Security solutions on the cheap
By Jay Dougherty Jan 29, 2007, 11:18 GMT
Washington - Viruses, spyware, malware, spam - these computer-borne threats not only cost you time. They also cost you money.
Add up charge for multiple commercial software packages designed to deal with these malicious intruders, and you're talking serious money.
But you don't have to go broke to keep your PC - and your personal information - safe. There are some fine security solutions that are either free or cost next to nothing. Here's a rundown of some of the options.
What do you really want from your antivirus software? If the answer is something like 'virus protection and only virus protection,' you'll probably be quite happy with the free antivirus packages on the market today.
AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition (http://free.grisoft.com) is a case in point. Unlike its commercially-available older brother, AVG Pro, the free AVG gives you reliable antivirus protection without a lot of hassle. Regular updates are available, just as they are with the paid version, so your software won't become out-of-date over time.
avast! Home Edition (http://www.avast.com/eng/avast_4_home.html), while free, packs on some of the features that you'll have to shell out good money for in commercial packages. In addition to halting viruses, avast! includes a mailware stopper, a network shield to stop Web-borne worms, and help with scanning e-mail messages for potential threats.
AntiVir Personal Edition (http://www.free-av.com) boasts a user base of more than 15 million people and detects over 80 thousand viruses. The program even uses heuristic detection to detect previously unknown viruses. The program sits unobtrusively in your system tray, giving you a status of its activity.
Spyware is a bigger threat to many than viruses these days. Even worse is that no one anti-spyware tool - commercial or otherwise - does a thorough job of rooting out all infiltrations of spyware on your PC.
So it makes sense, with this category of software, to use more than program in defending yourself - all the more reason to turn to multiple free packages rather than many commercial ones.
Ad-Aware SE Personal edition (http://www.lavasoftusa.com) has been around for several years and continues to do a very good job at detecting and ridding your PC of spyware. The personal edition has most of the features that the fee-based pro edition does, except for the memory-resident Ad-Watch portion of the program, which monitors your PC constantly and alerts you as soon as spyware is detected.
Microsoft's Windows Defender appears automatically in Windows Vista, but for the rest of us, it's available as a free download (http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.ms px). The program's interface is typical Microsoft: easy to navigate and understand.
Spybot Search and Destroy (http://www.safer-networking.org) targets cookies, browser hijackers, keyloggers, Trojans, and other threats. The program also features immunisation options for the most popular Web browsers, and it can even help protect your privacy by removing any trace of which Web sites you've visited.
Many people already have and use a firewall and don't even know it. If you connect to the Internet through a broadband router, chances are good that there's a firewall built in. Such hardware- based firewalls do a good job of stopping outside intruders from gaining access to your PC.
But if you have spyware or a virus already on your computer that tries to send data out without your consent, a hardware-based firewall won't help. That's where software comes in.
Windows XP's built-in firewall doesn't deal with rogue outgoing connections, but other free solutions do. Sunbelt Kerio Personal Firewall (http://www.sunbelt-software.com/Kerio.cfm) works for 30 days in a full-featured mode that offers pop-up blocking, intrusion prevention, and other niceties, but the firewall protection continues even after the 30-day trial period expires.
ZoneAlarm (http://www.zonelabs.com) continues its reign as perhaps the most popular free firewall on the market. Now at version 7, this firewall does a good job of blocking suspicious incoming and outgoing Internet traffic, and you can even set it up to block all online activity while you're away from your computer.
--- Too good to be true?
It makes no sense to skimp on security when protecting your data and personal information is of vital importance. But plenty of users of commercial software have learned the hard way that paying good money for off-the-shelf software does not guarantee trouble-free or even reliable protection. At the very least, these free security packages demonstrate that it's worth evaluating the no-cost alternatives before laying out your money on high-priced alternatives.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur