The Free trial
When people purchase a new computer, most of the computers will come with packages of free trial software, including virus protection. This is a good thing, because it will get the new computer owner into the habit of using some sort of internet security. Typically, the free trial period for the virus scan is 90 days from the date of activation. I have noticed, on several computers, that after the free trial is expired, some of the virus scan programs seem to automatically turn themselves off. This in effect stops all of the virus scanning that normally occurs, and your protection is in effect, ZERO (0). If you have recently purchased a new computer, and you have been using the 90 day trial, please check to see that your scan is still active. If your virus scan has been disabled for some reason, enable it immediately. The renewal does not mean that you cannot use the virus scan if it is expired, it only means that your virus definitions will not be updated. If you are waiting to get money to purchase the renewal, please enable your virus scan, because even an out of date virus scan is better than no virus scan.
Internet Security Renewal
Internet Security refers to all products such as virus scans, firewalls, privacy services, parental controls and the lot. Most people will often purchase a product and then renew and renew and renew, until the computer dies. This does provide protection for your computer, but there is a problem inherent in this practice. The most important trouble is that after a few years, even though the writes of the virus scan software will continue to provide you virus definitions for your older software, many of these newer viruses are not protected against.
The Chicken or the Egg?
This question is easily answered in the case of viruses. The virus came first. One of the first viruses that I had ever heard about was when I was at the tender age of 15. A friend of mine , who was taking classes at the local community college, told me of a program that would temporarily suspend all action on the main frame and on every terminal display fireworks, and then display a crude representation of a beer bottle and the words : lets Party would appear. This would disappear, and everything would continue as if it had never happened. I was informed that it took them over 6 months to find the offending code, and remove it.
In today's world, there are people who have too much free time on their hand, which is extremely intelligent, know software programming, and have access to the internet. These people are looking for a challenge, and they write virus code. The virus protection industry is a responsive industry in that they cannot protect against something that has not been written yet. Before they can protect your computer, someone must be infected with the virus and seek help. At this time, the companies get hold of the virus, and write a definition, (more accurately an antidote) for this virus. The more sophisticated virus programs have been written so that they can circumvent the protection that you have. The hackers will purchase or steal the protection, study the code, and find ways to penetrate the code and get past, or disable it. When such a virus is found, the protectors must change the code of the protection. This is commonly known as a patch, because it plugs a hole in the security. After about a year, the protection companies re-write their scan engines (the protection that actually scans for the viruses). In this re-write, they will integrate the patches in the previous version and publish it as the latest and greatest. For a while, they will continue to provide patches to the older version of the product, but eventually, it will not be economically viable to support the older software. This is when the problems start, Even though your virus definitions are up to date, your older scan engine is becoming holier and holier to the viruses. With ever increasing sophistication, the viruses can now easily penetrate your security.
What can be done?
The first thing is to keep your virus definitions up to date. Remember, out of date protection is always better than no protection. If your virus scan engine is two years or older than the current version available on the market, instead of renewing your older version, buy the newer version. For example, now they have internet security programs for 2005 available, if you have 2004 you will be ok, but I would recommend replacing 2003 or earlier versions.
Purchase this in a discount store such as Wally-world (you will know the store) because you can usually save over the on-line pricing.
Actually it would be better to purchase a new version each year, this is what I do, because often it is cheaper to purchase the software (365 days of update subscription are included) than it is to renew your subscription. In most cases, with virus scan companies, you are not paying for the software; you're paying for the subscription. Also, if you are purchasing different Internet Security products such as virus scan, firewall, spam blocker. 1) Always buy from the same company (i.e. all McAfee, or all Norton, or all Panda). 2) Purchase packages rather than individual products. This will a) ensure compatibility between products, and b) save you money. If the Internet security company you choose has an internet security suite all in one box type thing.. Get it. This will usually combine 3 or 4 different products in a completely integrated package, and you will not get better with the purchase of the individual parts.
I have dial up, do I need a firewall?
No, you do not, but it is highly recommended. The purpose of a fire wall is to make your computer invisible to the internet. In other words, make it so that hackers cannot see your computer. If you have high speed, internet access, like DSL or Cable, then a firewall is Mandatory to your internet security. For the dial-up user, the firewall is still a helpful tool. Most firewalls today control what programs running on your computer can access the internet. This is especially useful for preventing spy-ware from taking over your internet access, because it will prevent it from communicating with the parent computer, and it will alert you if an unauthorized program attempts to use the internet.
The Bottom Line
I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. If you have Internet Security on your computer, keep it updated. If you do not have any, get some now.