Reader Feedback 09/27/2005

Let's start with a passionate response to last week's article "Jesus Saves, But Americans Don't" from Ron G.:

I think you're way off the mark regarding the US savings rate. Firstly, most people begin to seriously save in their 50's; the majority of savings are generated from this group. This group for the first time in recorded history will have an incredible transfer of wealth from their WWII generation parents... and for most it will be tax free! This generation also has 401Ks, two payments from Social Security because for the first time couples have now worked a lifetime and are eligible for social security payments that are material. They also have homes that have appreciated materially over their lifetimes. The way you and others are depicting Americans is that all of them are free-spending hedonistic, depraved individuals who are spending today, with no hope of getting out of debt in the future... you are absolutely wrong!!! Rather than looking at stats that only tell part of the picture, see how most Americans live and you will be surprised that they are positioned to deal with retirement... being from their savings or from other sources.

The world is not that dark when you travel throughout this great country and see that Americans do struggle and do worry about their future... but relative to other countries we're doing fine!!! In Europe the savings rate may be higher because they know that their socialist system will eventually collapse and they will truly need their savings to survive.

 

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Last week, we asked our readers for advice to protect yourself from Internet spies. Some of them offered concrete software solutions, a few of which you see below. Please note that we don't have the resources to test and evaluate the mentioned software, therefore we cannot guarantee its quality and/or efficiency and are not to be held liable for same.

Spyware (and viruses) seem to target Windows systems. My advice is to find a Linux enthusiast and make the move to a more secure operating system as I did 5 years ago. Security is just one advantage; cost, freedom from lock-in, plus the increasing availability of FOSS applications are other reasons to dump Windows.

(David N.)

 

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I've been in the computer field since early 1980 and my first computer. I've designed systems for myself, my own business and consulted and worked for Fortune 100 companies.

Since even before then, the operative key phrase in computer security is "defense in depth" and it compares well to portfolio diversification in the investing field. The only other key is that it has always been impossible to have 100% perfect computer security... or anything else for that matter. The current best answer can certainly involve only keeping very critical data on a computer that has no or minimal connection to any others and I do that, but its not practical for day-to-day work.

Effectively, it's just a matter of multiple layers of security. I do most of my work on a computer that has some critical and private data, and that computer has many "layers" of security. It's just too much of a pain to always be typing my address and most passwords, etc. into web forms. The layers currently include:

* A good Internet service provider that's not one of the big ones--they pay much better attention to what's really going on and the bad guys have a tougher time with their networks.

* A hardware router/firewall with something called "Statefull Packet Inspection", a really nerdy term that just means it stops more suspicious network communications than normal router/firewalls.

* An up-to-date software firewall that filters and protects both ways-- Microsoft's built-in, for example, does not prevent "nasties" from phoning home if one gets infected. I use Zonealarm.

* An up-to-date anti-virus package, not always from one of the well-recognized names. AVG and AntiVir are quite good products.

* An always resident anti-spyware solution. Microsoft's AntiSpyware or Counterspy are good selections.

* Other anti-spyware solutions to pick up the stuff that others miss--Spybot and AdAware are good examples. I run them every weekend to clean up minor stuff that the others miss.

* A current version of the operating system--whether its Windows, or a Mac on Linux. Mistakes get made in design and programming, and the newest versions almost always have the best security.

* I don't do silly stuff like opening email about free stuff I've won or how my eBay password is expiring and I need to do something now or else.

* I actually back up my data frequently too. If something ever does get in, I can just erase & restore. Yes, it took about $300 including software, and about 3 hours to set up and test... and it's just like the insurance I have on my car too. The car would be a whole lot easier to replace than my computer, especially without backups. The operative phrase here is: "Hard drives wear out and go bad--it's not 'if', it's 'when'".

* Last but not least, a really geeky piece of software called an IDS, which stands for an Intrusion Detection System. It's called PrevX, and is simply a "last resort" if everything else misses something trying to install itself without my permission.

With these and a few others things in place like increased browser security, I have never been infected in the last 25 years in any way other than the occasional innocuous tracking cookie that gets deleted during my normal weekly check. Yes, it does take time to keep them as well as my knowledge current, but it also takes time to get my car maintained--I rely on my computer more than my car, although they're both necessary.

Do note that every single one of the types of software I mentioned are available in free versions too. [...] P.S. I don't work for nor am paid by any of the companies I mentioned.

(Bart)

 

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I have been using a Mac since 1989 and I never experience the problems you and every other Microsoft OS experience. There might just be a message there if someone took the time to look and do some research. FYI, I don't have anything to do with Apple. I am just a very satisfied customer for about 16 years. I got several of my friends to switch over the years and they are so glad they did. They were just fed up with all the crashes, viruses, worms, thieves, etc. al. Now, that doesn't happen to them anymore.

I will say I am a little concerned since Apple went to OS X and they are utilizing a more common OS program. Only time will tell if it is as safe as everything up to and including OS 9.2.

(Scott H.)

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Posted 09-27-2005 2:20 PM by Doug Casey