necessary? When is enough enough? Antivirus, spyware protection, malware protection, browser protection and firewalls, where does it all end? As we dive into this issue remember each case is different and depends on where, what and how the computer is used. So, for our discussion we will break computer security up into two categories: “online computers” and “always offline computers”.

Online Computers:
(1) If your computer is connected to a network or the internet, you should have a functioning, properly licensed and updated antivirus program. The antivirus software you choose should offer “Real Time” scanning, “Scheduled” scanning and “Manual: scanning. “Real Time” scanning allows the antivirus program to continually scan files as they move to and from your computer, and will notify you if any of the file(s) are suspicious. Think of this as “preventive protection”. “Scheduled” scanning allows you to schedule a recurring scan of all existing files (or selected files) on your computer hard disk in a systematic effort to locate suspicious files. “Manual” scanning allows you to scan a particular file or files anytime you feel it is necessary.

In the past Antivirus software was purchased and installed on your computer. This usually required an annual subscription and could become quite pricey. For those of us using a modern Windows operating system, antivirus protection is built into the operating system at no additional cost. You can still purchase antivirus protection from a third party vendor such as Symantec, McAfee and AVG, but be aware these programs have become quite expensive and massive. Worse yet, they can often render your computer unuseable.

(2) If your computer is connected to the internet, you should have a functioning, properly licensed and updated firewall. A firewall is software or hardware that checks information coming from the Internet or a network, and then either blocks it or allows it to pass through to your computer using a list of rules. Some of these rules are generated automatically and others are rules we make. A firewall can help prevent hackers or malicious software (such as worms) from gaining access to your computer through your local network or the internet.

A “Software” firewall is installed directly on your computer. Microsoft operating systems have shipped with a software firewall built-in since the release of Windows XP service pack 2. A “Hardware” firewall, in most homes and small businesses, will be your router. With a hardware firewall there’s nothing to install on your computer. There are “paid for” firewall products available, but I would recommend taking a close look at the built in firewall of the operating system you are currently using (if it offers one) before running out and purchasing the newest firewall product. For the majority of computer users the built in firewall is more than adequate.

Non-Internet Connected Security Considerations:
If your computer will NEVER be connected to a network or the internet, EVER, then you are at liberty to relax your protection considerably, allowing more of your systems resources to be used on applications. However, there are still some very important considerations. If you will be using storage media containing files from other computers which are connected to the internet, then there is still the possibility of infection. If your computer will never be connected to the Internet, and you will never load files from another machine onto your computer, then you can bypass antivirus security software all together. If your computer will be using files from another computer then you should have an antivirus program installed.

Is More Protection Really Necessary?
In short, for a computer connected to the Internet, a single antivirus program, a single configured firewall and a healthy dose of common sense is adequate. Installing more than one antivirus program can generate a few notable issues. Let’s take a moment to look at the most critical of these issues.

(1) RAM Depletion. Each program running on your computer is using some of your system memory (RAM). The more programs running, the more RAM is used. When there is no more RAM available, your computer will begin to use your hard disk as a “type” of RAM. Hard disk access is not as fast as RAM access, and when your system has to start using the hard disk as RAM it degrades the performance of your entire system – TREMENDOUSLY!

(2) Software Conflicts. Having more than one antivirus program running on your system may result in a software conflict. If both programs are scanning your computer for “viral activity” there is a high probability they will see each other as “viral activity”, causing a software conflict. This particular problem can be extremely frustrating and can lead to the next very challenging issue.

(3) System Corruption. Files necessary to the other antivirus program can often be identified as “malicious”, and will be quarantined (made inaccessible) or removed, leaving the antivirus program corrupted. Trying to uninstall or repair a program in this state can be problematic, to say the least.

If you are unsure of your “Security” status – give PSA Computer Services a call at (707) 506-6802.