Monday, September 27, 2010

Secure Your Windows PC for Free

There have been a lot of posts about security and securing your computer from attacks on the internet, but, people don’t seem to take them seriously. Recently, I let my ‘geeky’ friend borrow a USB flash drive and he returned the favor by giving back the drive with a lot of viruses and other dirty stuff. He seems to be blissfully unaware of the fact that his computer was infected. This and a couple of similar incidents have triggered the feeling in me to write this post which will contain some sure-fire ways to protect your computer against infections.
It is a myth among most of us that having updated anti-virus software alone will keep us secure. Anti-virus software protects most of the obvious strains of viruses which might try getting into your computer, but, when a lot of new threats are on the prowl every day you need something more.

In addition to up-to-date security software you should make sure that you have the latest version of all the software you regularly use (not just the browser). Software is updated not for the sake of it, but, to plug in some security holes it might have. Using update notification software such as CNET’s Techtracker or File Hippo’s Update checker will help you on this front. If you are using software that has not been updated for a long time by the publisher, it’s time to look out for an alternative (This is the reason why I ditched Google talk and started using Pidgin).

Security Add-ons/Extensions for your browser will go a long way in preventing infections on your PC, add-ons like Better Privacy, Bug me not for Firefox and SSL Enforcer for Chrome can prevent you from possible attacks. You should also consider WOT for both Firefox and Chrome.

Windows Updates are very crucial to a PC, but, a lot of users neglect this since they use pirated software. If at all there is a reason to buy Genuine Windows, it is for the timely updates Microsoft gives you. Make sure that you have set windows to automatically download and install updates for your computer.

A firewall is necessary for your computer to be safe during those ‘unsafe’ times, if you cannot afford one, make sure you turn on the built-in Windows firewall. If you really want additional software try the ZoneAlarm Free Firewall

If you don’t have a full-time security suite but, just free anti-virus software, you should seriously consider installing an anti-spyware program such as Malwarebytes or Ad-Aware.

UAC Prompts are probably the most annoying things you face, don’t forget to add a trusted program to the list to prevent the UAC from showing up for that particular program again, fewer prompts will make you respect the system and you will think before nodding to UAC again.

The user account which you regularly use on your computer also plays a role on how secure your computer can be. Using a fully-powered administrator account regularly is not advisable since viruses can make changes to the system without your knowledge, thanks to the administrative privilege. On the contrary, if you are using a normal user account, viruses/infected files won’t be able to mess up your computer since they will require administrator access to do them.

Below is a list of security software I would recommend. They are all free and effective.

  • Microsoft Security Essentials – I wasn’t a big fan of this program until I read this post and trust me, it will never let you down.
  • Avira AntiVir Personal – Just in case you are not able to install MS Security Essentials consider using Avira. It’s free and has a very good detection rate, AVG has lately been growing in size, but, Avira isn’t.

There’s a big joke in your computer called ‘Windows Defender’. I have never seen the program active, nor has it done anything to protect my computer, I would seriously recommend you turn it off and install one of the alternatives mentioned below.
  • Malwarebytes Anti-Malware – This program does a great job in protecting your computer, the pro version comes with website blocking which will prevent you from visiting phishing or fraud sites.
  • Ad-Aware Anti-Spyware – This is a worthy contender to be the best anti-spyware. It’s been around for a while and I believe it does enough to protect you. It also comes with Anti-Virus protection which is an added bonus.

The built-in Windows firewall will suffice for most of the home users but, if you are looking for even better outbound security, I would recommend using the ZoneAlarm Free Firewall.
Click here for a Ninite installer of my chosen picks.

Got anything to add to my post? Please leave a comment below.

 If you can spend a few bucks on security software, I would recommend Avira AntiVir's Paid version.

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