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    McAfee Gives Internet Security

    by  (c) 2003 First published in Toronto Computes , May 2003

    There's Hertz and Avis, Pepsi and Coke, Mac OS and Windows. To these classic rivalries, add Symantec and Network Associates. Each wants you to think of their respective Norton and McAfee brands for all your computer's antivirus and security needs.

    Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2003 (NIS) suite bundles Norton Antivirus with a firewall, throwing in parental control features and spam filters. Like Symantec's NIS, Network Associates' McAfee Internet Security 5.0 (MIS) suite bundles a variety of McAfee applications otherwise available separately.

    No home PC should be without virus protection. MIS includes McAfee VirusScan Home Edition 7, which does a good job of scanning e-mail both coming and going. This new version supports all standard POP3 e-mail programs, not just Outlook (as in earlier McAfee versions). Also in the package: McAfee Firewall 4.0 and a toolbox of useful tools, including a Web ad blocker, cookie filter, browser history cleaner and parental controls. More features and more advanced controls, in fact, than Symantec's suite, but also sometimes harder to use.

    Setup does a good job of installing the various components and getting a user up and running, with one curious omission: The firewall is turned off by default. Unless a user knows to manually turn it on, much of the potential protection from this suite will be lost.

    Once turned on, a wizard does a good job of helping to configure the firewall, identifying installed programs that might want to access the Internet or local area network. As with many other software firewalls, be prepared for a couple of days of having the software frequently asking you whether you're prepared to allow various programs permission to use the Net -- and be prepared for some surprises regarding which programs want to go online. Like a firm but loving parent, you should be prepared to say "No" to your software now and then.

    Besides letting you be firm with your software, the program's parental control features let you block applications, chat, instant messaging or even individual newsgroups for some users while allowing them for others, giving you control over how your children use the Net.

    As with Norton's suite, you can list data-strings such as portions of your bank account or credit card numbers so that the program can warn you if something attempts to send these numbers across the Net without your knowledge. However, the interface makes it difficult to remove or edit these numbers if needed. Data files can be encrypted for added protection.

    An Internet Security Check scans your system for potential security problems: Out-of-date Internet software, installed spyware or secretly-installed monitoring software. As with other Web ad blockers, users can sometimes find that linked pages fail to open; in that case, click the link again, this time holding down the Ctrl key. A window informs you of the number of cookies, ads, Web bugs and pop-ups that have been blocked.

    A limited edition of McAfee's QuickClean application cleans out your browser cache and history, along with removing deleted Outlook Express e-mail messages, temporary files and other unwanted but persistent data and files. Its Uninstaller feature can clean remnants left behind with Windows' own Add/Remove Programs control panel. As well, QuickClean can search and remove spyware and adware programs.

    By downloading a bunch of applications (Zone Alarm firewall, AdAware, an antivirus program and more), you could duplicate most of its features, but the convenience of a single install and a single interface make this worthwhile. Just don't forget to turn on the firewall.

    More INFO

    McAfee Internet Security 5.0
    Network Associates

    Windows 98 or later; 32 MB RAM, 71 MB drive space.

    Downloadable trial version available.

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