May the force be with you

What is Core Force? Well, imagine you could have a team of security experts inspecting your computer on a regular basis, checking for holes, worms and other security threats. (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
'I am very aware of the widespread cynicism and total lack of confidence in government arising from bad faith, deceit and evil actions of recent administrations. Where official pronouncements are repeatedly made and not matched by action, government forfeits the confidence of the people and their trust." Substitute "Microsoft" for "government" in that speech by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria, and you get a picture of how many Windows users feel these days. While I wouldn't go so far as to call the company "evil" and "deceitful," I'm far more restrained than many experts who see security problems getting worse, not better, even though new, better and more powerful security tools are supposedly being developed all the time. There's no question that for many, Windows has forfeited users' confidence and trust. But, like modern government, Windows is not going anywhere. To expect masses of computer users to pick up and move en masse to other operating systems like Linux is unrealistic; Microsoft's domination of operating systems and Windows software is too entrenched, and most people have enough to do without reorienting their computing skills, too. Does that mean that Windows users will forever be subjected to endless barrages of viruses, "exploits" and Registry "holes?" Of course not, say Microsoft officials; the company works endless hours to figure out ways to ensure a safe computing experience for customers, and prudent use of Windows Update features, along with security tools like firewalls and anti-virus formulas, will take care of almost any problem likely to crop up. Microsoft issued a patch last Friday for the WMV exploit described in last week's column, several days earlier than anticipated. It was, company observers said, the fastest turnaround time in Microsoft history for a patch, with the solution released barely a week after the problem was discovered. But it did take a week for a solution to be found, said critics; and for a week users were vulnerable to what could have been a very nasty bug. Not that Microsoft is alone; once a project is done, programmers don't even want to think about it anymore because they've had enough of looking at code. So, when a program of any type is released, it's assumed that the application "works properly." It's only when it becomes obvious that there's a major problem that a program will be re-encoded. There has to be a better way; and the members of the Core Force community think they have found it. What is Core Force? Well, imagine you could have a team of security experts inspecting your computer on a regular basis, checking for holes, worms and other security threats. Let's face it; most of us are not technically oriented enough to be able to catch all the problems that can crop up with popular software like Internet Explorer or Outlook - and, like software companies who generally don't act, but react, we only react when we discover that there's a problem, often too late to head off the damage. Not with Core Force, though. The Core Force "community" is made up of security experts, many of them working at large anti-virus publishers and firewall manufacturers. These folks sit down with major software programs and analyze them from A to Z - and then develop a "security profile" for them. The profile, which contains "rules" for allowing access by the program to the Internet, as well as access by remote agents to the program itself (i.e. on-line updates for installed software), is designed to lock out suspicious activities, and requires that you provide permission before allowing covered actions to take place. Core Force is ostensibly a firewall, but it acts more like an interactive security program. Just like your anti-virus program will often ask you if you want to allow a file to be displayed or opened, Core Force will inspect on-line and local activity conducted by the programs it has profiles for, and request that you provide permission for that action. When you install Core Force, the program checks your installed program list and sets up profiles for the relevant applications. The rules for each application are pre-set - all you have to do is approve the actions Core Force suggests taking. Expect a lot of such suggestions when you first install the program, as the program needs to "learn" the way you work, the sites you visit, etc. The genius of Core Force as a defensive program is twofold; first, users who have no idea how to defend themselves against serious threats can have top rank, first class defenses on their computers simply by installing the program - the "heavy lifting" will be taken care of by people who know what they're doing. And Core Force itself is constantly being updated by the Community, based on real world experiences - including exposure to programs "in the wild." That's the whole point of developing Core Force in this manner, and the result is a far higher level of safety for users. It's not the easiest program to understand - there is a learning curve, but there is also excellent documentation on the Web site - but if you've had enough of "one step forward, two steps backward" computing, Core Force may be for you. Download Core Force for free from Requires Windows 2000 or XP.