Microsoft’s new free anti-virus

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is the brand’s new free anti-virus product. Trial version of the product has already been launched in US, Brazil, China and Israel. 2009 seems to be Microsoft’s year of relaunches with improvements. Bing was launched earlier as an effective search engine to answer Google’s mesmerising popularity after Microsoft’s previous version Live Search failed to create any ripples in the search engine market. Now its the turn of MSE which is being called an essential security solution. Windows Live One Care, the previous security package, failed to attract much fan following and accordingly met its end. But the real question is how essential is the MSE? Competing security application manufacturers have already suggested that the MSE is of course no match to their paid security packages. Some others are concerned that Microsoft’s global recognition and popularity with computer users may well end up making the users perceive the MSE as a total answer to cyber security worries. Read the BBC News Report .

What needs to be identified is that Microsoft’s free anti-virus is probably just a solution for those users who prefer not to spend any money on security thus exposing their computers to innumerable attacks. The free anti-virus perhaps will encourage a larger number of users to opt for MSE thereby reducing the risks compared to previously when the users had absolutely no security applications. Despite news and awareness about cyber crimes, hacking and intrusion attempts, it is alarming as to how many cyber users still venture out into the cyberspace without even installing a basic anti-virus package on their machines.

As far as MSE is concerned, the final verdict is yet to come in…

As far as cyber security is concerned, it is still preferable to opt for a complete updated security suite from one of the most reputed and recognised brands with a minimum of built in anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam modules.

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Governments must have Cyber Security Strategy

Cyber crimes including hacking and denial of service attacks, phishing, virus and worm influx are not only threats against individuals (i.e. consumers) but a number of these threats are increasingly being targeted at governments. With information being stored largely on online repositories, hackers (not just individuals but often large organized criminal groups) are aiming to infiltrate government websites and networks to steal or tamper with crucial data. And it is imperative that nations with major Internet population and broadband usage should look at a planned and effective strategy to counter the rising number of threats. Cyber warfare is becoming rather rampant and it is mandatory for nations to consider a cyber security strategy as an integral part of their arsenal to defend as well as respond to outside cyber threats. Specialised government funded cyber labs with state of the art technology to track, trace and crack resourced by talented individuals is now a major necessity.

The BBC News Reportstates that UK has already launched a cyber security strategy to counter such cyber attacks. The strategic units are aimed at ensuring that the government is better prepared to defend and combat such attacks.

Phishing and Hacking target Facebook

Social networking sites have played a significant role in the lives of many everyday Internet users by providing an enjoyable and interactive platform to keep in touch with friends, colleagues, family or share images and videos. And as every good thing on the Internet that gains any popularity it often also ends up getting the attention of the wrong kind.

For the avid fans of social networking sites like Facebook, there is bad news. 

News reports reveal that hackers have found some vulnerability in the message service and are targetting innocent Facebook subscribers with unsolicited messages. The phishing attacks are engineered carefully as unsuspecting users get strange messages from their own Facebook contacts.  The messages are mostly requesting innocent users to simply go to specific websites and unfortunately quite a number of the recipients have indeed ventured into typing these URLs in their web browsers. Some of these sites are designed to look like Facebook requesting login information and as soon as the user types in the confidential data, the information is captured by the phishing sites. Some other sites are simply downloading malware into the computers of surfers aiming to capture private and confidential data like passwords, credit card details etc. Most of these suspicious inbox messages are requesting users to go to strange URLs some ending with .be . A commonality of all these unauthorised messages is that they are being sent as bulk messages to many contacts of a target profile.

 

How to avoid these attacks? Well if you are a Facebook user, there is no way you can avoid getting these messages although you definitely have the choice of not falling for them. So if you receive a message from a known Contact requesting you to go to a particular website or URL without specifically explaining the reason, just be careful. A simple way to avoid falling for this bait is to message the Contact from whom you have allegedly received the message  and query as to whether and why the URL was sent in the first place. I am sure if your Contacts want to share a particular URL, they will most definitely tell you the reason in the message itself. So Facebook users, tread with caution!

Email Virus ratio highest in India

Email viruses are increasing alarmingly in India. According to Messagelabs Intelligence Reports, global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic seem to be getting less intense as compared to the statistics available since 2005.  The February 2009 global ratio indicates that 1 in 304.9 emails (0.33%) are spam mails which is roughly a decrease of 0.06% since January 2009 and if compared to the 2005 stats the situation seems much better as the global ratio then was at an alarming rate of 1 in 12.9 emails being spam mails. However the news is not all that good for Indian cyber users considering the results of the virus rate charts for worst affected geographical locations published by Messagelabs Report for February 2009. Virus activity in India reportedly has arisen by 0.16% amounting to 1 in 197.4 emails thus catapulting India to the No. 1 position for most virus activity in the world for the month of February 2009. The Report puts Germany, United Kingdom, Canada and Hong Kong behind India as the Top 5 Geographies for virus rates globally.

 

This is concerning news for online users in India where the country’s Internet population is growing at a rapid rate with broadband Internet reaching large populations and Internet Service Providers coming out with more economic and affordable tariffs. World statistics on Internet usage (Internetworldstats) for 2008 suggest that India is No. 4 among the Top 20 Countries for highest number of Internet users. China, USA and Japan occupy the first three positions respectively in the table.

 

With spammers and virus originators targeting the Indian cyberspace more than ever before it needs to be seen how the recent changes in the cyber laws of the country help fight this growing menace. The Information Technology Act amendments, although has supporters and detractors on equal measure, is yet to be notified and only time will tell whether the current Indian cyber laws help deter this alarming influx of spam and viruses into the country.

 

There is  no question however that Internet population in the country is only going to grow larger and hence awareness about cyber security, privacy and laws for Internet users need to be highly prioritised. With knowledge about cyber crime prevention and data protection made more readily available, cyber users in the country will probably get more equipped to counter modern abuses like phishing, spam, advance fee frauds, malware attacks and other cyber scams operating extensively on the web.