The level of concern a person should have about security concerns when playing poker online, or using a
computer at all for that matter, have changed in the five years since this basic page was put on the Internet. There have been two key
changes. The first is bad. there are lots more viruses and rotten people out there wanting to either commit identity theft, or even
just be a nuisance. The second is much better. The average computer user is much more protected these days than a few years ago.
Antivirus programs are far more common. The Windows operating system comes with a basic firewall. Internet service providers (ISPs)
like Earthlink and AOL provide some spam protection for their customers.
Still, privacy in our homes is something we all cherish, but every time we turn on our computers we open doors (called "ports"
actually) to the world. We should neither be so paranoid as to never turn a computer on, nor so naive as to think we can always just
avoid prying eyes and malicious hackers. Every time we order a book or open email, or even just passively browse websites, the
possibility of unwelcome intrusions exists. Online poker players obviously have even greater reasons for concern than average web
surfers. Many potential dangers exist, but fortunately there are tools to help combat hackers, nosey programs, and other cyber threats
to our privacy. If you have not done so already, every online poker player should take a few minutes to get your computer into
fighting shape, adding both a firewall and spyware tools.
Windows - Mac
Anti-Virus and Firewalls
It is rare today for a computer to not have a working antivirus program, but if you don't have one, get one. The principal security
defense tool for home users are firewalls. Windows XP comes with a simple firewall installed, but I would recommend to anyone playing
online to get a more robust one, even just for peace of mind, if not practical benefits.
Zone Labs offers two products. ZoneAlarm is an excellent, free firewall
available for download. Every computer owner should at least adopt this level of protection. For about $40, you can get their complete
product: Zone Alarm Pro. Besides all the features of the free firewall, ZoneAlarm Pro offers Email Virus quarantine, password
protection and advanced firewall customization options, as well as ongoing product support from Zone Labs.
Symantec offers a variety of products: Norton Personal Firewall, Norton
Internet Security, and Norton Systemworks. Systemworks provides the best all-around protection from a variety of ailments as it
includes Norton AntiVirus, Norton Utilities (diagnostic tools to help your computer run efficiently) and more. Your firewall and
anti-virus software integrate into one package that includes an easy-to-use "Live Update" feature that keeps all your programs
up to date automatically or with one click. The firewall often can be found bundled with Systemworks, and is cheaper that way.
McAfee.com has a suite of products similar to Symantec, including a Personal
Firewall, anti-virus protection and a variety of computer diagnostic tools. McAfee additionally offers the ability to use their
services via online subscriptions rather than one-time purchases.
Spyware Removal and Security Utilities
Firewalls have been around long enough now that not only do clever, malicious operators design software to try to circumvent them, so
do legitimate companies. Steve Gibson defines Spyware as: "Any software which employs a user's Internet connection in the background
(the so-called backchannel) without their knowledge or explicit permission." Spyware steals information from your computer and sends
it back across the Internet. No hacker breaks into your computer; Spyware causes your computer to voluntarily send your information
out. Parasitic "scumware" programs like Gator are a somewhat different problem, but the basic idea is the same.
Ad-aware is a free spyware removal utility that scans your memory, registry
and hard drives for known spyware and gives you the option to safely remove it. For about $25, Ad-aware Plus includes Ad-aware, but
also continuously monitors your computer and warns you if any Spyware tries to install itself on your system. Ad-aware Pro actually
keeps spyware off your computer to start with, like an anti-virus program. A similar but robust program is
Spybot Search and Destroy (also free). I suggest all readers
download one or both. There almost certainly is some relatively benign Spyware on your computer (Doubleclick, Real Networks), but you may
be surprised by how much of it there is. Here is a
another page that walk you through getting rid of Gator.
Steve Gibson's Research Center has security utilities, spyware sniffers and free
diagnostic tools. His site is written in the English language so even the most techno-phobic person can understand what is going on.
The material on Gibson's site is too endless to list, but includes Shields Up!, a free test of your computer's security. You
can easily find out if your firewall is working properly, or if your doors are wide open. Some people consider Gibson an alarmist,
blowing some problems way out of proportion, but given the general paranoia level involved in online gaming, most people will likely
appreciate the approach of someone who is overly safe.
Malware Removal is an excellent site with advice and tools that help
people get control back over their computers after some form of malicious spyware or other malware infects it.
For money security, see the Neteller page.