Norton Internet Security for Laptops/SOHO users
In other newsletters, I’ve discussed the important of security scanners and how they can be used to assess or audit the security posture for individual computers or entire networks. In that context, I’ve mentioned Steve Gibson’s excellent Web-based Shields Up (Port Authority Edition) as a great tool for quick and dirty scans and related reports. In the same vein, I was forced to update my Norton AntiVirus coverage for my laptop recently (my yearly subscription expired), and to see what was under the hood, I upgraded to the company’s Norton Internet Security 2003 product.
Among the many things I did while checking my machine for security after the upgrade was to run Shields Up against my upgraded laptop. With Norton Internet Security enabled, it reported that it could find no evidence that my machine existed on the Internet (except for an IP address, issued on an 8 hour lease from my ISP’s DHCP server). Gibson’s nomenclature is that my laptop was in “total stealth mode,” which is as close to completely buttoned up as it’s possible to get. The program also provides access to its own, more comprehensive security scan, that helped me to identify (and thus, close) some open ports I thought I’d closed on my server, but had apparently failed to block completely.
I take comfort from two implications of this situation:
1. It’s clear that vendors such as Symantec and Microsoft are taking security more seriously, and are providing default configurations designed to err on the side of caution rather than permitting unwanted exposure.
2. For most travelers and SOHO workers, a personal firewall/security package like Norton Internet Security is an excellent way to manage Internet access, while limiting exposure to known attacks, exploits, and vulnerabilities.
These programs now routinely include auto-update facilities to keep them as safe as possible, as long as they can access the Internet regularly to obtain the necessary updates and signature files.
Though you may not want to use the Norton product, there are plenty of freeware, shareware, and commercial software options to help batten down individual systems and small networks. Check out the Home PC Firewall Guide (http://www.firewallguide.com/)–one of the best resources of its kind available anywhere–for more great information on this essential type of personal and SOHO software.