PC and Internet Security is a Complicated Mix of Software and Human Habits, How secure are you?

Why be concerned?  Maintaining PC security has become increasingly more difficult in the past two years due to a continual onslaught of viruses, worms, spyware, spam and less-than-perfect Operating systems.  While Linux, in its various forms, may become a viable player in the desktop environment some day, today, its best suited for the enterprise server environment.  At Competitive Network Solutions, we've been involved in fine-tuning PCs for over 18 years, some can be "cleaned", others  are so infected that the best route is to salvage user data, format the drive, and reload it from scratch.  While this may seem drastic, it is a proven way to effectively recover from an unstable system.  Users who have loaded and run programs such as "Weatherbug", Kazaa, Napster, WinMX, or any other peer to peer file sharing software, are typically the most vulnerable to attack.  Some websites even download applets that have been found to "HiJack" unprotected systems.  Further, and the obvious, infected email attachments still pose a serious threat to the user.

What are our recommendations to protect yourself?  First, install and operate a reliable virus protection package such as Panda, Norton, McAfee, or Grisoft AV.  (We've tested all four, and you'd be surprised which ones did the best!) If you're using a broadband or DSL connection, a firewall is an absolute must.  If your connection is through a router, enable the firewall on the router, if not, use a software-based firewall such as ZoneAlarm or one of the all-encompassing packages such as Panda Internet Security.  For XP users on SP1, don't use the XP firewall!  It simply doesn't work.  SP2 does give a reasonable level of security and doesn't conflict with other programs, once configured properly.

All the software and hardware protection won't do you any good unless you exercise caution and care with email, especially with attachments.  Just because the attachment is coming from a friend or co-worker, it doesn't mean that their machine is "clean".  In today's environment, don't blindly trust anyone unless you're confident in their ability to maintain a "clean machine".  For users on a network that simply don't want to risk infection or invasion, install a software-based firewall on your workstation.

All the above recommendations are considering that your PC is "clean".  We've yet to find one that didn't have some form of virus, worm, ad-ware, or spy-ware in servicing and maintaining over 500 PCs in the past five years. 

Congratulations to M.B. of Germantown, TN, your system was the worst infected that we've ever seen, and were still able to clean it and save all your user files!

A Word about Wireless Networks

A wireless network is a particularly good target because it can be accessed without actually invading the property: someone parked out on the street could use your Internet connection or even access shared resources on your computers. You are wise to secure it carefully. There are several steps unique to wireless, plus the usual steps that one should take with any computer that is networked or Internet connected.

Start with the network identification (usually SSID). Each device connected to the wireless network needs the ID, but the device should know the ID, rather than have to retrieve it from the wireless router. Change the default name, encrypt it if your router and wireless devices allow, and turn off the feature that broadcasts the ID.

Next, encrypt the traffic that flows between your computer and the wireless router. This prevents someone gaining access to private information such as accounts, passwords, credit card numbers and the like, simply by 'overhearing' your transmission. Choose a complicated, unguessable encryption string.

Finally, take advantage of log in restrictions if your router supports them. Every network device - not just wireless - is identified by a unique number known as the MAC address or physical address, usually 6 pairs of numerals and letters (actually hexadecimal numbers). Some routers can be set to allow connections only from devices whose MAC addresses are stored in their memory.

As a postscript, be sure when you connect you are connecting to your secured wireless network, not your neighbors which isn't secured. Also, ask the question again in six months because by then there may be new vulnerabilities known and new defenses against them. Don't forget the standard security techniques, virus, worm, trojan, and spy-ware protection, plus a firewall that monitors both in- and out-bound traffic.


Want to know more?  Since March 2001, we've tuned up hundreds of workstations, loaded with ad-ware, spy-ware, trojans, worms, and viruses.  There are steps you can take to keep yourself clean, but once you're infected, you'll likely need the assistance of more than a computer novice.  That's were we come in.  We'll clean up the mess, configure the proper security settings and show you how to maintain a safe computing environment.

Want good protection?  We test each of the major antivirus (and anti-malware) programs each quarter, and the winner for 4 consecutive years has been Panda Internet Security.  Our testing revealed #4 was Norton Antivirus  (surprised?) and McAfee Virus Scan #3.  Between Grisoft  (free) and Panda, Grisoft does a decent job of antivirus protection for email-based infections, but offers nothing for protection from the web. Panda does both very well. Panda takes it to an additional level, adding ad-ware and spy-ware prevention, an Outlook plug-in for filtering spam, as well as a firewall.  XP users on SP2 with a properly configured firewall won't need an additional firewall as they did prior to SP2.  Contact us for more details, or click the vendor links above and purchase the software directly.  Of course, if you want an expert to install it, configure it, and ensure your new protection is installed correctly, give us a call at 901-757-0379  Panda's 2010 edition is compatible with Windows 7.

  Earning our our First Choice Award for safe computing: Anti-Virus/Firewall/Spyware control/Hacking prevention.  All you need in one product.  We run Panda Internet Security on our field laptops, connecting to all kinds of infected networks................6 years later, still no infections!

Key features : Complete Antivirus and Internet Security Solution


  • Antivirus: Detects and eliminates all types of Viruses.
  • Firewall: Protection against hackers, preventing them from getting into your PC.
  • Blocks spam before it collapses mail accounts or prevents it from working correctly.
  • Privacy protection, blocks spy programs and dialers.
  • Web content filtering, prevents costly and time-wasting misuse of the Internet.
  • Immediate and automatic updates to protect against new viruses and threats, at least once a day
  • Detection and solution of security flaws in the most commonly used software

Click HERE to purchase Panda products at volume discounted prices.  For workstations, we recommend Panda Internet Security 2010 with TruPrevent.  We install Panda IS on all custom-built systems for the past 5 years, and not one has come back with an infection.

The remaining List: McAfee #3, Norton Anti-Virus #4,  Trend Micro #5, BitDefender #6, Computer Associates #7.

For our business clients, volume licenses are available for 5 workstations or more, so please contact us for details on volume pricing for both Panda and Grisoft products.

If you have an extra hour, read the article by CERT concerning PC Security at http://www.cert.org/homeusers/HomeComputerSecurity/ and for home network users, read http://www.cert.org/tech_tips/home_networks.html

We specialize in diagnosing the problem and effectively resolving the issue with the least invasive method. We're also experienced at retrieving data from corrupted hard drives, setting up network security, drive shares, in-house backup solutions (hard drives will eventually fail), printer shares, etc in both Windows and Linux environments.  Take the headache out of running a network, sign up for our new Managed Workstation Service and sleep peacefully from now on..

Competitive Network Solutions can be reached at 901-757-0379  Happy Computing!   

Competitive Network Solutions is "Your On-Call source for Technology Solutions"

David Parker, President of Competitive Network Solutions, was featured on WMC-TV 5's 8am News Broadcast on 1/31/04, discussing MyDoom detection and prevention, and general PC security issues.  CNS, Inc. tests each vendor's software with our own "Infection CD" loaded with junk we've cleaned off of customer PCs.  From viruses, worms, trojans, hijackers, dialers, and hack attempts, we put the software vendors up against each other so we'll know for sure which products work the best.