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6/10/2003
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You've Got Security

America Online will offer new security features to subscribers in version 9.0

With version AOL 9.0, expected this summer, America Online will offer increased security features for its broadband subscribers. The service provider has partnered with Internet security company McAfee Security to provide personal firewall and antivirus protection. The software will follow a security-awareness campaign which the company kicked off this week.

"This is good news. I've been waiting for Internet service providers to start offering this level of protection to their customers," says Eric Ogren, a senior analyst at the Yankee Group. Ogren predicts more service providers are likely to follow AOL and provide cheap, if not free, security capabilities for their broadband customers. "In five years or so, there won't be antivirus software to mess around with on the desktop," he says. "ISPs will scan and filter most of that out on their networks."

While America Online already scans for viruses within E-mails sent across its service, the company will offer a premium antivirus service, based on McAfee Security's antivirus software, that will help protect users from possible infection from peer-to-peer file sharing, downloading files from Web sites, infected CD-ROMs, and other potential points of virus entry. The additional antivirus security will cost users an extra $2.95 per month.

The personal firewall, dubbed AOL's McAfee Personal Firewall Express, is free, and will help keep unprotected systems safe from attacks. Just like business firewalls, which act as network barriers between the Internet and a company's private network, personal firewalls provide similar protection for home users and small businesses.

As part of its security boost, AOL also is enhancing its spam filtering and potential controls.

A good portion of The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace (available here http://www.whitehouse.gov/pcipb/) called for greater security for high-speed home users and small-business connections. Such unprotected systems provide a resource for hackers who infect those systems with so-called "zombies." Hackers can infect thousands of unprotected home-user connections with zombies, which can lay dormant until they are later activated to attack and potentially disable virtually any Internet-connected server or Web site in a distributed denial-of-service attack.

Last week, the National Cyber Security Alliance released a study with some not-so-surprising but nonetheless startling results. The study, available here as a PDF file, (http://www.staysafeonline.info/press/060403.pdf) shows that while the majority of broadband users thought they'd taken adequate security precautions, only 11% of the systems studied had actually done so. Other findings of the study revealed that 67% of users don't have properly configured personal firewalls and 62% don't update their antivirus software on a regular basis.

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