YOGGIE AND MORE

We dive once more into the murky waters of virus protection. Most security programs are very intrusive. They put such effort into checking everything goingYoggie in and out of your computer that they slow the machine down by 30 percent or more.But we found something you’ll hardly know is there. It’s the “Yoggie Gatekeeper Pico,” a small device with the promise of never having to think about virus protection again.

It’s a black and silver gizmo about half the size of a package of chewing gum and it plugs into any USB port on a PC. What it does is intercept anything that attempts to load itself into your PC’s memory or hard drive and it does this on the fly, as they say. One user commented that the Yoggie Gatekeeper saved him from the “Norton slow death,” a reference to Symantec’s best-selling “Norton Internet Security” program.  (Bob refuses to load anything from Symantec.)

The little Gatekeeper is pitched by the manufacturer as a computer in its own right, because it has a central processor using the Linux operating system. That’s overkill from the marketing department, because, sure enough, it does have a CPU running Linux, but that doesn’t make it a computer as most people would think of one.

What it does have that matters to us, the users, is 12 on-board security programs, including anti-spyware,  anti-spam, anti-phishing and a parental control program. The idea is to have all these programs on an outside device, so it doesn’t slow your computer. Eleven of the programs only analyze Internet traffic, however, so if you plug in an external drive you need to run the included Kapersky Anti-Virus software.

The Gatekeeper Pico also has a hardware firewall that’s more effective than the Windows software version. Various kinds of attacks, such as “IP spoofing” or “denial of service” can bypass the Windows firewall.

You can call the Gatekeeper’s controls up on your screen and click to go to the Yoggie web site. There you can get a reading of what’s been going on with your own machine. Three gauges show you how many attacks and what kind that the device had to fend off in the last 15 minutes.

When we first installed the device it showed we were in the red zone, with lots of attacks. As we write this column we are now in the “green zone,” with only 1,836 firewall attacks in the last 15 minutes. (You think this is a lot? We talked to someone who runs a financial services web site and he said he gets about 30,000 attacks every 5 minutes.) We also had two virus attacks but they were fended off with a flick of  the wrist.

Now for the downside:  If you keep the Yoggie Gatekeeper plugged into a USB port and you never turn off your computer, which is common with many users, the gizmo will get almost too hot to touch after just a few days. That’s because it has a CPU chip, and they give off heat; the case has no air flow for cooling.

Yoggie has three price levels for their protective devices. The Gatekeeper Pico, which is what we used, lists for $149; though we found it for $95 at Amazon. The Yoggie Firestick, which just provides a firewall, was $87 at Amazon. A business version, the Gatekeeper SOHO, protecting several computers at once, lists for $249. Lots more info at Yoggie.com.

NEXT: We also tried Trend Micro’s new “Internet Security 2008” software. The less said about this, the better, but we’ll spare a few words anyway.

The program sells for $50 and you have to renew it every year for another $50.We loaded it into three computers and it brought all of them to their figurative knees. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could be loaded onto the machine or into memory without an exhaustive examination of its entrails. This included a poker game we like to play once in a while, instead of solitaire. Calling it up on the screen demanded an immediate virus check from Trend Micro. Calling it up again triggered another exhaustive virus check, even though it has just been checked less a minute ago and nothing had changed.

This sort of thing can carry on much longer than we can. We tried it on a Windows Vista computer, which slowed it so much that after half an hour we just gave up and shut down. We recommend this product  for people who really don’t like using their computer.

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