THE MAGAZINE

New in Plain Text

By Peter Piazza

Security professionals know perhaps better than anyone that there is no room for complacency when it comes to keeping safe. The trick to keeping people aware of how to remain secure comes from regularly reiterating the important messages of safety. A new book aimed at keeping home computer users safe from the many threats on the Internet is antivirus vendor Symantec’s way of hammering the “safe computing” message home once again.

The Symantec Guide to Home Internet Security, published by Addison-Wesley Professional, covers all the basics, from what firewalls are to how phishing works, all in language that is appropriate for even the most committed technophobe. The text doesn’t only focus on the theoretical; authors Andrew Conry-Murray, technology editor for IT Architect, and Vincent Weafer, senior director, Symantec Security Response, point to specific tools and technologies that can make the task of securing home computers easy.

A book on computer security published by an antivirus vendor certainly raises fears that it will simply be a tool to sell the company’s products, but the authors in this case do their best to remain scrupulously objective. While the authors do at points recommend products from the Symantec catalog, many other products are similarly described and endorsed, even when they directly compete with Symantec’s.

Many pages are devoted to explaining how to set up these programs to most effectively block attacks and counter risks. One section gives links to safe Web sites that offer free online port scans. This is particularly useful to those of us who have spent time installing and configuring firewalls but are not sure that everything has been properly set up.

Using the sites recommended in this book, I was able to scan my system to ensure that all my ports are in “stealth mode,” meaning they are invisible to malicious users who are conducting automated scans in search of vulnerable machines.

Many times, books written by computer professionals are dry and unreadable to nontechnical readers. That’s not the case here, however. The authors write in a clear, engaging, and at times humorous way.

The authors also do not present themselves as infallible gurus, nor do they talk down to the uninitiated. In fact, one of the writers even admits to having had a machine infected by a recent worm. He then describes the process of getting rid of the infection in great detail.

Given its tone and content, this book is an appropriate text for a novice or anyone who wants to brush up on the basics.

The book is available at online retailers such as Amazon.com for $13.59.

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