Monday, August 11, 2008

Security Tips: Free Anti-virus and Other Security Software


I'm coming to realize that you don't need to purchase Norton or McAffe to have a safe computer. There are plenty of free programs that will do the job as long as those who use your PC are somewhat educated on how to not download malware.

Anti-Virus
I've used Avast! Antivirus for quite a while with absolutely no problems. It's definitely not as slick looking as the software you pay for, but I haven't got any malware (that I'm aware of). I've recently switched to Avira Antivir due to it's recent appraisal on cnet.com, and have been pleased with it as well.

Some of the basic tips to take into consideration to avoid malware is to not open up email from people you don't know, just delete it! If it does look like it's from someone you know be very careful when downloading attachments or clicking on links within the message. Be careful what websites you browse and stay away from peer to peer file-sharing applications (limewire, kazaa, bittorrent), unless you know what you're doing. Anything that you can circuitously get for free, when under normal circumstances you pay for it, is a potential risk.

Firewall
I generally use Window's firewall as well as make sure the firewall on my internet gateway is also properly configured. I've tried ZoneAlarm, and though it bugs the heck out of you for every little thing wanting to access the internet, at least nothing will access the internet without you giving it express permission. That's basically what a firewall does, it makes sure only certain types of applications can access your computer from the internet.

Spyware Remover
Trend Micro's HiJackThis! is a great program to analyze every little thing that is running on your computer. You can then send the log that it creates to a website like this for someone to analyze it and tell you which programs shouldn't be there. Spybot Search and Destroy is also supposed to be a good automated way of finding and getting rid of spyware.

Parental Control
I haven't had much use for parental control on my computer, but some people choose to use them just to keep junk from popping up. Cnet and other websites recommend K9 Web Protection.

Encryption
This another area I haven't looked into very much, but haven't had much need to yet. If you travel internationally a lot and ever have to give your laptop up for inspection, you better have all your personal files encrypted, or wipe your drive before you land. Check out TrueCrypt for this.

Backups
We're using Carbonite right now. Mozy was nice, but Carbonite puts marks on all your folders so that you always know which folders have been backed-up and which ones haven't been yet. They both have free trials, but it's worth it to pay the $50/year for unlimited space. We got a $10 discount off of retailmenot.com and that made it that much more worth it. Also check out a previous post I wrote if you want to learn a little bit more on backups.

Any security tools you've found useful?

1 comment:

markymark said...

I recommend DBAN for wiping your hard drive. I must if you are about to sell your computer.

I recommend AVG as a very good free anti-virus program.

Another great security program is Ad-aware for removing spyware and adware.

Another good tip for hard drive security is setting a hard drive password in your BIOS. Not all computers have this capability, but I know that all Dell laptops do. This encrypts the file allocation table and renders the hard drive useless without the password. Much easier and faster than encrypting your entire hard drive.