Tech Q&A: Choosing home network security software

Question: Comcast has been providing its Xfinity internet customers with the Norton Security Online program for free. But it will drop Norton at the end of December and replace it with Comcast’s own xFi Advanced Security. Will I need to add other protection for my computer? What’s available? — S.B., Hudson, Wis.

Answer: The xFi Advanced Security software is a firewall program that Comcast said will protect all the devices on your home network rather than just computers or cellphones. While that sounds good, here are some things you should think about:

Comcast’s xFi Advanced Security is aimed at people who have lots of home network devices, including gadgets that are sometimes poorly protected, such as Wi-Fi enabled security cameras and smart thermostats. If you don’t have such devices in your home, xFi might not offer you any additional benefit.The xFi Advanced Security program doesn’t offer the range of protection that Norton Security Online did. While Norton is both an antivirus program and a firewall, Comcast recommends using a non-Comcast antivirus program along with its xFi firewall. (For a list of free and for-pay antivirus programs, see tinyurl.com/wlsskg5 ).

Be careful about choosing an antivirus program. If you plan to use both xFi Advanced Security and an antivirus program, be sure to choose antivirus software that does not include a firewall (running two firewalls at the same time can cause problems.)

If you decide to avoid xFi Advanced Security entirely, you can choose either a combination antivirus-firewall program, or download separate antivirus and firewall programs. (For free firewall programs, see tinyurl.com/yyxfvq2t ).

You’ll need to manage your xFi firewall and antivirus program separately, which might be more complex than you like. While Norton Security Online was downloaded to your computer and phones and managed from there, xFi Advanced Security resides on a Comcast server and can be turned on or off (but not modified to tighten or loosen security) via a Comcast app or web page. Whatever antivirus program you use will be managed on your computer.

Question: I have an iPhone X model that is disabled because I entered the wrong password too many times. Apple says the only way to unlock my phone also would erase my data. I’d like to avoid that, because the phone contains photos and videos that I haven’t backed up. What can I do? — S.F., Albertville, Minn.

Answer: Apple designed the iPhone’s password to be the ultimate protection for the phone’s data. As a result, the only way to unlock an iPhone without a password is to perform a “factory reset,” which will erase the phone’s data.

However, there’s a small chance you can recover your photos and videos. When you set up your phone, you were asked if you wanted to use iCloud. If you said yes and chose iCloud Backup, then your data has been backed up ever since, up to the 5-gigabyte limit of your free iCloud storage space.

Because the data stored in iCloud isn’t affected by resetting a phone, you could copy it back to the phone when the reset is complete (see tinyurl.com/y68uttv3).

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