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The art of self defence

The days when you could activate your security software and then sit back and relax are over. It’s time to take a proactive approach to securing your system.

This article appears in the November 06 issue of PC Advisor, onsale now in all good newsagents.

Security suites have become so ubiquitous that it’s easy to let them get on with their job while you merrily go about your business. Most new PCs come with at least a trial run of a major antivirus tool, providing an early reminder to even first-time buyers that security is something everyone needs to take seriously. And with the biggest threats making the national news, it’s becoming increasingly hard to bury your head in the sand and avoid signing up to the latest security service.

This is, of course, a good thing. Those that produce firewall, antivirus and antispyware packages constantly pinpoint threats, and relentlessly update their products to ensure we don’t get caught out by the obvious candidates. And with 90 percent of Brits now claiming to take security seriously you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re immune from the web’s unscrupulous minds. But the need to be proactive doesn’t stop the day you install an internet security suite. The bad guys are upping the stakes and, in response to the growing number of people who take basic precautions, finding new ways to catch you out.

Even security software vendors will tell you that keeping track of the newest threats provides them with a major headache. It doesn’t help that cybercrime has become so lucrative that some of the brightest coders now turn to the dark side, writing the malware that attacks our systems. And, not content with targeting the declining number of PCs that don’t have any protection, those that engineer such bugs have been forced to find ways to breach the products we’ve all been told to install. Many of them test their programs against software suites from the likes of McAfee and Norton to make sure their creations can pass uninhibited on to the unsuspecting systems of the diligent majority.

Viruses and worms remain a major nuisance, but spyware and rootkits have become the weapon of choice for malicious coders. That they can sit unnoticed on your hard drive only adds to their appeal. And there are other new threats that could compromise your security by stealth. It’s extremely unnerving to think that organised groups could have you in their grasp this very minute while your PC appears to function as normal. At least with a virus you knew when you had a problem.

That’s where this month’s Protect your PC feature comes in. In the November 06 issue we expose the most troublesome tricks to have emerged this year and explain how to fight them. We go further than simply recommending that you always patch your system and run regular scans, and look at the dangers that sidestep many security products.

Have you ever considered, for example, that even following the conventional wisdom of typing in a company’s URL letter by letter, rather than clicking on a link in an email, doesn’t guarantee you won’t be redirected to a scam website? Or that threats that were previously seen as separate – such as rootkits and viruses – are now teaming up to compromise your security? We cover these issues and many more. The bottom line is that protecting your PC is not necessarily a tricky task, but it could be too tricky for the software that’s doing the job right now.

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