valuable computer security from McAfee
Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business
May 27-June 2, 2008; issue 970
High Tech Office column
Last week’s column
suggested users shouldn’t get complacent about computer security.
Despite the decline of the Storm botnet, it’s a dangerous web out
there. Even Fortune 500 systems are being “recruited” as spam servers
without their user’s (or IT department’s) knowledge or consent.
users think they’re protected because they’ve got an antivirus program
installed, but antivirus is only one of many perils. And many users
think their security software is up to date when it isn’t.
some pretty good anti-virus programs (and some, but fewer, good
anti-spyware programs) that are free for home use, but trying to cobble
together an all-encompassing set of free security programs, while
possible, is more work than most of us want to take on.
been testing McAfee Total Protection 2008 (TP08) all-in-one security
software. The $80 standard package includes a licence for up to three
PCs. To protect a fourth, some competitive products require purchase of
second package with an additional three licences. Nicely, McAfee makes
additional licences available for $10 each as required. (Licences are
for a year’s use; if you buy additional PCs partway through your year,
the cost is pro-rated.)
Also nice: the CD-based installer asks if
you want to install from the disc, but prefers to go online for the
latest versions. After creating a McAfee account for the first
installation, additional installations can all be done online, no CD
Total Protection promises “12-in-1 prevention and
protection.” Some other security suites, including some older McAfee
versions, have a bad reputation for dragging down computer performance
by running too many background processes at once. McAfee has done a
good job of making this year’s version run quietly in the background
without getting in the way.
A McAfee Security Center replaces
the Windows Security Center found in XP SP2 and Vista. It places tasks
most often used front and centre, though users will have to hunt around
to find others of the promised 12-in-1 features.
has been around longer than most antivirus software. The current
version of McAfee’s anti-virus technologies recently received the
VB100% award in recent tests by Virus Bulletin. Built into TP08, it
scans files at set times, on access and on demand, scanning both
inbound and outbound e-mail attachments and files received through many
Anti-spyware is now built-into the
antivirus module; both sorts of perils are checked for simultaneously.
Testing by PC Magazine suggested, though, that while TP08 is effective
at keeping both viruses and spyware off a system, it might be less
effective at cleaning up a system that’s already spyware infested at
the time of installation.
I’m a big fan of McAfee’s SiteAdvisor,
which is available as a free ad-on for Internet Explorer and Firefox
(www.siteadvisor.com). TP08 includes a beefed-up SiteAdvisor Plus
version. Either version compares any web address you go to – and search
hits in Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. – to a comprehensive database, giving
it a green, yellow or red light based on whether the site has been
found to host malware, send out spam, etc. Go to a red-light site and a
warning bubble pops up offering more information on the risk.
Plus version also checks links in e-mail and instant messages and
offers an optional Protected Mode that restricts users (think of your
kids) to green-rated sites. PC Magazine’s found SiteAdvisor, together
with Internet Explorer’s built-in (but not necessarily turned on)
phishing filter blocked 98% of the fraudulent sites in their tests.
spam filtering integrates with Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora and
Thunderbird e-mail software and can be used with some web-mail services.
features include parental controls, a firewall and a password vault.
Also included: non-security utilities such as basic, but usable backup
software and a set of computer maintenance utilities, including a disk
defragmenter and task scheduler – neither of which offers much beyond
features already built-into Windows. More useful, perhaps: QuickClean,
which cleans temporary files, browsing history, deleted e-mail items,
non-functioning shortcuts and more.
While not all of the
promised 12-in-1 features are best of breed, the up-to-date install,
flexible licensing, low system overhead and powerful antivirus and
SiteAdvisor features make Total Protection 2008 a convenient way to
help ward off this year’s crop of online perils. •