Improving PC security

While Microsoft has been turning out computer operating systems for the better part of 20 years now, it is only recently they have come full-circle in a very critical area of personal computers. Early on, Microsoft seemed to be relatively unconcerned about personal computer security; security that is where malware and malware protections are concerned.

I think some people would argue today Microsoft's position would remain unchanged if not for a handful of malware incidents that gained large notoriety while seriously affecting a huge number of computers. Needless to say, the incidents made the software giant wake up to the fact things had to change and they could no longer ignore the security issue.

There were at least two main areas needing change. For one, Microsoft had to develop a more systematic approach to fixing software bugs. They seem to have done that very well with a very basic approach whereby software patches are released on the second Tuesday of every month. IT professionals call it "Patch Tuesday." To keep a system updated users may manually run Windows Updates the day after Patch Tuesday or allow the system to run and update overnight.

The other area needing change was in the way of malware protection. The solution from Microsoft was Windows Live OneCare, which came out of an acquisition of another company. OneCare provided protection in return for a paid subscription but it performed horribly during independent tests, was rated low and never attracted many users.

To Microsoft's credit, they improved the software immensely and now offer it free of charge to anyone running genuine copies of Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. The software is called Security Essentials and it offers decent protection against most forms of malicious software. Search for it at microsoft.com.

Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in computer repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at ron@ronpoland.com.

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