Microsoft has been steadily pushing their new update to Windows XP (Service Pack 2). By itself, Service Pack 2 is an excellent update, providing superior Internet security, firewalls and integrated pop-up blocking. Some users, however, have experienced problems with it due to interactions with third party Internet security programs, which are now trying to do the same jobs as Windows XP Service Pack 2.
If you have Norton, McAfee or other software firewalls and pop-up blocking implemented, these should be turned off if you are using Service Pack 2. Double firewalls can cause a variety of problems and can even block Internet access altogether occasionally. It should also be noted that pop-up blocking may interfere with the normal operation of some web sites. Service Pack 2 allows selective pop-up blocking for just this reason.
Service Pack 2 does not provide Anti-Virus, Anti-Spam, Ad-ware or Spy-ware protection. These products still need to be added separately. Newer versions of Microsoft Outlook do have a junk-mail feature, which can be configured to supply a degree of Anti-Spam protection. I would expect this to be extended to Outlook Express at some point.
Service Pack 2 does limit infection rates by implementing firewalls and limiting pop-up ads for ad-ware products. Home computers operated by children are particularly vulnerable to ad-ware infestations. The companies that create ad-ware products still cannot currently be held liable for the grief they often cause because someone pressed the <OK> button to install the software. In the Internet software world by pressing <OK> or <I Agree> you release the software distributor from any liability due to adverse affects their product may cause to your computer. Children need to be educated to click the <X> to close pop-up windows to avoid problems.
As previously noted, Service Pack 2 is doing a better job protecting users from the host of Internet hazards that abound on-line. This protection is far from complete. At the very least, users should add up to date protection for Viruses, Ad-Ware & Spy-Ware Infections.
There are a large number of companies that provide this sort of protection. In the Anti-Virus world, Symantec (Norton) and McAfee are the largest. Some companies like AVG actually provide home users with a free on-line Anti-Virus. Most other companies provide free scanning of your computer to identify viruses but removal can be time consuming if you don’t have an anti-virus.
Most new computers only come with a 90-day free trial of an Anti-Virus. After this period you must purchase a license to remain protected for the next year. This must be renewed regularly to maintain protection levels. AVG’s free Anti-Virus available at www.grisoft.com will not expire for the time being and provides a lot better protection than an expired version of Norton or McAfee.
Keep in mind that your Anti-Virus must be configured to update itself regularly. On high-speed connections this is not a problem. If you are using a dial-up Internet connection, you must deliberately update your Anti-Virus or it will become useless.
In the field or Ad-Ware & Spy-Ware protection we recommend 2 products: Ad-Aware and Spybot 1.3. Spybot is free and is currently the highest rated product of it’s kind. It protects against malicious web sites and removes the highest percentage of Ad-Ware & Spy-Ware products. These products must be manually updated and your computer scanned to prevent and remove newer infestations but that seems the price we have to pay to keep our computers healthy in today’s Internet.