Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tech Tuesday Tip

I don't believe in paying for things that you can get free & legal.

I also don't believe you should leave your computer unprotected from online viruses that can ruin your day and cripple your system.

I get regular emails from Bob Rankin. You can get them too by going here.

Here's some of his advice:

Protect Your Computer With Free Anti-Virus Software

free antivirus software Your computer is running slow... your high-speed internet connection feels like dial up, and popups are everywhere. What's wrong? It could be a computer virus, or perhaps a bunch of viruses, infecting your hard drive. Viruses not only take up valuable memory and slow down your computer, they can also expose your personal information to Evil Hackers.

The good news is, there are plenty of anti-virus programs that can clean up the mess and keep you safe going forward. Some of them are even free!

Here's a rundown of the most popular free anti-virus packages. I'll also share my take on on free versus paid anti-virus software. Find out which option is right for you.

Free Anti-Virus Programs

  • AVG - is one of the most often recommend freeware anti-virus packages. While Grisoft offers a paid version, there is a freeware version of the virus protection on the website. It only offers anti-virus and anti-spyware protection (no anti-spam, anti-rootkit or firewall) but provides very effective protection from the most common threats. The Pro version has Web Shield to screen your downloads, rootkit protection, and free support.
  • Avast! - another freebie anti-virus program with basic features, and ease of use. It is updated regularly, also highly recommended.
    The Free Home Edition includes anti-spyware and anti-rootkit detection.
  • BitDefender - is another highly rated freeware anti-virus tool. Like the others, it offers just basic anti-virus protection, and I recommended that you add anti-spyware protection as well.
  • Avira Anti-Vir - claims over 30 million users worldwide, and the free Personal Edition gets good reviews. There is a paid version with anti-spyware and firewall protection as well.
  • ClamWin AntiVirus - is a free open source antivirus program, which means it comes with the programming source code. ClamWin has a high detection rate for viruses and spyware, but does not include a real-time scanner. This means you have to rely on scheduled or manual scans to detect viruses. Normally I view open source software as a Good Thing, but in the case of security software, I wonder if it might help the Bad Guys exploit the defenses. Using it in conjunction with another anti-virus program might be a good strategy.
  • AOL Internet Security - gives you a comprehensive and free set of Internet safety tools, including anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall to help keep hackers out. Under the covers, this package is McAfee's VirusScan Plus, which is rated high technically, but gets so-so reviews because it tends to use a lot of system resources.
  • CA Antivirus from Computer Associates (formerly called EZ Anti-Virus) is my personal favorite amongst the freebies antivirus tools. RoadRunner makes this available for free to their customers, but anyone can get a 3-month free trial. I've used this program for several years, and have been very happy with the protection it provides when scanning both emails and downloaded files.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials is a new free security tool from Microsoft, released in October 2009. It's meant to provide protection not just from viruses, but also spyware, rootkits, and trojans as well.

Sure, there are other free anti-virus programs I could have listed, but these are the most popular and provide the best protection, according to my research. And since I noted that most of the programs above do not include spyware protection, let me mention that I recommend the free Windows Defender from Microsoft. Windows Defender protects you from spyware, pop-ups, other security threats. It features real-time protection, so it can warn you if something you're downloading is spyware, and also automatically updates itself with new spyware definitions.

Note that if you're using the new Microsoft Security Essentials, you don't also need Windows Defender, because MSE includes that functionality. But if you have any other antivirus tool, I still recommend that you add spyware protection, and Defender is a good choice.

Some people swear by Spybot Search & Destroy or Lavasoft's AdAware. These are very good free anti-spyware programs as well. But in all the years I've been using Windows Defender, I've tried these other two a few times, and they've never found anything that Defender failed to catch. I'm no Microsoft fan-boy, but I'm sticking with my recommendation that Windows Defender is still the best.

What You Should Know About Anti-Virus Software

Look for virus protection that comes with frequent, automatic updates and covers all viruses, not just the major threats. If you aren't getting regular updates, at least once every two weeks, you should consider another program. New viruses are created every day, so you need constant, up-to-date protection.

You should also not rely on a single anti-malware program if you are going to rely on the freeware solutions. Standalone anti-virus programs are not a replacement for a firewall or anti-spyware protection. You need all three, and my recommendation is that you use a separate program for each task. I strongly recommend that you also read these two articles to understand more about malware protection and firewalls. The first will tell you my recommendations for the FOUR free programs you need to stay safe online, and the second will demystify the subject of firewalls.

I do have one caution about using anti-virus and anti-virus packages. Some people assume that because the software is free, then more is better. I've gotten reports from people who are using TEN or TWELVE "anti" programs at the same time. The truth is that anti-virus programs like to be left alone, or they can end up in a "death spiral", each thinking that the other is trying to do something bad. Multiple anti-virus programs can interfere with each other, causing system slowdowns or lockups. And running multiple anti-spyware tools at once can have the same result. That's why I recommend that you pick ONE of each.

Paid Versus Free Anti-Virus

Do you really need paid anti-virus software? That depends on you. If you or others in your household are prone to visit the dark corners of the Internet (peer-to-peer music/movie downloads, adult sites or warez), or if you have children that will click and download almost ANYTHING, then you will probably want the best protection possible. Generally, the commercial anti-virus packages with monthly subscriptions offer very high levels of protection, fast updates when new viruses are found, and good customer support. You should also consider a paid anti-virus package if you run a business, or if you have sensitive information on your computer. It's a small price to pay to ensure that your data is secure. Here are some highly rated commercial anti-virus packages:

All of these are rated "Advanced" in the latest AV Comparatives report, which is an independent, unbiased testing group. You might also want to read some anti-virus software reviews from PC World. Oh, and if you're wondering why I listed Norton last in that bunch, then good for you. I've had bad experiences with Norton software myself, and have gotten many first-hand reports from others who've had trouble with it. I'm sure it's a good product, but perhaps it just tries too hard. Norton security products are bloated with so many features and options that they really slow some systems down. And they put their dirty little hooks so far into your system that if you ever want to uninstall it, good luck. If you're happy with your Norton security product

, then I'm happy for you. But I won't touch or recommend them.

In summary, don't take your Internet security lightly. You really DO need good anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection. Oh, and there are two other programs I recommend for your anti-malware arsenal. Be sure to read Free Internet Protection Software to see what they are...

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