Malicious software, malware, is perhaps the top threat to many computers. Systems of all types may be affected including both PCs and Macintosh. In fact, no system that accepts an outside connection is immune to a potential malware infection.
Early malware first spread by way of floppy disks. Users had to make the outside connection by inserting the disk and allowing the computer to read it. Some forms of malware were designed to take advantage of the fact people would leave the disk in a system after using it and upon the next start-up the system would read the floppy disk first allowing the malware to be executed. Contemporary malware can enter the system through a USB flash drive in similar fashion but the bigger threat is through the Internet coming from both e-mail and Web browsing.
Many people know to not open e-mail from unknown sources and to only open from known sources when expecting it. What about Web browsing? What is a defense beyond common sense and antivirus/antispyware software? One answer may come from the Invincea Company that created soon-to-be-available software called Browser Protection, which protects the host computer by isolating the Web browser in a virtual environment.
Browser Protection works by constantly monitoring the virtual environment for changes and assumes an unconventional change is potentially malware. When malware is potentially present, the active environment is immediately shut down and a new environment started, which serves to remove the threat allowing no malware harm to the computer. The closing and reopening of the virtual environment happens so quickly the user hardly notices an event took place, but users are aware of the event by way of a system notification.
Used in this manner, virtual computing is very promising for increased security and protection of our personal information.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.