Computer Solutions

Anti-spyware Is Ineffective

Desktop defenses against spyware are ineffective, according to a survey released this week. The survey reflects an opinion backed by a security analyst of the identity theft scene. Security appliance maker Blue Coat polled more than 300 IT professionals whose companies are using desktop-based anti-spyware solutions from vendors such as Computer Associates, Webroot, Symantec, Lavasoft, Microsoft, and Spybot.

Nearly three out of four reported current programs were ineffective at preventing spyware from infecting their networks. The survey, conducted last month, included IT managers from around the world working in small, medium, and large-sized enterprises. It also found that spyware was becoming an ever-bigger blight. 84 percent of those surveyed said the spyware problem was worse, or at best the same, than it was three months ago.

Gartner research director Avivah Litan seconded Blue Coat?s claim that desktop defenses were not the ultimate solution for spyware. ?The lack of effectiveness comes from the fact that many [programs] are signature-based,? she said. Anti-spyware, like anti-virus, must create digital signatures to detect and then delete each new instance of spyware.

?There?s a latency issue there, a break between when new spyware appears and a signature is created.? Litan said the wave of the future would be behavioral-based defenses. Rather than scan each file and try to match it to an anti-spyware signature, behavioral-based defenses looked at the behavior of suspect software and the PC as a whole.

?Software that looks for unusual behavior, such as specific open ports or a process that?s logging keystrokes or programs that are trying to hide, is much more effective than signature-based anti-spyware,? she said.

WholeSecurity was one player in the category. ?Others are trying to move that way as quickly as they can,? Litan said. WholeSecurity last month launched a program to share information about phishing attacks — which are using spyware to snatch identities — with the help of such corporate titans as Microsoft, eBay, PayPal, and Visa.

74 percent also re-imaged some or all of their desktops, even though they had desktop anti-spyware software installed, to completely clean infected systems. ?Most anti-spyware software is reactive,? said Litan. ?That doesn?t mean it?s totally ineffective, but [defensive] software does need to get more intelligent.? I guess that means the safest way to protect your computer from spyware is simply by not connecting it to the internet.

Tech Toys

With today?s busy schedule it just makes sense to have a PDA. That?s the Personal Digital Assistant. I bought the HP. iPaq 1710 for the wife and myself. Now I have no more excuses for showing up late. Here?s a little insight to what these handy little tech toys can do.

First off they?re wireless, if you choose the wireless card that you can buy with them. This means you can surf the web and pick up your hotmail just like on your own P/C. I have the Windows 2003 pro on my PDA. It comes loaded with Outlook, and an awesome calendar for all of your appointments. You?ll never forget a phone number or an e-mail address again with this handy tool. You can write a letter with Microsoft?s Word that comes bundled with the operating system, or do your spread sheets using Excel. When I say write I mean write. This PDA has letter recognition so you use your stylus like a pen. For those of us who don?t like to type or write we can use the built in voice recorder.

Another cool feature is the media player. You can listen to all of your favorite music using the windows media player. Plug in a set of head phones and you?re rocking to your choice of music while looking at your pictures that you downloaded from your computer. The iPaq comes with 32MB of memory, or you can expand the memory using a memory card. The iPaq comes with software that you install on your home computer which allows you to sync between the two. You to transfer files, music, picture, calendars and contacts. The iPaq has a LCD screen that is easy to see and easy to use. And yes there are games you can play. The battery is rechargeable.

I?m not sure how I have gotten along with-out my PDA. This was definitely a good buy.

Computer Questions

Question:

Where do I go to see how much Ram I have? I?m using Windows XP

Answer:

The easiest way to see how much Ram you have on your computer is to open the Control Panel click on System, then click on the General tab, at the bottom is how much RAM you have. My laptop says I have 448MB of RAM. I know that actually I have 512MB of RAM. My video card is consuming the difference of 64MB. The 448MB of RAM I have left is to be used for other applications.

Please send your computer questions to helpme@compsolution.ca and we?ll publish your answer in a future column. Call Computer Solutions at 242-3404 for all your computer needs.