Once again I’m going to feature a program that is designed to make your computer safer to use on the Internet; Norton Internet Security. This time however I’m going to focus on the threat of hackers from over the Internet as opposed to censorship of inappropriate material and the infection caused by viruses.

Before I start this article, just entertain me and take a quick trip to https://grc.com/default.htm and click on the link for ‘Shields Up’ at the bottom of the page. This website will probe your computer, much in the same way a hacker would do to determine whether or not you are currently safe from intrusion and consequently what the site would be able to do or see on your computer if it was inclined to do so. An alternative site https://www.symantec.com/securitycheck/ does much the same job, if you need a second opinion.

Unless you have an up to date version of Windows (such as Windows XP with the firewall enabled), it is very likely that you have just been mortified at quite how vulnerable your computer currently is on the Internet; I was when I tried it on an old Windows 98 machine and it bought up a complete list of the entire network I was connected to!

Having some form of Internet security is especially important if you have a high speed or ‘always on’ Internet connection such as ISDN or ASDL (two forms of higher speed connection that are available in the Torbay area), as although I have never to my knowledge suffered an attack from a hacker, it is only recently that I have had access to a high speed connection through the University and consequently it is only recently that I have really been bothered about such security measures.

So what exactly does Norton Internet Security offer to protect the information stored on our computers from prying eyes? Well, first and foremost there is the Firewall – This little piece of software sits between your computer and the Internet at large and monitors all incoming and outgoing traffic. This prevents hackers from the outside world gaining access to, or even being able to see your computer online which gives you the best in security; when I went to the shields up site that I recommended at the top of the page with the firewall enabled, the web page didn’t even know my computer existed.
It also stops un-authorised software on your computer (i.e. Trojan horse viruses) from gaining access to the Internet as this could be considered a possible security breach.

Norton Internet Security also includes Norton Antivirus, which usually retails for £40 to keep your computer protected against any viruses you could encounter whilst surfing the net. Please go to www.thisissouthdevon.co.uk for a review I did not so long ago on the standalone version of this product.

Another nice feature is the Parental controls which is very similar to a program I reviewed in my first month writing for the Herald Express called Net Nanny – This allows you to block sites of questionable material that you wouldn’t like others using your computer to gain access to, suited for the younger members of the family.

The product is extremely easy to set up although at first it does tend to interrupt you quite a bit whilst it gets used to what applications on the computer need Internet access, how security conscious you are etc. but once you have been using it for a couple of hours these should pretty much stop.
The entire package (including Norton Anti-Virus) costs a very reasonable £45 from suppliers such as Dabs (www.dabs.com), and upon purchase, you can keep the application up to date by downloading updates from the Internet to keep ahead of new viruses and security techniques that enter the field.

I would recommend that you assess your need for such a product by considering how fast your connection is, how long you spend online, the results of the Shields Up scan that I asked you to perform at the beginning of this article and please help yourself to a free trial version before you buy by going to the suppliers website, www.symantec.com.

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