The Barnes & Noble Review
Once, Windows security was like the weather: everyone talked about it, but nobody did anything. Those days are gone. Driven by Bill Gates himself, new initiatives like Microsoft’s “Palladium” threaten to make your PC almost frighteningly secure. Meanwhile, Windows XP and Windows 2000, while imperfect, are far more secure than their predecessors. Most important, there’s now quite a bit you can do to tighten up the security of your own Windows-based systems.
If anything, the problem is too much information, scattered everywhere. Thankfully, Ed Bott and Carl Siechert have brought all the essential techniques, guidance, facts, and resources together in one book: Microsoft Windows Security Inside Out for Windows XP and Windows 2000.
Bott and Siechert coauthored the outstanding Microsoft Windows XP Inside Out, arguably the definitive XP guide for experienced computer users. This 800-page follow-up brings the same thoroughness and insight to Windows security. It’s a single source for information on everything from viruses to VPNs, firewalls to file encryption.
The authors begin by reviewing the seven most pervasive threats to your computer’s security, offering checklists for responding to them, and describing a high-level process for generally improving security on your PCs and network. If you’re in a high-traffic area, are you using a password-protected screen saver? (And is your PC locked to anything, or can someone simply walk off with it?)
Next, they focus on core Windows XP’s and Windows 2000’s features, including password-protected user accounts (more complex and subtle than you might imagine); logon and authentication services; and permissions (after all these years, it’s time to convert to NTFS).
Speaking of passwords, you’ve already been told to choose hard-to-guess passwords (and not sticky-tag them to your monitor), but are you choosing different passwords for each use? Wouldn’t want the scoundrel who steals your multiplayer game password to gain access to your bank account, would you? (Yes, managing multiple passwords is maddening, but the authors suggest software which makes it easier.)
This chapter ends with a detailed checklist of security tweaks for every Windows user, including some “advanced” options worth considering. (For instance, restricting executable file attachments in email. If you use Outlook 2002, you’ve got no choice. Surprisingly, however, Outlook Express's option for blocking dangerous attachments is switched off by default).
You’ll learn how to use Windows Update (and you’ll also learn where to find security fixes that haven’t or won’t show up in Windows Update, such as fixes to SQL Server and the Microsoft Data Engine). You’ll also discover tools like the Microsoft Network Security Hotfix Checker (Hfnetchk.exe), a speedy way to check all your computers for hotfixes and service packs.
There’s also extensive coverage of encryption, in all contexts: getting a personal certificate you can use to keep your email from being read or tampered with; plus a full chapter on encrypting files or entire folders.
Possibly you don’t want to broadcast unsecured data to your entire neighborhood. If you’ve got one of those cool new 802.11 wireless networks, you might be doing just that. Bott and Siechert walk you step-by-step through securing your wireless network against “war drivers” and whoever else is in the neighborhood.
As wireless networks prove, security and privacy issues overlap -- and this book offers extensive guidance on protecting your privacy. For instance, there’s a full chapter of strategies on reducing the spam filling your emailbox; and detailed coverage of clearing away the evidence of sites you’ve visited: “more difficult than it appears, because traces of your movements are scattered all over your hard drive...[and] even reformatting your hard disk might not be enough to eliminate all evidence...”
The accompanying CD-ROM contains the entire book in electronic format, as well as an up-to-date collection of scripts, security tools, and third-party utilities, many of which are covered in detail in the book. Use these tools, follow these directions, and sleep at night.
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.