Business-like, isn't he?



Business in Vancouver logo

    More valuable computer security from McAfee

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business in Vancouver 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.

    Many 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.
    There are 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.

    I’ve 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 required.

    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.
    McAfee VirusScan 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 instant-messaging programs.

    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 ( 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.

    TP08’s 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.
    TP08’s spam filtering integrates with Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora and Thunderbird e-mail software and can be used with some web-mail services.

    Other 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. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
Search WWW Search