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The ubiquity of technology in all its manifestations has made life easy for most of us while at the same time empowering those, so inclined, to use it for unfair and criminal gain. While the reach of the Internet has made the world a smaller place, it has at the same time made everyone vulnerable to prying eyes, identity thieves and nasty pests. Just as in days gone by, when we raised fortresses and built walls as protection from unwanted intrusions, we must today fortify ourselves from information-theft, offensive communications and information loss.

The “wear layers” advice that has proved so effective from unpredictable weather is applicable to the technological world as well. In this environment the number and types of assailants that we could encounter is directly proportional to the number of ways we interact with our techno-environment. Ten years ago, our interactions were limited to exchanging data files, e-mail was mainly textual and fairly rudimentary, and the Internet, as we know it today, was in its infancy. The only protection we needed then was against viruses that could attach themselves to the files being exchanged. Today, with the explosive increase in the usage of the World Wide Web and the increasingly sophisticated users, the number of protective layers we need has grown.

Our first line of defense, the brains of our computers – the Operating System (OS) must be maintained just as we maintain our cars and houses. This is a task that most people neglect. Since a vast majority of users have a Microsoft Windows-based computer, I will address updates to Microsoft Windows. Updating the Operating System is fairly easy and should be carried out at least once a month or as often as Microsoft posts updates to the Operating System software.

In Windows 2000, you can do this from the Control Panel window where you will see a link for Windows Update. In Windows XP, go to Start/Help & Support to find the Windows Update link. This link will take you to the Microsoft Web site and Microsoft will then scan your computer software, determine the updates that it needs and provide you with a list of available updates. You then must select, from the list, the updates that you wish to download and install. Doing this every month ensures that any defects and vulnerabilities that have been discovered by Microsoft have been corrected on your computer as well.

In addition to the updated Operating System, we must have up-to-date anti-virus software on our computers. While anti-virus software may be purchased from any of the major vendors, it is most important that the software be kept updated on a regular basis to ensure that we continue to be protected from newer viruses and mutations of older viruses that come into existence from time to time. Keeping the anti-virus software updated is simple – you sign up for a Virus Signature Update service from the vendor whose product you have purchased and then diligently download and apply the updates on a weekly basis – I usually do this as a routine task over the weekend. This may be scheduled as an automatic task as well.

A fully updated Operating System and up-to-date anti-virus software are two of the basic protective layers for our computers. There are other layers that provide additional protection and I will cover these in future columns.

Arun Marballi has worked in the Information Technology arena for more than 20 years with extensive experience in software development, process design and network/workstation management. For comments, questions, tips or suggestions, e-mail


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