Calling all gurus!
Are you the type of person who, like myself, is relentlessly hounded by friends and family to help them out of a jam with their computers? Ever thought of converting some of that talent to cash?The most difficult part of my challenge as an online safety advocate is to find attentive ears to listen and foster in them a desire to learn. Without desire, even shouting from the highest mountain tops my message falls on deaf ears. I know. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. Quite by accident, though, I recently discovered a way to grab their full attention. It is done face to face, one on one, one computer at a time, one family at a time. With no fanfare or splashy press releases, my latest project Safe-PC.net launched unofficially at the beginning of March and already consumes so much of my free time with paying clients that I may have to divest of other endeavors to pursue this one. Another realization also quickly set in – The demand is so high I can’t possibly do it alone!
As with most home based businesses, I thought this would build slowly and structured the model around that growth pattern. WRONG! What I have discovered is that it is a model that can grow as slow or as fast as I desire. The model has proven so successful on a personal level, the demand for it so high, that I immediately intend to sub-license the right to use the Safe-PC brand. Qualified applicants will be given the opportunity to join this affiliate network. They will have access to online training, updates, proprietary tools, hardware and software vendor discounts and advertising templates for both print, radio and television. They will receive leads filtered through the main site specific to the protected territories they will be assigned to serve. Anyone not adequately serving their territory will have it reduced in size or taken away from them altogether. I even have interested parties in the UK! which is why I set up Safe-PC.co.uk. That too will soon be tailored specifically to the UK audience.
Unlike other home based business opportunities, no one will be encouraged to give up their day job with illusions of grandeur, fame or wealth. All will be encouraged to start slowly and build at a pace they are comfortable with. It is a model that requires work and commitment. With that, what they will discover on their own as I did is the business will take on a life of it’s own. It is SO MUCH FUN for me personally, so much fulfillment in working one on one with families, that I hope to never abandon my own personal territory. No kidding!
So what gets their attention initially? Our bedfellows, as odd as it may seem, are virus and browser hijacker authors. Calls come in daily to help resolve issues caused mostly by unwary children at the keyboard of the family computer. It makes for the perfect opportunity to discuss the dangers lurking online and introduce them to freeware and paid online safety products. This is a very attentive audience, open to just about any suggestion I make to them. And for every family I visit they usually volunteer at least three qualified leads for new clients with comments like “Boy do I know someone else who could use your help too!” In a few short months I expect to stop advertising altogether!!!
So, are you a guru? Would you like to leverage the Safe-PC brand to help others and help yourself in the process? Are you already a MCDST or equivalent? Then send an email via the form at the Safe-PC.net web site and let us know. You may be closer to a new career than you think!
Product review: Trend Micro Internet Security.
At the urging of a fellow colleague, I broke down last month and tried a new antivirus software called Trend Micro Internet Security. It’s former name was PC-Cillin but in light of the many added features besides anti-virus like an integrated firewall, anti-spam tools, url white and black lists and personal information guard, the new name better describes what you’re getting in this package; an entire suite of applications rolled into one.
The thing that pushed me over the edge to review this product was that I had discovered how fallible Norton Anti-virus had become and was looking for an alternative. Initially I had thought to review the latest offering from McAfee but many I have spoken to warned me of the same pitfalls as Norton. That’s right. Even I sometimes fall into the trap of sticking with what’s familiar rather than always seeking what’s best. The other thing which intrigued me about Trend Micro is they are the only maker of an anti-virus product for the Palm OS on which I type the initial draft of this newsletter.
From the very beginning, I found the installation to be perfectly straight forward and very well documented. The menus are clear and easy to understand. New users are given the option of using it in the 30-day free demo mode minus some extra bells and whistles or the full version where the user must enter the registration key to activate all of the features. List price is $49.95 but I bought my copy for 20% off ($39.95) through Digital River.
The nitty gritty
The primary function of any anti-virus product is to stop the spread of computer viruses. By definition, a computer virus is any program code that procreates to other machines in order to survive. The greatest failing I saw with Norton, the reason for my renewed interest in other products was it did not always stop viruses sent to me from becoming resident on my hard drive.
I should point out here that just because a program has become resident that doesn’t always mean it’s doing harm just because it’s there. It means it can do harm if the email it was attached to tricks me into executing the program by clicking a certain link in the email or “opening” the file. In fairness, Norton did always prevent the program from being executed but the fact that it even got that far where it COULD do harm makes me very uneasy.
The very first thing I did to test how well TIS stacked up in this category was to send myself email I had archived with known viruses attached that Norton had missed on the first pass. TIS scored perfectly, never once allowing a virus attached in an email to take up residence on my computer in any form. In the 4 weeks that I’ve been testing it since, not once has it failed.
Another feature I like is the automatic update frequency. TIS can be configured to update itself as often as once every 3 hours! I used to think this might be overkill but with the speed at which new viruses are coming out, maybe it wasn’t overkill after all. The other choices are 6, 9 and 12-hour intervals or manual update only.
These folks are serious about their anti-virus.
I had heard good things about the integrated firewall as well so I took that for a spin too and activated it in the main control panel. Indeed, it does make the computer invisible to outside forces attempting to connect to it when they shouldn’t. What I did not expect was how easy it would be to use.
Other firewalls I’m used to require a learning curve, not mine to learn the software but the software to learn what should and should not be allowed to communicate. After installing for the first time, each time a new application tried to invoke communication with the outside world a screen would appear asking permission to add it to the list of approved applications. Over time this slows down eventually stopping altogether once I have used every application that tries to communicate at least once. It’s truly amazing how many legitimate applications need permission to communicate. Equally surprising is the number of applications Microsoft by default allows to communicate with the outside that I, as a power user, am just as glad I had the chance to put on a “Do not allow” list.
By contrast TIS firewall requires none of this. Just turn it on and forget it. The fact that it’s so easy to use often fools people into thinking that it’s not as robust as more complicated firewalls. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Simplicity at a price
But, simplicity does have it’s price. The TIS firewall only cloaks your computer from the outside so no other unauthorized computer can detect it’s presence while online. Because of this it does not question any application that happens to reside on your computer when it tries to communicate TO the outside. Any application already resident on your computer is assumed to have outside access privileges. Big mistake because this includes spyware, adware and browser hijackers. Once installed on your computer these types of programs essentially leave the back door open to the program authors who will feed you pop-up ads that can’t be stopped and allow other back door programs to install on your computer as well. By definition these are not viruses because they do not replicate to other machines. They’re just very unwelcome guests who tend to invite other unwelcome guests to the party too. We’ll take a closer look at browser hijackers in a future newsletter.
And, as I stated earlier, there are even some legitimate applications I don’t want communicating with the outside world that most would not care about but the option is not given and I believe it should be. Given Microsoft’s history of functionality at the expense of security, I’m just not comfortable giving them carte blanche this way. If I don’t need my Microsoft apps talking outside I’d like to disable it if I can. That’s my only criticism of the TIS firewall.
While more complex firewalls are equally more cumbersome to set up, once they’re set, they’re set. I prefer them to the more simplistic variety for the added protection they afford. So, while TIS does hide me from hackers while I’m online, I’ll leave this feature turned off and use my freeware Tiny Personal Firewall.
Here is where TIS really shines. Since this is how most viruses are transmitted, this is where Antivirus programs need to focus their attention. Not only does TIS intercept and clean viruses before they can become resident on a users hard drive, it can also scan compressed file attachments up to 6 scan layers deep! (Zip files that have been zipped and rezipped multiple times to try and hide from virus detection) TIS defaults to 3 layers deep which is more than adequate.
Same applies to outgoing email just in case a virus does get onto your computer by some other means such as sharing floppy disks or burned CD’s between computers.
TIS can even scan attachments in webmail from AOL, Yahoo! and MSN. By default this feature is turned off because these webmail providers already scan email attachments sent to their users for viruses. It’s very unlikely that a virus would escape their detection. Scanning it again in TIS would just be a waste of time. But it’s there if you want it. That’s just the way these folks work.
TIS includes a utility to help with spam that they call Anti-Spam. There’s really not much to say about it. All it does is attempt to identify spam for you by appending the subject line when it thinks it found some so users can more easily identify them for deletion in their email programs. It does what it says but little to actually stem the tide of spam. It only flags it for the user. When it comes to dealing with spam, nothing beats my MailWasher.
URL Blocker/Parental control
The URL blocker is pretty nifty. It’s password protected and very difficult to defeat. The list of URL’s can be configured two ways, allowed or blocked. If you use it at all, which ever makes for a shorter list, that’s the way you want to use it.
For very young children you would most likely use a white list of just a few domains that they would be allowed to visit. For older children you would only have dome domains blacklisted.
Privacy Data Protection
Works in a similar fashion as URL blocking but outbound instead of inbound. On this list a parent can set rules to block transmission of certain data such as telephone numbers, addresses, credit card numbers, any personal information your child might innocently share with someone else that you’d prefer they didn’t. The structure of personal information sent to web site owners on forms like telephone and credit card numbers is usually rigid meaning it can only be entered a certain way, the same way you will block it.
You can also ad profane words to this list to prevent them from being sent as well. The only thing to keep in mind is these types of programs won’t infer anything for you. In other words, they can still get the F word message across by using Ph*** instead, unless you block that specific word form also. This kind of list is very difficult to maintain and easy to circumvent once the child knows which word forms are being blocked so using it to block profanity is of limited value.
While I would not say that TIS is the very best at everything it does, it definitely is the very best at it’s core function, antivirus, and does a respectable job with the other modules they’ve built into it as well. As an antivirus product alone TIS gets 5 stars out of 5. Overall I give it a 4.5.
This one’s a keeper.