As more and more of our financial transactions move online, it’s critically important for you to secure your computer against intrusion. All it takes is a keylogger and all of your sensitive banking and credit information can be in the hands of some unscrupulous individuals (one of the reasons I never do anything sensitive on an unsecured computer, like at a hotel business center or the library).
The first line of defense is common sense. Don’t install anything that you don’t trust and don’t trust anything you’ve never heard of. Modern internet browsers are much savvier these days, always checking with you before installing anything, so be sure to think about it before mindlessly clicking “Yes” or “OK.” After your common sense, the next line of defense is an effective anti-virus and anti-spyware software package.
Best Free Anti Virus & Anti Spyware Software
The best things in life are free, right? According to Consumer Reports , “free programs … should adequately protect all but the most at-risk Internet users from malware—viruses, spyware, and other online threats.” They say that the pay software packages are usually more convenient and have extra features.
So which of the free packages are best? First, if you’re on a Windows machine, activate the firewall features included with Windows. Next, consider one of these anti-virus and anti-spyware applications.
- Avira AntiVir Personal 9  – Free and the highest ranked free anti-malware program by Consumer Reports. Here is a look at how their free/personal edition compares to other versions . One notable difference is that the free version won’t scan emails but should activate if you open an infected email.
- Microsoft Security Essentials  – Free for Windows PCs and offers real-time protection. It’s efficient, runs silently in the background, and has no advertisements.
- AVG – Antivirus Free Edition 9.0  – Free and much lauded anti-virus package, though recently other free scanners have started to outpace it in terms of features and efficiency.
- Avast! Free Antivirus  – Free, real-time, light on resources, and has boot-time scanning.
If you want to buy a package, the two highest rated packages on Consumer Reports are Symantec Norton Internet Security 2010  and BitDefender Internet Security 2010 . Those are the only two products ranked higher than Avira AntiVir Personal 9, paid or free, and I’ve used Norton with great success in the past.
One common strategy people use, and that I use, is to install multiple anti-virus software packages. Some packages have better detection rates and by using more than one, you reduce the risk that a particular virus is always in your anti-virus package’s blind spot. Don’t run multiple programs at the same time (including active protection), there will be conflicts, but run them one after another. Combine that with a firewall and you have what I consider to be a pretty good defense. You won’t be able to protect against everything but if your only concerns are 0-day issues, you’re in as best a shape as you can be.
Which package(s) do you use and what do you think of them? Is there one that I’ve overlooked?
(Photo: carbonnyc )