In my last column on computer security, I concentrated on the physical security of your on-truck computer, as well as different password security programs. These systems should be the foundation of any computer security program. After all, what good is all of the security software in the world if someone steals your computer right off your truck, with all of its information unprotected?
I have personally been affected by spyware. Once, my computer was running very slowly. I had an anti-spyware program running, but I installed another. When running the scan with the new program, it found a dangerous keylogger program installed. Fortunately, my firewall stopped all Internet access by the program, so none of my or my customer’s data was compromised. I was very lucky!
There are several levels of security software you need to be aware of in keeping your information, and your customers’ information, safe. These include antivirus, anti-spyware and firewall programs.
Every mobile tool dealer should start with a good antivirus software program, the most popular of which are Norton and McAfee. To properly protect your computer, these programs need to know what viruses to look for, so the software becomes useless if you do not update it. The companies charge for the software, which can either be downloaded or bought at a store. Usually, the software comes with a one-year subscription for updates. After that, you may have to pay another $30 or more for the next year.
I have been using a computer for many years, and have never had a virus. Some of that time was spent not using an antivirus program (although I don’t recommend this!) Safe computing will go a long way to keeping the viruses away. Be smart about opening email files, or files you download online. When someone sends you any file with a .zip extension, do not open it unless you know who it is from, and that they will be sending you a .zip file. But, even safe computing alone isn’t always enough.
With profit margins tightening, we need to look at ways to save money. So, I would look towards a few of the free antivirus programs available. AVG Anti-Virus (www.free.avg.com) and PC Tools AntiVirus (www.pctools.com) are two of my favorites. I have used both, but am partial to PC Tools. There is no catch… they are free. Well, maybe a small catch … they are free for personal users, but a tool dealer using one computer should not be a problem. Also, you get no technical support, other than what is out there online. You can buy professional versions (for less than Norton or McAfee) that offer support, if you need it. Download one of these, set up your computer for automatic updates and you are protected.
A firewall is the next item you need in your toolbox. Simply put, a firewall is there to protect your computer from unauthorized access through “unprotected ports.” A good firewall will block unauthorized inbound access (coming from another computer) or outbound access (a program on your computer trying to send something). Sometimes programs, unknown to you, will wander the Internet looking for computers that are open to communication. Without a firewall, all of your information is left vulnerable. How would it feel having that conversation with all of your customers, that their personal data has been stolen, because you did not do something simple to keep it safe? A firewall, installed and working properly, can stop this. Windows XP has a built-in firewall, but I don’t trust it. There are programs that you can buy to take care of this, but Zonealarm (www.zonealarm.com) and PC Tools offer free firewalls that work great.
Finally, an anti-spyware program will round out everything, and make your computer safe. These programs will scan and find any spyware on your computer. Sometimes, different sites that you may visit online, will place adware on your computer. Some of this is pretty harmless, and is simply used to transmit the history of websites that you visit so that it can deliver personalized ads to you. At times, it can be much more harmful. Keyloggers, programs that record every key that you push on a computer, are part of the spyware family. Imagine the feeling that someone could have been watching every key you push, recording passwords, social security numbers and credit card numbers, without you knowing? Given the threat, make sure that you are protected! Adaware (www.lavasoft.com), Spybot (www.safer-networking.com) and PC Tools all have good programs that will do the job.
You can not be too careful. Make sure that you practice safe computing. Watch what sites you visit and make certain that any files you download are safe. Most files from reputable sites are safe. Just in case, make sure that you are armed with a good security software package. The ones that I have mentioned I have used and will work great for you.
With the increase in cybercrime and identity theft, we all have an obligation to those that we collect data from, to keep both them and ourselves safe.
Craig Woodman is a Cornwell Tools mobile dealer based in Brewer, Maine. Contact Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.