Viruses, spyware and other malware are almost always in the news. They can spread frightening fast, cause a huge amount of financial damage and compromise the privacy of the people affected. The war between virus makers and security experts goes on and on and each time one side makes progress the other seems to find a way to foil it. The USENET system is much different than the Internet in terms of viruses and other threats and, with proper attention paid to security, it’s much safer.
There’s a huge different between how you access information on the USENET and on the Internet. Internet pages are multimedia affairs. When you go to a website, a lot of different types of content can be loaded with or without your consent. For example, you might have to hit a play button to get a video on a web page to play but the annoying Flash advertisements that have popped up all over the web will play with or without your consent, depending upon your browser’s security settings.
On the Internet, your browser security settings, your antivirus software and your firewall all help to keep malicious software off of your computer. You might end up adding software such as script blockers to your browser, as well, to keep malicious software from being automatically downloaded to your machine. The USENET is much less complicated than this.
USENET is a text-based system. This means that there is no way to force something to load on your computer through a webpage on this system.
The Power of Text
When you open up a USENET article, you’re merely looking at what the person who posted it wrote in text form. You’re not looking at a webpage where the builder could put scripts or other types of technologies that can be used to force a download onto your machine. That being said, the poster could certainly attach a malicious file to a post as a binary, but it would be your choice as to whether or not you downloaded and opened it.
The text-based system also makes the performance on USENET services very fast. While the Internet has become more and more complex with time, USENET has stayed true to its roots. The system hasn’t moved over to including some of the most obnoxious Internet features, so there’s an aesthetic benefit in addition to the safety benefit provided by the USENET system.
USENET is powerful and flexible, but it’s also a bit more primitive than a lot of the net, which gives it a safety advantage compared to a lot of other services. If you’re interest in trying out the USENET, remember that the system does require a newsreader and that the articles that you download on it can have virus-ridden files attached to them. The best way to avoid this is to join newsgroups that are moderated and where the moderators will just delete the posts that pose a threat to their readership. USENET newsgroups tend to be very good in this regard.