Is your security system up to date?

Scott dunn By Scott Dunn maintains a WSN Security Baseline page to keep you current on the bare minimum you need to protect your home or small-business systems against malware.

This list is based on our analysis of the reviews and editor’s choices from leading PC publications and Web sites, including PC Magazine, PC World, CNET, and others.

The basic tools you need

You need at least three categories of tools to secure your system:
  • A hardware firewall, usually in the form of a router;
  • A software security suite (a separate antispyware app is no longer needed, as I explain below); and
  • A patch-management system for staying current with the latest updates.
Routers: the story doesn’t ‘n’ here

The most economical way to get a hardware firewall is to get an Internet router with built-in firewall features — preferably one that includes wireless capability.

Most wireless routers in use today follow the 802.11b or 802.11g standard, which specifies the speed and range of data transfers. The newest draft specification is 802.11n, whose multiple data streams promise faster transfers and longer range than before. It’s also intended to eliminate the problems of interference and spotty coverage that sometimes occur with the current standard. A number of "n"-based routers are already available.

Unfortunately for consumers, the "n" standard is still in draft stage and is not expected to be ratified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) until 2009. An unratified status means the specification could change, leaving consumers stranded with an incompatible product that may or may not be easy to upgrade. For this reason, a number of reviewers shied away in 2006 from recommending "n"-based products.

Now the climate seems to be changing. Manufacturers have worked together over the last year to create "n"-based routers that work well and work together. A number of commentators and reviewers, including PC Magazine and the computing column of the Houston Chronicle, have begun to recommend these products.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2007-05-24: