Virus protection on your computer

Pc virus protection by now most users are aware of the need to implement Pc antivirus software on individual systems. Software programs such as Symantec and McAfee are the primary Pc antivirus used today. But a large percentage of the hardware and software used to provide something for those users to use resides outside them. What are they and what can be done to protect them from a computer virus attacks?Computer viruses attack servers - web, file, ftp and e-mail, along with routers and other network gear - along with individual PC's.

Servers are usually substantially the same as PC's only with more memory, disk space and processors. Web servers house web pages and programs for Internet users, e-mail servers store, send and receive e-mail, and file and ftp servers make possible storage and distribution of all manner of files for other systems. Routers are simply specialized computers, with proprietary operating systems, for routing network traffic.Most operate much like an individual's system and are subject to the same kinds of attacks. They can therefore be protected by many of the same means - regular use of reliable computer antivirus software and being firewall guarded to shut down vulnerable entry points on the Internet and guard against any computer virus. Because servers are more critical to businesses and have multiple computer systems linking to them the virus protection is more extensive then a regular computer system however they are still vulnerable to attack.

What else can be done?

Since servers and routers provide services to multiple, sometimes thousands, of user systems they're more frequently attacked. Users can help administrators of these systems by keeping their own systems clean and refraining from passing on viruses to others across them. Administrators can help themselves by forgoing the temptation to use them as personal computers with full e-mail clients, word processing software, and fully enabled browsers.

Users can help administrators and themselves by being more careful in browser selection and configuration for the best computer virus protection. Most could profit from better self-education in how to minimize the 'target area' for hackers by changing browser settings. Users and computer professionals have made strides in voicing concern over security vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer. Adopting other browsers in greater numbers will help to get the message across.Users and administrators should avoid using bootable CD's and DVD's that haven't been scanned for computer viruses after being burned with desired software and files. Sometimes the process that creates them propagates viruses, just as floppy disks did some years ago.

FTP servers, used to store and provide sending and receiving of files over networks, should become a thing of the past. Vanilla ftp (File Transfer Protocol) can't be secured since passwords are passed in clear text (unencrypted) over the network where they can be picked up by sniffers. Sniffers are software and/or hardware used to spy on networks. Secure FTP versions should be used instead.

Users should take an active role in encouraging administrators to lock down systems for the best virus protection settings. Most administrators do a very good job with limited time and resources, but security is usually well down their list of priorities. Users who show an interest can alter that in a constructive way by showing that they care. Very few servers have a thorough check by a skilled security expert at any time in their serviceable lifetimes. That would change if users didn't passively assume by default that everything is fine until things go sour.

The Future

Microsoft and other large vendors are making strides in designing hardware and software which is better computer antivirus protection 'out of the box'. Just as one example, one common virus exploit is called a 'buffer overrun'. Memory is used by all programs and it's divided into areas called buffers of a certain size. Later this year Microsoft has release its most recent operating system Vista that is suppose to correct many of the issues that they have had in the past with viruses and hackers and seems to have better virus protection.

Hackers use a well-known technique for causing malicious program instructions to 'overflow' those buffers providing them with more access than the legitimate program intended. A large percentage of security fixes involves securing these buffers. Hardware and operating system designers are addressing this by making 'buffer overrun' a thing of the past, through fundamental design changes.

Much more sophisticated ideas are on the drawing board. Once they become a reality, everyone will benefit.


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