Most Americans Unsure of Computer Security

Ask anyone and they'll easily be able to tell you whether they lock their doors or if they've installed a home alarm system. Ask them how well their computer is locked down, and they may be a little uncertain -- if not altogether clueless.

The Cyber Security Industry Alliance, in conjunction with security software vendor McAfee, just released a survey on Americans' attitudes and knowledge of how their own systems are secured. The results would be amusing if it weren't such a serious situation.

Most of the survey respondents indicated that they do indeed have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software installed on their computers: 87 percent said they had anti-virus software, 70 percent said they had anti-spyware software and 73 percent said they had a firewall.

But when the survey staff ran voluntary remote scans of the survey respondents' systems, they found a vastly different story. Turns out that 94 percent of the survey respondents had actually installed anti-virus software; however, only half had updated it within the last month. In the rapidly changing landscape of viruses, that's almost as bad as not using anything at all.

When it came to anti-spyware software, 70 percent did have it installed, just as the survey revealed, but only 55 percent had it enabled. The same was true of firewalls -- 81 percent had one, but only 64 percent had it enabled. Folks, it can't help you if you don't turn it on.

While virus attacks and other tales of Web-borne nastiness pervade the news, it seems like we have a ways to go before the general public is appropriately educated. How well are your systems locked down? Check in with me at [email protected].

Microsoft Tunes Up Zune
With lackluster sales for what Microsoft had hoped would be its iPod killer, the Redmondians are giving the pint-sized music vault a facelift and other updates just in time to lure holiday shoppers.

Three new Zunes are set to go up against the forces of Apple's iPod. One of the new Zunes has an 80GB hard drive and a 3.2-inch glass screen. This top-line Zune comes in a shiny black finish. There will also be smaller Zunes -- clearly positioned to do battle with the iPod Nano -- that use flash memory. These will come with either 4GB or 8GB of space in a pink, green, red or black finish.

Like the original Zune, the new models all come with FM radio and let you use wireless connections to share tunes with other Zunes. They also have an updated display and menu structure. There's a touch pad interface you can use to scroll through tunes or change the volume.

The new Zunes should be available for sale by mid-November, with prices expected to range from $149 for the 4GB models to $199 for 8GB and $249 for the 80GB.

The new Zunes sound attractive, but they have a ways to go before they make Zune-atics out of the some 100 million iPod users. Do you Zune? Do you iPod? It seems everyone these days has wires coming out of their ears. Do you think Microsoft has a chance on this battlefront, or should it stick to fixing up its core products like Vista? Tune me in at [email protected].

Google Gives E-Mail More Firepower
After plunking down $625 million to acquire Postini, Google is rolling some of Postini's security tools into its e-mail client to better entice corporate users. Besides gunning for the search and Office apps, Google will now also be gunning for the Outlook juggernaut.

Google is adding improved security tools like message filtering and quarantine, anti-virus, and anti-spam to its e-mail system. It will also be more than doubling the size of individual mailboxes, going from 10GB to 25GB. This is for the corporate e-mail accounts that are part of Google's suite of online apps, not the everyday Gmail accounts which remain largely unchanged.

Google hopes to retain as many former corporate Postini customers as possible. More than 11 million individual Postini customers from more than 36,000 businesses have been able to use the Google suite of online apps for free since the acquisition, and can continue to do so through June 2008. After that, Google hopes to convert them to paying customers, bucking up the annual $50 per user fee.

Have you tried Google's online apps? Have you considered them? Are you using or considering any other Office alternatives? We'd love to hear from you at [email protected].

Adobe Catches Buzzword
Speaking of acquisitions that expand one's realms, Abode Systems, long known for its Photoshop and other digital media software, plans to scoop up Virtual Ubiquity.

Beyond the digital design world Adobe has dominated for so long (you know you're king when you "get verbed" -- as in, "Just Photoshop it in"), the addition of Virtual Ubiquity to Adobe's ranks will give the company online word processing and collaboration.

This is another move that marks Adobe's intent to assemble and roll out its own suite of productivity tools for the SMB market. Microsoft Office has Google Apps and IBM's Lotus Symphony nibbling at its toes. Soon, Adobe will be on its tail as well.

According to Adobe execs, it will offer the Buzzword online word processor for free. Also free from Adobe will be a new collaboration service appropriately called Share. Adobe then hopes to get customers to put down cash for premium services like Acrobat Connect for Web conferencing and Create PDFs Online for sharing documents.

It's interesting to see so many paying so much attention to the Office juggernaut. Again, are you currently using or considering any alternatives to Microsoft Office? Let us know at [email protected] and you could be the star of an upcoming feature in Redmond magazine.

Mailbag: XP's Extended Stay
Microsoft announced recently that it will be extending XP's availability by an extra five months. Looks like most readers aren't complanining:

How long should Microsoft keep selling XP? Until they get Vista right. I've never had any trouble with XP Pro. My neighbor calls me twice a week grumbling about Vista compatibility or performance issues. As for my Vista plans, again, not until Microsoft gets it right -- maybe service pack 2 or 3?

Vista is outstanding. I personally feel MS made leaps and bounds with Vista. It offers a new look to the Windows OS; much cleaner and pleasing to the eye by taking advantage of the new-generation graphics processors now available along with higher-end processors and RAM. And I haven't even mentioned the addition to security and computer protection offered. My hat goes off to the development team on this one.

Now, I will be the first to admit that all products can use some improving, but as we've seen this is still on the way. Just a few days after Vista RTMed, MS was already diligently working to make even more improvements, many of which were already planned. It may take some time but I feel Vista will catch on. It's a matter of the public learning curve. New is always "scary" to begin with but well worth the effort.

I've been using Microsoft products way back when there was MS DOS 2.0, so you know I don't want to see a bunch of changes. I do like changes for the better and that's why I still have XP. Vista has moved things around on the desktop so much that I'd rather just go to the command prompt. XP has really not been around that long, although it is all patched up -- I'm getting used to it. I plan to purchase a new PC soon, but guess what? I will be loading XP!

I plan to keep myself and my customers using XP as long as possible. I have found too many things irritating in Vista.

Just say NO to Vista. We really have no plans to move to Vista in the near future unless we're forced to move due to lack of support by Microsoft. Our control system vendors have not given any indication that they will be certifying systems with Vista in the near future, either. For the IT and controls world, Vista seems like an operating system that should be skipped until the next new thing from Microsoft.

I think Microsoft should have invested more in XP rather than roll out another OS that is nothing more than a facelift.

My employer just upgraded my work laptop computer, although it still has XP on it. We have no plans as yet to upgrade to Vista. I planned on recycling my old desktop for a new laptop with Vista. To my surprise, my employer offered me my old laptop for free. Being a non-road warrior type, this will completely satisfy my mobile computing needs. Now, I just plan on a memory upgrade for my old desktop and will try to hold out until the next OS beyond Vista becomes available.

I had the unfortunate displeasure to cruise through Vista for (two) older-generation women who knew XP pretty well. I consider myself pretty much a guru with XP. They asked me to "show" them something about Vista. Since I had only seen Vista from a distance, I really had to put on my thinking cap. I made some changes to get back to the Classic look. I tried to do away with the fade on the icons, which you can turn off on XP. What a convoluted OS. By the way, Office Depot sold these women a Toshiba laptop with 512MB RAM and a Celeron processor. Boy, did Office Depot see them coming.

My transition from W2K to XP was rather painless. But Vista? What a royal PIA. I am glad the company I work for is NOT doing a carte blanche roll out of Vista. They are going to roll out O2K3 which is all right. The IT folks are getting new PCs, dual processors, large HDD, and 4GB of RAM with VMware so we can install Vista on VMware and XP as our primary OS. That way, we can learn Vista by taking some classes and generally poking around and learning the nuances.

Long live XP. As we are facing a shortage in getting Windows XP licenses from suppliers that seem to only stock Vista, we found a workaround. We usually install a pirated copy of XP, do the updates, and when the "Not Official Copy" logo shows up, we just go online and buy it by credit card. In a few days, we get the CD and the COA label by DHL. The best part? It's cheaper.

It's good that new systems still have available XP drivers on their Web site.

As an MCP, I support smaller companies who do not have a full-time IT department. They have PCs and servers to run applications, not OSes. Until a new killer app comes out that all businesses must have or die in place, they will continue to run XP Pro. This does not even address the hardware issues of upgrading older PCs in order to upgrade to the new OS.

Also, when retiring an older PC, why not transfer the COA and save the cost of the software? As I understand MS licensing, this is completely legal.

Got something to add? Let us have it! Send an e-mail to [email protected] or leave a comment below.

About the Author

Lafe Low is the editorial liaison for ECG Events.


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