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Security, Is More Better?

Article (PSA-0002)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long, Member/Manager
Company: Problem Solving Applications, LLC
Titled: Security, Is More Better?
Original release date: May 25, 2012

Is more protection really necessary? When is enough enough? Anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware and firewalls, where does it all end?

First off, each case is different and depends on how the computer is used, and what the computer is used for. As a general rule of thumb, computer security can be broken up into two basic categories: “Online” and “Offline”.

Internet Connected Security Considerations:

1.) If your computer is connected to the internet, you should have a functioning, properly licensed and updated anti-virus program. At a minimum the anti-virus software you choose should offer “real time” scanning, as well as “scheduled” scanning functionality.

“Real Time” scanning allows the anti-virus program to continually scan files as they are downloaded to your computer, and will notify you if the file(s) you receive contain anything suspicious. This is “preventive protection”.

“Scheduled” scanning allows the anti-virus software to scan all the existing files (or selected files) on your computer hard disk in a systematic effort to locate existing files which may “look like” malware. This is “active protection”.

 
For those of you using a Windows operating system, Microsoft offers free antivirus protection.

  • For Windows 7 you can download and install Microsoft Security Essentials. Not only is this free for home users, but it can also be used, free of charge, for small businesses with up to 10 computers.
  • For Windows 8, RT, 8.1, RT 8.1 and Windows 10 the anti-malware software is built right in. It’s called Windows Defender.

 

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.

A firewall can help prevent hackers or malicious software (such as worms) from gaining access to your computer through a network or the Internet. A firewall can also help stop your computer from sending malicious software to other computers.

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. Routers provide protection to help prevent your computer from being “seen” from the Internet. 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 not be connected to 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 anti-virus security software all together. If your computer will be using files from another computer then you should have an anti-virus program installed.

Is More Protection Really Necessary?

In short, for a computer connected to the Internet, a single anti-virus program, a single configured firewall and a healthy dose of common sense is adequate. Installing more than one anti-virus 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 greatly degrades the performance of your entire system.

(2) Software Conflicts. Having more than one anti-virus 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 side effect.

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

(4) Unnecessary Complexity. Finally, maintaining the licensing and updates for your anti-virus programs can be time consuming and expensive.

Revisions

  • May 25, 2012: Initial Publication
  • May 24, 2016: Rewording For Better Clarity

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