Thursday 27 August 2009

Free Norton Antivirus, Internet Security and 360 download alternatives

Photo Credit: Sophos Germany via flickr.

Security measures every Windows user must take

Let's face it - viruses exist. Whether one chooses to accept this or not, malicious software can do a lot more damage that you can imagine. Your computer can be turned into a zombie to attack other computers (see botnet) and can be compromised so badly that a malevolent person can track every key stroke and every move that you make (yes, this includes all your e-banking passwords, credit card numbers and e-mail passwords). It's almost as though you are leaving a blank cheque in a public place, free for any person with a malicious intent to take advantage of.
Given this scenario, I'm sure you'll agree that virus protection is necessary. So spending a few dollars to protect your information should be justifiable. However, let’s say that you feel that you’re not such a heavy computer user, and would like to resort to using a free antivirus program. In that case I provide a few free alternatives to paying the yearly fees charged by most commercial security companies.

#1 – Common Sense Antivirus

Yes, that’s right. The number one antivirus that you can use to protect your computer is, well, yourself! Common sense is all it takes as the first line of defense. This means staying away from any questionable content, questionable websites, and suspicious e-mails.
  • Don’t download music - The number one source of viruses is – illegal downloads. The music that you can illegally download from Limewire and other such peer to peer services is free for a reason. That reason is hidden malicious content within the downloads. Similarly downloading copyrighted from sources such as bittorrent is also not advisable, for the same reason – trojans, spyware and other bad things are hiding inside the downloads. Downloading things like the latest Ubuntu distro is, in most cases, perfectly fine but if you’re thinking about downloading “Microsoft Office 2007”, think again.
  • Don’t visit “bad” websites - Visiting “questionable” (yes, you know what I’m talking about =) websites is also not recommended. These websites will often show you links to downloads that are hazardous to your computer’s health, and can cause a great deal of harm to you.
  • Don’t download .exe and other unknown attachments. Most e-mail providers now scan the files for malware, but sometimes the malware escapes the careful watch of the security guards. Even if you get an e-mail from a trusted friend or a relative that contains files like “Photos.exe” or “FreeStuff.doc” don’t open it immediately, ask for a confirmation first. Chances are your friend didn’t send it.
  • Don’t click on messenger spam links. If you get a message saying “Hey, click here, I found a picture of YOU!!!” don’t get lured in.

#2 – AVG / Avast / Avira Antiviruses

AVG Free / Avast Home Edition / Avira AntiVir Personal
After common sense, your second line of defense should be a fairly well known antivirus. Keep in mind though that by using a free antivirus, you’ll have to rely more on your common sense as the manufactures of free antivirus usually reserve the most latest updates on malware for only their “premium/paying” subscribers. So even though you have an antivirus scanner, searching for malware, it might not be able to prevent your computer from getting infected.

Furthermore, make sure to update your antivirus on a weekly basis, as most of these scanners will update more “passively” than their paid cousins. Sometimes, it might also be necessary for you to run a scan on a suspicious file by right clicking on it and choosing the scan function, as the heuristics in the free versions is not the best available, although it does suffice for simple things like the eicar test string. Remember though, choose one that you like, and only run one at a time. Each has their own features and minus points, but for the average home user, any one of them should be fine.

#3 – AntiMalware Downloads

Apart from anti-virus applications, you’ll also need some kind of spyware/malware/adware removing applications. Here are some of your best bets:

Malwarebytes Free

Malwarebytes is great to remove spyware from your system, but it doesn’t actively scan your computer. So, whenever you download something new, make sure you run a scan through the “right click” context menu. It’s great for removing trojans and spyware.

SuperAntiSpyware Free

Click here for more images!The free version again does the same things as Malwarebytes free. It’ll stop malware only if you scan your computer, but it won’t stop you from downloading anything bad to your computer. So download a copy and run it periodically, just incase your antivirus program didn’t do it’s duty (which happens quite a lot in the case of newly released malicious software).
Although you can use more than one malware remover, I’d recommend choosing the two above, and use them monthly or weekly. However, ensure that you update them every time before you run your scans.

#3.5 Use a Firewall

Yes, firewalls are annoying. That’s because it’s hard to predict the culprit from tons of legitimate looking internet traffic. Download a free firewall and turn it on. Enough said.

#4 – Update your computer

Turn on automatic updates and visit Windows/Microsoft Update (through the start menu) once in a while (if you’re using Windows XP that is, Vista gets all hardware updates from Windows Updates already) and make sure that all software is up-to-date on your computer. This will ensure that all security holes are patched up and software like Conficker can’t take advantage of unpatched “boo-boos”.
If you follow the advice above, I’m sure that your computing experience will become less painful. Plus, your wallet will thank you too!

Got a question, tip or comment? Send them to and we'll try to answer it in a blog post!

1 comment: