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Computer Software Security - How to Maximize Computer Software Security

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Modern computer technology has become essential to life in the 21st century. With every passing day, more and more interactions take place over the internet, both of a business and a personal nature. While these great technological advancements have significantly optimized the way we conduct our daily lives, they have also heralded the threat of malicious computer software and hackers. Maintaining security for computer networks is critical in the internet age, and knowledge of computer software security is essential for every user.

Before going into too much detail, it is important to note the distinction between computer software security and computer hardware security. Hardware security is usually seen in the form of tangible devices connected to a network, like packet filters and physical (or “hard”) firewalls. Software security, on the other hand, consists entirely of the safety measures undertaken on a programmatic level, such as anti-viruses, “soft” firewalls, and system monitors. While hardware security is unquestionably useful, it is also very costly, primarily limiting its role to major corporate settings. Computer software security products, on the other hand, are available at a very low cost – many of which are actually free – and are essential both to large corporations and individuals.

With this distinction in mind, consider the different types of software security products available. The most common are the anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall, each of which will be discussed in more detail. Many of the more expensive software security suites offer all three of these features in one program, but many users choose to utilize separate programs for each role. Regardless, this security configuration is recommended for the majority of computer users.

An anti-virus is usually the first line of defense against the numerous threats lurking online. As the name suggests, an anti-virus is a piece of software designed to protect the user against computer viruses, which are nothing more than malicious computer programs. Some viruses are programmed merely to annoy the user, but many are used for data and identity theft, and thus they pose an extreme security risk. Most viruses are installed when the user downloads a seemingly-innocent file that has been infected; often, the user does not even know they have a virus. Even worse, more sophisticated viruses can exploit security holes in web browsers and install themselves automatically, without any action on the user’s part.

Anti-virus software constantly monitors the computer for viruses, and if any are found, it removes them with the user’s permission. A good anti-virus will scan the machine at least once a week, and will frequently offer upgrades. Popular anti-virus software packages include Symantec’s “Norton” product line, “AVG Anti-Virus,” and “Avast.”

Anti-spyware products are very similar to anti-viruses, except that they hunt for very specific malicious programs. As the name suggests, spyware is a broad term for unwanted software that actively “spies” on the user, recording keystrokes, credit card information, and personal preferences. This data is broadcasted online without the user’s permission, and is one of the leading sources of identity theft today. Like an anti-virus, a good anti-spyware program should be run at least once a week, and all threats should be promptly removed. The most popular anti-spyware products are “Spybot-Search & Destroy,” “Malwarebytes Anti-Malware,” and “SUPERAntiSpyware.”

Finally, the firewall is a piece of software that essentially acts as a barrier between a computer and the internet. All incoming and outgoing traffic online is expressed in the form of “packets,” and a firewall acts as a security checkpoint for these packets. If an unauthorized user tries to gain access to a system, the firewall intercepts the incoming packets and sends out an alert. Only users with explicit permission from the system administrator are granted access. Likewise, all outgoing packets are also monitored, preventing viruses and spyware from broadcasting data online without a user’s knowledge. Legitimate software, on the other hand, is allowed to communicate online with the administrator’s permission. Common firewall products include “Windows Firewall” and “ZoneAlarm.”

The combination of a good anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall is essential in preserving security for computer networks. Many threats exist on the internet, and every user owes it to themselves to become familiar with computer software security. Such countermeasures are no longer a luxury – they are a requirement to operating safely online.

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