Security can be free
On your PC if not in international politics
By John ďjaQĒ Andrews† firstname.lastname@example.org
Every now and then I bust on anti-virus software.
Itís not that I donít think it works, but itís one of those cutting off your nose to spite your face things: you might be a little safer, but at the expense of decreased computer performance and monthly fees. Itís one thing if youíre responsible for a thousand users on a corporate network and want to make sure nothing potentially bad gets through; itís quite another if your home computer is frustrating you even though you sprang for the faster processor and extra RAM.
Most people really donít need anti-virus software running constantly on their computers. Those always-on applications, especially from market leaders Symantec and McAfee, tend to think far too highly of themselves and nose into all of your business. Theyíve evolved from simply checking for known viruses to interrogating every program that tries to run on your machine, blocking Internet access seemingly at random and generally telling you that your computer, to be safe, really shouldnít be running anything but anti-virus software.
This is, needless to say, bunk.
Like it or not, though, viruses and spyware are all but certain to wiggle their way onto any Windows computer at some point. Itís a good idea to scan your PC every now and then ó say, once a week ó for malicious files and clean them off. There are numerous tools out there thatíll do it for free, too.
ē Virus cleansing AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition can be downloaded from www.grisoft.com and has many of the features of the big guys, including automatic updates and scheduled scanning. You can run it in the background if you want, but as I said, regular scanning will take less of a toll on your PCís performance than constant monitoring. Avast! Home Edition (www.avast.com) offers a similar feature set.
You can also scan your PC directly from a Web site, HouseCall.TrendMicro.com. It canít clean everything, but will give you the name of any virus it canít remove so you can search the Internet for a removal tool.
ē Spyware exposing Thereís a bonanza of free software for spyware removal. Some of the most well-known include AdAware (www.lavasoft.de) and Spybot Search & Destroy (www.spybot.info). Grisoft also offers a downloadable program and Trend Micro has an online scanning tool. Only Spybot gives you real-time protection in its free version.
Microsoft recently released its own spyware detection tool called Windows Defender. It was in beta testing for a while as Windows Anti-Spyware, but has now graduated to a free download at www.microsoft.com. It runs in the background or scans when you tell it to.
ē Firewall building The very cheapest firewall for Windows XP users is built into Windows XP itself, accessed through Network Connections in the Control Panel, or through Windows Security Center if youíve installed Service Pack 2. It doesnít have advanced configuration options for control freaks, but itís perfectly adequate for most users.
Sorry, control freaks, I didnít mean to call you control freaks. To get your control freakiness on, try ZoneAlarm (www.ZoneAlarm.com) for a free option that you can upgrade with cash money to really freak out.
ē There can be only one Whatever security solution you choose in each category, run only one. Two firewalls will constantly interfere with each other and two anti-virus programs, well, ask your friendly pet store employee why you shouldnít have two bettas in a tank together. Thatíll give you the general idea.