Securing your PC for FreePosted by Gary Keorkunian | Monday, February 1st, 2010
Posted in Free Software, Security | respond">No Comments »
As most Windows users know, security software is an essential part of their system. Without it, most computers don’t stand a chance when exposed to the threats the Internet has to offer.
Commercial security suites are good, but sometimes too good. To justify their continuing subscription fee, they bloat the software with new features in each release. Pretty soon, we feel like our computers exist just to run the security suites and were buying memory upgrades to handle the programs we want to run.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
When starting with a clean machine, most users only need a simple and reliable Anti-Virus tool with a light-weight active scanner and frequent automatic updates. My favorite is AVG Anti-Virus. It is the one I run myself and the one I recommend to all of my clients, friends and family. If you are using it in a commercial environment then Grisoft does require a subscription fee comparable to other commercial AV vendors.
Click here for more free Anti-Virus tools.
In addition to Anti-Virus, we all need protection from Spyware. You can find a number of excellent free packages in the Anti-Spyware page of the Free Software Catalog.
If you suspect that your machine is infected with spyware that your anti-virus is not detecting you should install and run one of these packages. Remember to run the product’s update function before scanning to ensure you detect the latest threats.
For those hard to reach places these next two tools are great. I wouldn’t recommend them for the novice users because the results of their scans can be hard to interpret. But, if you’re the neighborhood computer geek, these are a must have.
Once your machine is completely clean you shouldn’t need to consistently run spyware blockers. That is, unless you visit a variety of “unscrupulous” sites or you frequently download music, games and programs from file share networks. If these are your surfing and use habits you should probably run one of the active blockers, such as SpyCatcher Express.
Nowadays, most home based computers access the Internet through a router. That router provides basic firewall protection by using something called network address translation (NAT). NAT makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for hackers to gain control of your machine from outside of your network. This means that most home users do NOT require a software based firewall.
The additional advantage a software based firewall does provide over the NAT enabled router is the ability to detect when software on your computer tries to access the Internet. This can be useful in identifying and stopping spyware. Of course, if you keep your computer free of these threats it’s not totally necessary.
However, if you are not using a NAT enabled router, i.e. your computer is connected directly to your cable, DSL or dial-up modem, then you need to run a software based firewall.
If you are running Windows XP or later you already have a decent firewall built-in. Make sure it is running.
If you feel you want something a bit more robust, check out ZoneAlarm.
As you can see there is no excuse for not properly securing your PC. You can learn more about these packages here.