Tutorial For Configuring McAfee VirusScan Console

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The Main Security Center Console

McAfee Internet Security Suite
McAfee Internet Security Suite Main Console.

The main window of the McAfee Internet Security Suite 2005 (v 7.0) provides a good overview of the current state of your system's security.

On the left side are buttons to allow you to view, change and administer the various products that make up the Security Suite including the virus software, personal firewall, privacy protection and spam blocking services.

The central portion of this main console window provides a graphic representation of the state of your security. Green bars with text illustrate the level of protection. The middle section specifies whether or not the Windows Automatic Update function is enabled and the bottom displays the McAfee security products that are enabled.

If there are any current threats in the wild that are ranked as Medium or higher in terms of their criticality, a message is displayed on the right side of the console to alert you. You can ensure that your system has the most current virus definitions by clicking on the link under the alert that says Check for McAfee Updates or by clicking the Updates link at the top of the console.

To begin configuring the virus protection, click on virusscan on the left side of the console and then click Configure VirusScan Options.

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Configure ActiveShield

ActiveShield Configuration
ActiveShield Configuration Screen.

ActiveShield is the component of the McAfee Internet Security Suite antivirus which monitors incoming and outgoing traffic in real time to proactively detect and block threats.

This screen allows you to choose how ActiveShield starts and what types of traffic it will monitor.

The first checkbox lets you establish whether AcvtiveShield will automatically start when the computer is booted. It is possible to disable this option and only enable ActiveShield manually, but for true, consistent antivirus protection it is highly recommended that you leave this box checked.

The Scan e-mail and attachments option let's select whether you want the ActiveShield monitoring to scan inbound and / or outbound email messages and their associated file attachments. This option should also be left checked for most users.

The third option allows you to choose whether to have ActiveShield monitor instant messaging programs such as AOL Instant Messenger and scan any file attachments for viruses or other malware. Many users will want to leave this box checked as well, but those who do not use instant messaging can, of course, disable it.

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Configure Participation in McAfee Virus Map

McAfee Internet Security Suite Virus Map
McAfee Internet Security Suite Virus Map Configuration.

McAfee collects data from clients throughout the world in order to monitor and track infection rates.

The Virus Map Reporting tab allows you to choose whether or not you want to participate in this program. If you do, information will periodically be submitted to McAfee from your PC anonymously.

When you select the checkbox to participate in the McAfee Virus Map, you must also fill in information about your location- country, state and zip code- so that they know where the information is coming from.

Because the information is collected anonymously and no identifying information is traced back to you, there is no security reason to not participate in the program. But, some users may not want another process using up processing power or any additional load on the Internet connection.

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Configure Scheduled Scans

McAfee Internet Security Suite
McAfee Internet Security Suite Schedule Scan.

Having ActiveShield enabled will hopefully keep your system free from viruses, worms, and other malware. But, just in case something sneaks past before you have the update to detect it or gets in through some other means, you may want to scan your entire system periodically. If you have ActiveShield disabled then you should definitely be performing periodic system scans.

To schedule a virus scan of your system you have to first check the Scan My Computer at a scheduled time box. The section in the middle displays the current schedule and when the next system scan will be performed.

You can edit the scanning schedule by clicking on the Edit button. You can choose to schedule a scan Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Once, At System Startup, At Logon or When Idle.

Depending on the selection you choose, your options for the rest of the schedule will change. Daily will ask you how many days to wait between scans. Weekly allows you to choose which days of the week scans should be done. Monthly lets you choose what day of the month to initiate a scan and so on.

The Advanced options let you select an end date for the schedule and the Show multiple schedules checkbox lets you choose to create more than one periodic schedule.

I recommend setting up at least a weekly scan. If you leave your computer on overnight it is best to choose a time in the middle of the night when the scan won't affect your ability to use the computer.

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Advanced ActiveShield Options Configuration

McAfee ActiveShield
McAfee Advanced ActiveShield Options.

On the ActiveShield tab of the VirusScan Options screen, you can click on the Advanced button near the bottom of the screen to open a new console where you can configure the advanced options for ActiveShield.

Under Scan Options is a checkbox next to Scan for new unknown viruses. Leaving this box turns on heuristic detection. Heuristics use known traits from past viruses and worms to make educated guesses about potential new threats. This detection is not perfect, but it is generally wise to leave it enabled so that you might detect threats that McAfee has not yet created new virus definitions for or that your system may not yet be updated to detect.

At the bottom of the screen, you can select what types of files ActiveShield should scan. The majority of virus and worm threats in the past came through either executable program files or through documents containing macros. Scanning Program files and documents only will catch those threats.

But, malware authors have gotten much more clever and even file types that should not execute a program are no guarantee against becoming infected. It uses more processing power to scan All files, but I recommend that you leave the selection on All files for better protection.

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Configure E-Mail Scan Options Of ActiveShield

McAfee Internet Security Suite
McAfee Internet Security Suite Email Scan.

Clicking the E-Mail Scan tab of the ActiveShield advanced options will open a screen where you can specify what types of email communications to scan and what to do when a threat is detected.

The top checkbox allows you to choose whether or not to scan Inbound e-mail messages. Since e-mail is one of the primary means by which viruses and worms get into your system, it is important that you leave this checkbox checked.

Under that checkbox are two radio buttons which allow you to decide how to handle detected threats. There is an option that says Prompt me when an attachment needs to be cleaned, but that may simply result in a lot of prompts from your antivirus software that most people won't really know what to do with. I recommend you leave the top choice, ‚ÄčAutomatically clean infected attachments, selected.

At the bottom is a checkbox to choose whether or not to scan Outbound e-mail messages. If your computer never became infected then obviously you would not have any infected outbound communications. However, it is a good idea to leave this option checked so that you might be alerted if your system does become infected and starts sending infected email attachments out to others.

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Configure ScriptStopper Options Of ActiveShield

ScriptStopper Configuration Options
McAfee Internet Security Suite ScriptStopper.

Next you can click on the ScriptStopper tab at the top of the advanced ActiveShield options to configure whether or not to use the ScriptStopper functionality.

A script is a small program. Many different programs and applications may run scripts of some sort. Many worms also use scripting to infect machines and to propagate themselves as well.

This configuration screen only has one option. If you leave the Enable ScriptStopper checkbox checked, ActiveShield will monitor scripts running on your computer to detect worm-like activity.

Like all other aspects of monitoring live activity, it uses processing power to constantly monitor and analyze various activities on the computer, but in many cases, the tradeoff is worth it. I recommend leaving this option checked for most users.

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Configure WormStopper Options Of ActiveShield

WormStopper Configuration Options
McAfee Internet Security Suite WormStopper.

WormStopper, like ScriptStopper, is a function of ActiveShield which watches for signs of worm-like activity.

The first checkbox is to choose whether or not you want to Enable WormStopper. I recommend that most users leave this option enabled as well.

If you do leave the Enable WormStopper box checked, you can the configure the options underneath it as well to set the thresholds for determining what should be considered "worm-like" behavior.

The first checkbox lets you select Enable pattern matching. Leaving this enabled will allow the ActiveShield WormStopper function to analyze network and email communications for basic patterns that are suspicious or appear similar to the way worms act.

Many worms propagate via email. Sending an email to a large number of recipients, such as your entire address book, or sending separate emails to each address in your address book all at once are not things people normally do and may be signs of suspicious activity.

The next two checkboxes let you establish whether to look for these signs and just how many emails or recipients should be allowed before it is suspicious. You can enable or disable the ability to monitor for how many recipients receive a message, or set a threshold for how many emails in a specified time span would be worthy of an alert.

I recommend you leave these enabled and leave them on the defaults, but adjust the numbers if you find the need, like if emails you mean to send are being flagged by the WormStopper.

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Configure Automatic Updates

McAfee Internet Security Suite
McAfee Internet Security Suite Update Configuration.

One of the primary truths about the antivirus products in use today is that they are only as good as their last update. You can install antivirus software and configure it perfectly, but if a new virus comes out two days from now and you don't update your antivirus software, you may as well not have any installed.

It used to be enough to update your antivirus software once a month or so. Then it became once a week. Now sometimes it seems that daily, or even multiple times a day may be necessary depending on how busy the malware authors are.

To configure how and when McAfee Internet Security Suite 2005 gets updated, select the Updates link at the upper right of the main Security Center console and click the Configure button.

There are four options available:

  • Install the updates automatically and let me know when the product is updated
  • Download the updates automatically and notify me when they are ready to be installed
  • Notify me before downloading any updates
  • Disable automatic updating and let me manually check for updates

I highly recommend that you leave the first option selected. There have been rare occasions with rare situations where an antivirus update may cause conflicts with the system and create problems, but they are rare enough that most users, particularly home users, should just let the software update automatically so that the antivirus protection is maintained without any help from the user.

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Configure Advanced Alert Options

McAfee Internet Security Suite
McAfee Internet Security Suite Alert Options.

From the Automatic Updates Option screen in Step #9, you can click on the Advanced button, you can configure the Advanced Alert Options to specify whether or not to display alerts and how to do it.

The top box asks "What kind of Security Alerts would you like to see?" There are two options to choose from: Display all virus outbreaks and security alerts or Do not display any security alerts.

The bottom box asks "Would you like to hear a sound when an alert is displayed?". There are two checkboxes. You can enable or disable the ability to Play a sound when a security alert is displayed as well as to Play a sound when a product update alert is displayed.

Whether or not you want to be alerted about these different issues, or just let the software handle it silently without telling you is a matter of personal preference. You could leave the alerts enabled to get some idea of what they look like and how often they occur before deciding if you would rather not see them.