PS Consultants - ideas & solutions
Personal firewalls

One of the first things learned from the early cable modem world was that the security in the system was non-existent. It is tantamount to connecting your PC into a LAN hub, and that means that in the world of IP, an 8 year old down the street on the same LAN segment can read your email. The Powers That Be actually like this state of affairs, since it makes it dead easy for Big Brother to spy on what’s going on, because if you give the public any freedom to communicate, they will use it. And some messages may say some less than complimentary things about the government in power. Why don’t either Hotmail or Yahoo use SSL for web-based message transactions, I wonder..?

In fact, catch one Al Qaeda terrorist sending his mum an email message asking her to send him a new pair of socks for Ramadan, and that’s all the justification the security forces will need to propose that every packet of IP that traverses the UK can be opened and examined for any evidence of miscreance.

The best one can do is use a personal firewall package on any PC attached to a cable or direct DSL connection, and being a fan of the Mijenix/OnTrack utility suites of long standing, I gave their latest “all in one” suite a go. It is one behemoth of an install, and clearly gets right deep down inside the system with its various tools and virus checkers, and the personal firewall analysis telling me what was going in and out of the network connection soon had me downloading a spyware remover. (Resist installing Gator, you lot).

SystemSuite 4.0 includes the NetDefense firewall, which does a thorough job of inspection, and as usual, the most unnerving news from the firewall is what is leaving your PC, not necessarily what is being probed. Much the same point is made about security risks in any organisation - when it comes to spilling the corporate beans, Doris in accounts can make the blackest of hats seem like an amateur.

At home, I’m more concerned about what Mr Gates and his software can do to my data than what someone with nothing better to do than probe me for open mail gateways - so the rest of the software suite is designed to prevent (actually, let’s be honest – delay the inevitable and recover the remnants).

Overall, System Suite is the kitchen sink of PC utilities, including the wonderful PowerDesk explorer and is a bargain at  $54 for the downloaded edition. One of the many handy tools is the intriguingly named “size manager” which displays and analyses exactly where that 100Gbyte disk went. How on earth can I have 16Gbyte tied up archiving broken Outlook files..?

SystemSuite is not for the unwary, especially when going into some of the recovery/repair areas, and there will inevitably some areas where a few surprises may be in store, but overall it is well worth the price of admission – read more at