VirusesViruses take many forms and there are new variants coming into the wild all the time. Its important you are protected against them as they pose a serious threat to the security of your computer. If you think about what you use your computer for you will realise that if any hacker was able to access your private information they would be able at the very least to spam you and at worst to steal your identity and empty your bank accounts!
Though I am an Apple Mac fan I also use Windows computers too (and have been know to dabble with Linux at times too). Now I an not about to revive the old Mac v PC v Linux argument. Just to say that if you are using Windows (XP/Vista/7) then you need to have some security software installed on your computer. There are dozens of programs you can install and most are ones you need to pay for. Brands such as Kaspersky, AVG, McAfee and Norton will be familiar to most computer users. You can expect to pay anything between £15 and £35 for a package that includes anti-virus and anti-spyware protection. Now from my long experience I would suggest you avoid Norton and McAfee. Without going into the specific reasons I would recommend you avoid them for now. AVG is well known for its free version (more of that in a minute) and Kaspersky is a trusted brand that often has deals, such as being able to install on three computers in the same household.
Now, if you want to pay you will certainly get some extras that don't come in most free versions. Remember though that you usually have to pay each year for a renewal to your subscription, whereas free is always free! So, lets take a look at free software.
My usual habit when looking to install security software is to visit a site such as download.com and check out which software is rated the highest by the editorial staff and by users. You can check out reviews and see how many times each program has been downloaded. There are links to the 'vendors' site and you can search for software by various criteria such as 'Free' or 'Editor's rating'. Currently in the 'Free' section, AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition is the most highly rated by the Editors on the site (site is owned by CNET, a highly respected publishing company). It has been downloaded almost 301, 000 times, has a 5 star rating (4 star by users) and was reviewed on 24th June 2010.
Avast Free Antivirus is No.2 and has been downloaded over 98,000 times. It has the same 5 star rating by the site's Editors and has 4.5 stars by users. However, you can't go wrong with either of these. Others to consider include ThreatFire AntiVirus Free Edition, AntiVirus Defender and Avira AntiVir Personal.
SpywareLike viruses, spyware poses a serious threat and you need to take precautions. Some anti-virus software also protects against spyware, but even if yours does, there is nothing to stop you installing an additional program to protect against spyware. In fact I recommend it. Again, I recommend using www.download.com to search for the most suitable program. Here is what they are recommending at the moment:
No. 1: Trend Micro HiJack This - 5 stars rating by Editors; 4 stars by users; 10,487,120 downloads so far.
No. 2: IObit Security 360 - 5 stars rating by Editors; 4 stars by users; 3,215,248 downloads so far.
No. 3: WinPatrol - 5 stars rating by Editors; 4.5 stars by users; 1,493,973 downloads so far.
Remember that all these programs are free for personal use, are regularly updated and that they are amongst the best software you can install on your computer. Bear in mind that most free programs require you to manually check for updates on a regular basis t keep your software updated against the latest threats. I highly recommend you do this every day or at the minimum, once a week. New threats come out all the time and the next one may get past your security measures unless its up to date.
Remember too that you can't just rely on software to protect your computer. You need to be sensible in your approach to the internet. Here are some tips to minimise your risk:
- Make sure your Windows installation is up to date with the latest patches and security updates from Microsoft - have updates on automatic
- Use passwords to protect your logins to your computer and web sites you use regularly - ESPECIALLY your banking ones!
- NEVER use an unsecured wireless network (check out my other Guide on Wireless Networks)
- Never download illegal software or files - they are often used by hackers to infect your computer
- NEVER connect to the internet without having security software installed and switched on
- Always scan for threats at least once a week by running your security software to scan the whole computer
- Install plugins such as WOT on your browser to advise you of threats on compromised sites before you load the site. Firefox is best as it has the greatest range of plugins/extensions to make your browsing more secure.