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Windows XP can help you avoid online threats and stay productive

Nine-tenths of British businesses now send email, browse the web and have a website. The benefits are clear; but there is a downside. We’re much more likely to come across viruses, spyware, and other malicious or unwanted intrusions.

So what kind of threats do we face?


Spyware and adware

Misuse of systems by staff

Unauthorised access, fraud and data theft

Accidental data loss and downtime

These aren’t isolated incidents. The annual Information Security Breaches Survey (DTI/PriceWaterhouse Coopers, 2004) shows that a typical UK business suffers a security breach a month.

What Does it Cost?

The costs are significant, and aren’t always obvious. There are direct financial losses from theft or corruption of data. But you should also consider:

Lost revenue opportunities

The damage to customer goodwill and your reputation

The time spent recovering from a problem

Two of the most important assets of your business will always be data and time. Lose access to data and you’ve lost time: and that means money. What’s more, most UK businesses have a statutory obligation under the Data Protection Act to “safeguard your own or anyone else's data by appropriate precautions against loss, corruption or unauthorized disclosure".

The people responsible for these threats are some of the cleverest and most determined programmers in the world. As a result the situation continues to evolve, with new viruses and vulnerabilities being identified every week.

Avoid Paying the Price

Round the clock protection is required to prevent attack and provide a swift, safe response to disruption. But more than half of the UK’s businesses have no technical staff on site; they don’t have the knowledge or facilities to address what is a complex, changing area. That’s especially true of smaller businesses.

That was one of the key considerations in the design for Windows Service XP Pack 2, a major update that adds significant additional security features to your computer. These enhancements provide users with both a high degree of protection and high level of confidence.

Ease of access to that protection is critical – it’s all too easy to skip or simply forget essential security tasks when there are so many other pressures on your time. To make your working life that bit easier, Windows XP Service Pack 2 features a new Security Center in the Windows Control Panel.

This provides an at-a-glance summary of the current status of Windows XP security to help to keep your computer safe. It indicates whether you are adequately protected by a firewall, antivirus software, and the latest Windows and IE updates. A system of coloured lights gives instant feedback about your system’s status. If any of the security checks for antivirus, firewall, or critical Windows updates aren't being met satisfactorily, the Security Center will alert you via a taskbar message.

The Security Center doesn’t automatically assume that you are using the new Windows Firewall that is part of the SP2 update. You can choose to run your own firewall and turn off Windows Firewall at the Security Center. If you’re using a different firewall, the Security Center will still be able to confirm its status. The antivirus sensor is even more sophisticated. It is designed to check whether an antivirus program is installed, whether that program is running, and whether it is using an up-to-date set of virus definitions. It works with all the major third-party virus-checking utilities.

Automatic Updating is another timesaver. With new viruses and other security alerts arriving so frequently, it’s important to keep the built-in protection up-to-date. Automatic Updates is a facility installed as part of SP2; it that enables Windows to check routinely for the latest security fixes and then installs them automatically. You don’t have to search for them yourself, you don’t have to initiate their installation, and you don’t have to worry that some might be missing.

These two features provide simplified access to sophisticated methods of protecting your computer. The same is true of other security features in SP2. The Windows Firewall, for instance, is installed and switched on by default with a configuration that will suit most users. You can change those settings, and you can switch off the firewall completely; but you don’t have to do either.

Similarly, the default settings for the new protections built into Outlook Express and Internet Explorer have been carefully selected to fit the average computer user. Email attachments and images in HTML-formatted mail can be used to sneak a malicious mini-program on to your computer. They’re all prohibited by the SP2 update – but you can consider each case on its merits, accepting them if you’re sure they’re safe.

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