Track Your PC Protection with Ease

By Adam Stone | Posted August 29, 2006

Active Security Monitor (ASM), afree security diagnostic tool from AOL, monitors your home network to ensure all the right security functions are in place.

ASM won't actually protect you from anything, but it will help manage your existing protections, and that can be an important thing. From "not enough" security, many people have gone to the opposite extreme of "too much" — or at least too much to keep track of. With so many firewalls, intrusion detectors, anti-spyware tools and anti-virus apps, it can become difficult to keep track of the full scope of one's security situation.

ASM simplifies the management of such tools. It continuously monitors your PC and delivers a consolidated overview, reporting on such common applications as a current anti-virus scanner, a firewall, spyware protection, wireless security, and various Windows and Internet Explorer security settings. Perhaps best of all, you don't need an AOL membership to use it.

ASM will not tell you whether your security apps are working, or how well, but it will tell you whether you have all the appropriate apps in place.

Having reviewed your configurations, the application reports back with an overall security rating of zero to 100, much like a credit score, and offers specific suggestions on how to improve your score. (Step-by-step instructions for plugging security holes usually can be found by clicking the "Improve Score" tab.)

The path toward improvement typically includes recommendations for products, services and articles that might help you resolve any security vulnerability. While this may sound like a forum for hawking corporate wares, in fact these tips and explanations are almost always straightforward and helpful.

Another handy feature helps you gain a long-term perspective. Presented in graph form, this feature displays a computer's relative score over a period of time, thus helping you track how well security is being maintained on that machine.

People may have certain expectations about AOL products: super-easy to use with an intuitive interface. One of the pleasures of this application is the ease with which one can view and navigate the relevant information.

But what about the frequent expectation that AOL products will be bulky, slow, and a little on the weak side when it comes to actual features? Here ASM far exceeds expectations, with a quick and simple download and installation to go along with product functionality that delivers just as promised. The diagnostic features are right on the money.

The Growing Need for PC Security Management

Some people have complained that Active Security Monitor identifies problems that aren't there, overlooking existing protections or diagnosing false problems. These problems appear to be scarce and in any case the complaints seem to point to a program that is at times a little overly cautious. We'd rather have a false positive than miss a genuine problem.

In releasing ASM, AOL has made a strong case for such a program. The company conducted a study with the National Cyber Security Alliance and found that 81 percent of home PCs lack at least one of three critical protections: updated computer virus software, spyware protection and a secure firewall.

More than half of survey participants either had no anti-virus protection or had not updated the software within the last week, while 44 percent did not have a properly configured firewall and 38 percent lacked any form of spyware protection.

But you're protected, right?

Well, how would you know, really? Perhaps you installed a bunch of software a while back and it was the right stuff at the time. Antivirus, anti-spyware, firewall, etc. — how can it be that things have gone wrong since then?

It could be that these protections have gone stale. Maybe you missed some essential updates. It could be that some applications were not configured properly to begin with, or that they're no longer doing what you thought they would.

Chances are a technically experienced person won't struggle with these issues, but for an average folks, the eclectic mix of current protections can present challenges.

To stay on the safe side ASM offers a tool that is free, quick, and easy-to-use — which is just the way we like our apps.

Pros: A fast and free way to ensure security applications are up and running and functioning as expected, freeware tool with no AOL membership required

Cons: Prone to occasional false positives, doesn't actually provide any form of security protection for your PC

Adapted from winplanet.com.

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