Symantec Offers Free Online Threat Meter
It is difficult enough for seasoned computer pros to keep on top of the alarming number of Internet threats plaguing PCs these days. Those new to the world of computing face a seemingly impossible task in trying to stay informed and keep their computers free of harmful and annoying intrusions.

But now computer users have a free tool to help keep them apprised of the latest threats from worms, hackers, and malicious software.

Symantec, a provider of computer security products, has launched Threat Meter, an online tool that promises to provide up-to-date information on the risk levels associated with e-mail, Web activities, instant messaging, and file-sharing.

Increased Insecurity

According to a recent survey conducted by the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, more computer users are becoming increasingly insecure about using the Internet. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed avoid making purchases on the Internet because they are afraid their financial information might be stolen.

"Consumers should feel confident about their security when they are online, whether they are communicating via e-mail, conducting financial transactions on the Internet, chatting over instant messaging, or sharing files," said Arthur Wong, vice president of Symantec Security Response and Managed Security Services.

He said the Threat Meter will offer users an essential, regularly updated resource they can check daily for the latest information about online threats.

"Just as prepared travelers check the weather forecast for their destination city, consumers who are online also should have a tool they can use to help them prepare for a safe and productive experience on the Internet," he said.

Metering Online Safety

The Threat Meter pulls from Symantec's global network that the company's Security Response team uses to track new Internet threats. This global team is staffed by intrusion experts, security engineers, virus hunters, threat analysts, and technical-support teams that work in tandem to provide security intelligence for businesses and consumers.

The Threat Meter rates the four main online activities -- e-mail, Web activities, instant messaging, and file-sharing -- as low, medium, or high risk. The meter, which is displayed as a multicolor chart, offers an at-a-glance update on the status of the four most common uses for computers in the home.

This week, for example, the Threat Meter showed e-mail threats to be at low risk and urged consumers to use basic caution in opening e-mail attachments. "Currently, no widespread outbreaks of malicious code are circulating via e-mail," the chart noted.

In addition, the Threat Meter is indicating this week that Web activities are at medium risk, which suggests that computer users should exercise extra caution. According to the Threat Meter, several recent vulnerabilities exist in Apple's Safari Web browser. Also, attackers currently are targeting weaknesses in Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser.

"Simply browsing to a malicious Web site could trigger a problem," warned the meter.