Let Your ISP Provide Your Security Suite
Nobody genuinely enjoys spending money on security software, but savvy computer users understand that it's a pill they have to swallow. What many people don't realize, though, is that they may already have access to such software--for free.
As Internet-based dangers have increased, large Internet service providers such as America Online, EarthLink, and PeoplePC have bolstered the security packages they offer to their customers. Often the packages are a combination of homegrown tools and off-the-shelf apps, some of which are included in the suites we tested for this story.
AOL's De Facto Suite
For example, AOL's Safety and Security Center bundles the company's own spam-protection, parental-control, pop-up-blocking, and antiphishing tools together with the firewall, antivirus, and antispyware components of McAfee's suite.
AOL's package, a 28MB download, consists of numerous different applications, but to users the bundle should appear as a single, seamless program, according to Andrew Weinstein, a company spokesperson. "We made the Internet easy; now we want to make security easy, too," he says.
One of the ways AOL tries to make life easier for its customers is by blocking many Internet threats at its servers, before they ever reach users' computers. Weinstein says that each day the company blocks about 8 million phishing attempts and nearly 1.5 million pieces of spam from reaching its customers.
EarthLink Fights Spyware
EarthLink took its efforts to create an all-in-one security package so seriously that it purchased the antispyware software company Aluria in 2005. Now EarthLink's Protection Control Center--a 16MB download free to dial-up and broadband customers and available to non-EarthLink customers for a $5 monthly fee--includes apps created by both companies, as well as antivirus and firewall features from partner Authentium.
One of the reasons EarthLink chose Aluria as a partner early on was that its technology is very adaptable, says Ben Kaplan, EarthLink's product manager of security applications. "We could apply their technologies to our own and control how it looks." The result is a simple, consolidated interface that EarthLink users understand, he says. The company estimates that about 1.4 million people currently use the software.
PeoplePC, an EarthLink subsidiary that provides budget dial-up Internet access, recently launched its own Aluria-based Internet Security Pack. The software is similar to the EarthLink suite but sports its own look. The company's Security Plus members can download the program for free, and standard members can purchase the product for $2 per month.
So why are ISPs going to all the trouble and expense of offering these comprehensive security services? It's simple--they want to keep their customers happy. As Kaplan puts it, "We're heavily invested in protecting our consumers and bringing great value to their staying with EarthLink."