October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. That fact and the Facebook spam and phishing scheme concocted by Sanford Wallace brings to mind, yet again, the need to be careful with one’s privacy and security whenever operating online. This concern should be a constant in the minds of virtual lawyers where the duty of confidentiality and attorney-client privilege mandate the highest standards of information management.
The good news for virtual lawyers is that high standards do not necessarily mean you have to spend a bundle on security software. In fact, there are a number of excellent, free resources that are highly rated by respected technology writers. I list of few of these resources below, with links to the source articles where you can read about others.
In keeping with current regulations and the pledge I made at the outset of this blog about recommending the products or services of others, I have received no benefits of any kind (financial or otherwise) for the recommendations listed below, and will not receive any as a result of the recommendations. Where appropriate, I have identified those resources that I have personally used in the past or are using at the present time as part of my own cyber-security protocol. Where no such identification is made, you may assume that I have not used or tested the resource. However, the links I provide are to authoritative blogs or journals addressing the topic.
1. AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition: According to Tech Republic’s 10 Things Blog, AVG is probably the most popular, free, anti-virus protection software on the market. I personally use AVG’s free edition and can attest that one reason for its popularity may be the fact that it actually works. AVG provides the user with a toolbar that provides more secure online searches, which I find useful if a bit obtrusive. As with any other anti-virus software, it is important to keep AVG updated because malware (viruses, trojans, worms, etc.) are evolving threats and not static opponents. Updating AVG can be done easily from its toolbar.
The other feature that I like about AVG is that it does not use up system resources to do its work, unlike other software on the market. For example, as I am writing this post, I have several other applications running on my system. AVG just started its daily scan of my system (which I pre-scheduled), and I notice no decrease in system performance.
2. Malwarebytes: Tech Republic recommends using Malwarebytes in conjunction with AVG to deal with malware that may have slipped past AVG and is already infecting your system.
UPDATE: After first posting this article, I gave Malwarebytes a try. So far, I am thrilled with the performance of this software. After a speedy download available here, I ran a “quick scan.” In just under 5 minutes, the software quickly scanned my system and sent me a report indicating that there was no malware detected in my system’s memory processes, memory modules, registry keys, registry values, registry data, folders, or files.
3. Spybot Search & Destroy: As with Malwarebytes, Tech Republic also recommends using Spybot in conjunction with AVG to seek out and destroy spyware. Unlike malware which is a program designed to maliciously attack another system’s, spyware is not inherently malicious. Instead, it tracks a user’s behavior to form a marketing profile of the user that can then be sold to a third-party. Though not malicious, such software still compromises security, privacy, and usually decrease system performance. I have personally used Spybot and have found it to be an excellent product.
4. Web Of Trust (WOT): WOT is a free ad-on service that provides a reputation score for a website that a user can view before clicking on the site’s link. The reputation score is shown in the form of a circle or ring that is shaded from green to red, green being trustworthy and red being untrustworthy. Should you miss the ring or forget to look, and you happen to click on a “red ring” site, WOT will throw a large pop up window in your face alerting you that you are about to enter a site with a poor reputation. WOT’s main drawback is that it does not work with all search engines, but it works with major ones like Google, Yahoo, and Wikipedia.
5. Secunia Personal Software Inspector: I am eager to give this software a try. Secunia claims to search the software loaded on your system and identify the software that is insecure and, thus, more likely to expose your system to risk.
6. Avast: In almost every reputable list of free anti-virus programs, you will find Avast, so I am mentioning it here as well. Prior to discovering AVG, I used Avast. It updated frequently, which I liked. Unfortunately, I found it to be far too intrusive in its operation. One feature of Avast is that it throws up a window as it scans, showing the locations that it is scanning. This information is generally useless to all but the most techy among us, and Avast throws the information up so quickly, it is incomprehensible. I am sure that this is a feature that I either inadvertently turned on by clicking a box, or failed to turn off by unclicking a box. Once this feature started, however, I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off – at least not easily.
I know of at least one other person, a fairly techy paralegal, who also had this same experience. Because of my strong dislike of any software application that highjacks a system or impedes its performance, especially security-related applications, I dumped Avast in favor of AVG.
As promised, here are links to source articles from CNet and Tech Republic with more free security resources to try. I am also including a link to the National Cyber Security Alliance, which holds itself out as the pre-eminent public private partnership, working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), corporate sponsors and partners, and nonprofit collaborators to promote cyber security awareness for home users, small and medium size businesses, and primary and secondary education. Their site contains many additional links to other subjects you may find interesting such as Internet fraud and the like. They also list resources for small businesses.