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

The Importance of Effective Data Backup

Article (PSA-0001)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long, Member/Manager
Company: Problem Solving Applications, LLC
Original title: Is my data safe?
Retitled: The Importance of Effective Data Backup
Original release date: December 19, 2012

Life insurance, medical insurance, and retirement funds are all ways we try to ensure the things most important to us are protected. What about your data? Most of us store things like family pictures, legal documents, important thoughts and expensive software on our computers. How important is this data to you?

One way to gauge the importance of something is to imagine it is gone. So take a moment, and imagine your computer is gone. What would you miss? If you can honestly say, “Nothing!” then you can skip this article. If, on the other hand, you have a list forming in your mind of things you would miss, then please read on.

With so many backup ideas and tools floating around today, it can be difficult to know your files are safe. The intent of this article is to help you understand some basics about data backup, so you can know if your files are safely backed up or not. In the following scenarios, we are considering the ability to recover data in the event of a hard disk failure. Let’s consider three questions.

Question #1:

“Is my data safe if I copy it to another folder on my computer?”
No, your data is not safe. Consider the consequences of a failed hard disk. Not only is the original copy of your data inaccessible, but so is your “backup”!

An effective backup of your data requires, at a minimum, two copies of your data located on two separate storage medium. For example, you could have your original data on your computer’s hard disk, and a copy of your data on an external drive. Other possible backup media choices include: cd’s, dvd’s, usb flash drives, extra internal hard disk, network storage appliances, and online backup services.

Question #2:

“Is my data safe if I copy it to separate storage media?”
Using the example of a failed hard disk from question #1, let’s summarize the process of getting your computer back up and running. First we need to install a new hard disk. Next we install the operating system, hardware drivers, system updates and your favorite software. Finally we attempt to restore your data from your backup media … only to discover the backup is corrupt or incomplete!

Testing your backup for accuracy and integrity is critical. Just because the backup software says the job is complete does not necessarily mean the backup is useful. Take the time to test your backup now, and save yourself heartache in the future.

Question #3:

“Is my data safe if I copy it to backup media, and test the backup for accuracy?”
Consider the consequences of a catastrophic fire or natural disaster. Your computer has been destroyed and unfortunately so was the storage medium containing your backed-up data!

Your data should be stored safely “off-site”, or, at the very least, in a fire proof safe. Storing a copy of your data on an external storage media and testing your backup for accuracy and integrity is a good start, but in mission critical situations an “off-site” copy is a must!

How important are your files? By keeping a tested backup “off-site” you can rest assured that even in the event of the unthinkable your data will still be recoverable.

For more information on data backup or if you would like a consultation on your personal or business backup process give us a call..

Revisions

  • December 19, 2012: Initial Publication
  • November 11, 2015: Text Edits
  • May 24, 2016: Rewording For Better Clarity