I try to keep my columns interesting and upbeat. But I knew this was coming. I could see it in the faces of my clients, because the situation is getting worse. Things were too good for too long - now here it comes: The Indignation Factor!
What is that? It's the look of righteous anger that I see on the face of many of my clients these days when I tell them that they have a massive infestation of malware or viruses on their PCs. "What? Why me? I paid good money for this PC! Why doesn't my ISP (Internet Service Provider) protect me? Who are these people doing this? They should be shot…" And on and on it goes. Then they often go into the fight or flight syndrome, choose "fight", and begin to lash out at me! "Shooting the messenger" is what we used to call it back at IBM.
So, here's the deal - what it's about and what to do.
It all started back in the early days of newspapers and radio. The publishers or broadcasters realized that they couldn't generate sufficient revenue from just the sale of the newspaper alone - in the case of early radio, there was no way to collect revenue from the listeners at all. Thus was born: The Advertisement.
You wouldn't think of seeing a newspaper these days without ads, and we have accepted commercials on radio and broadcast television as a matter of course. Only recently have cable TV or satellite radio bucked that trend, although they still have commercials on some stations.
Well, guess what? That now applies to your PC and it's no different. There are many companies in the US and world today that believe that they have the right to place advertising on your PC in an analogous manner to newspaper ads and radio/TV commercials. At first, though, it was just ad space on web pages, popups, and unsolicited email. But they went further - a lot further. It is now common to have programs resident in your PC that spy on you, which collect information about you that target directed ads at you, and sometimes even steal the ads of other vendors.
The problem is that most of this software is not well written. When you get too much of it, the malware programs can bog down your PC and interfere with each other. Your PC then grinds to a halt. Viruses, of course, can be much more destructive.
But that is not the real problem. The real problem is that there are PC users out there, especially the ones who use their PCs for business, who are totally ignorant of the problem. I am really struck when I see a small or medium sized business that absolutely requires PCs for daily running of its business that refuses to spend some of its revenue on securing that PC resource. I have had many clients tell me that they can't spend any more money on PCs, yet the PC is the lifeblood of their business. These people need to take a serious look at the business case and cash flow of their company - if you need PCs for your work, you had better be bringing in enough revenue to cover the expense. Here is what I recommend:
Number One: Hire a professional. I know that this sounds like a shameless plug for my services, but there are other consultants out there - hire anyone you wish - just get somebody. And listen to what they tell you!
Number Two: Realize that your company PCs should be for business use only. Do not let your employees (or yourself) browse the Internet without restriction.
Number Three: Keep your PC hardware and software up to date. No company should be using any older version of Windows than Windows XP. Make sure your PCs are fast enough to run the anti-virus and anti-malware programs efficiently.
Number Four: Install the properly monitor the anti-virus and anti-malware software.
Number Five: Take good backups and ensure that some media are taken off-site.
Number Six: Realize that PCs are going to cost your company time and money to properly maintain. If you can't afford to do it right, perhaps you shouldn't be in business.
I know this all sounds harsh, but a few weeks of ducking spears have left me a bit sensitive! So, take a good look at your PC installation, and please don't shoot the messenger!
(Bob Seidel is a local computer consultant in the Southport / Oak Island area. You can visit his website at www.bobseidel.com or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org).