My Philosophy: Many people want to pick their most economical solution and prefer an all-in-one anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall solution. In concept, that’s a great idea. In actual practice, I’m not sure that this type of package will often be the best in all the protection categories you need.
My choice of software that I am willing to recommend is driven by my search for software for me to use. I only recommend programs that I like and that I use. I will sometimes suggest alternatives to my recommendations, but I clearly note if I no longer use them.
I’m often asked about several other popular anti-virus or anti-virus combination packages. Yes, I realize that they are not in my recommendation list. "Enough said…"
From 2003 through mid-2008, my personal choice was ESET’s small, fast NOD32 anti-virus program, which offers a FREE 30-day evaluation license. I still consider NOD32 to be one of the best in anti-virus protection — and it continues to get recognition and awards. Unlike some of its competitors, ESET offers multiple-year licenses also, and includes program updates in the multiple-year license.
Then, I changed from my long-time choices NOD32 (antivirus) and Sunbelt’s CounterSpy (antispyware) to Sunbelt’s VIPRE Antivirus + Antispyware.
I found that VIPRE puts even less load on my computer than the speedy combination of NOD32 and CounterSpy. I’ve also been impressed with the way its "deep scan" has found and eliminated risks that were stored in zip files, which is one of the latest malware email tricks. Sunbelt Software offers multi-year licenses and home site licenses on its software, both of which include program updates as well as signature updates.
Sunbelt Software, and now GFI, who bought Sunbelt Software, updated their product line to include not just the VIPRE Antivirus product, but also to roll in firewall and anti-spam functions into VIPRE AInternet Security (they dropped the "+ Antispyware" from the name, although the functions are there). GFI offers 30-day free trials of VIPRE Antivirus and VIPRE Internet Security.
My anti-virus and anti-spyware choice for my computers and those of my family’s computers is VIPRE Internet Security.
Many antivirus programs will offer you an anti-virus signature subscription renewal when your subscription renews. I strongly recommend against this option — buy the full program or make sure you get program updates with the subscription renewal. Both NOD32 and VIPRE purchases include both program updates/upgrades AND antivirus signature updates.
Vendors routinely improve the capabilities and speed of the programs, too. If you update only the signatures, you miss any program improvements.
- A Look at Sunbelt’s VIPRE Antivirus v4 and VIPRE Antivirus Premium
- A Look at ESET Smart Security 4
- Anti-Virus Programs and Online Scanners
- Free Online Antivirus Scan
- NOD32 Anti-Virus Review – A Look at NOD32
While the Windows XP firewall is much better than no firewall at all, but don’t count on the Windows XP firewall to meet your needs.
You need a two-way firewall, which the Windows XP firewall is not!. Microsoft woke up and supplied a two-way firewall with Windows Vista and later versions of Windows. However, Microsoft built in pre-authorization for many programs. Windows 7’s firewall is also two-way, and again has pre-cleared many programs to communicate outbound to the Internet — some to go where you want to go, and some to "call home."
The Windows XP firewall does not control outbound communications originating from your computer — and you should want to have control if adware/trojans/spyware or even commercial products want to talk to the Internet. Whether they are calling home or spewing spam, you want to be able to control your computer.
Do you want Windows Media Player to call home every time you play something? It does! Do you use the Search function in Windows Explorer to find things on your hard drive? Did you know that every time you search, Windows Explorer talks to Microsoft?
I didn’t know that when I ran ZoneAlarm, but the Sunbelt Personal Firewall flagged that to me, and I can stop it or allow it to happen. Many other programs try to call home when you run them, too.
Now, I’m using the firewall that’s part of GFI’s (who bought Sunbelt Software) VIPRE Internet Security package. The firewall is no longer available as a separate product. You can try VIPRE Internet Sedcurity for free.
At this time, the Sunbelt Personal Firewall works with Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista, in 32-bit versions only. I expect the new version of Sunbelt Personal Firewall to be available for 64-bit computers in April 2010, including Windows 7 support.
Sunbelt Personal Firewall is regularly $19.95 (with discounts for multiple computers and/or multiple years!) for a non-expiring license for the program and includes one year of their updates subscription. A unlimited Home Site License is $39.95 for a year.
Anti-Spyware / Anti-Adware Software
CounterSpy, from Sunbelt Software, has received many kudos from the computer press for its always-running and periodic full system scans. It has been my personal choice for my PC’s and my family’s PC’s.
Sunbelt’s CounterSpy v2.5, both improved CounterSpy’s performance against malware and reduced its impact on system resources and responsiveness when its scanning.
Sunbelt continues to release updated program versions — the current version is v3.1 — and there’s an even newer version about to be released. Nicely, Sunbelt do NOT install the updated programs automatically. You have to use the Update process in the program, which means that you’ll know that something significant has changed.
I changed from my long-time programs NOD32 (antivirus) and CounterSpy (antispyware) to Sunbelt’s VIPRE Antivirus + Antispyware.
I’ve found that VIPRE puts even less load on my computer than the speedy combination of NOD32 and CounterSpy. My computer seems to have much more pep and power than it had previously. I’ve also been impressed with the way its "deep scan" has found and eliminated risks that were stored in zip files, which is one of the latest malware email tricks.
- Fighting Against Spyware & Malware
- My CounterSpy Review
- My VIPRE Antivirus Premium and VIPRE Antivirus Review
In today’s Internet world, the question is not "if" you will get spam, but "how much will you get?"
I used to use and recommend */ ?>POPFile as my first choice for handling spam. POPFile sits on your computer, between your email program and your ISP mailbox, and handles emial as it downloads.
POPFile uses a different approach to handle spam than some other programs do — it does nothing to reduce spam. It is designed as an email classification tool — you train it to recognize spam and any other type of email that you want to classify. These classifications can help you sort your emails into appropriate folders in your email program.
Mailwasher Pro is my first choice to handle spam. It addresses spam before it ever gets into your computer’s Inbox. Mailwasher Pro uses on-line Realtime Black Lists mail servers sending spam recently, "training" by you of what you think is spam, and your own "friends" and "blacklist" lists. Note: I found that PopFile generally meets my needs and stopped using Mailwasher Pro, even though PopFile works AFTER the emails have been downloaded. If I used a dialup connection, I would be more interested in Mailwasher Pro.
Mailwasher Pro can even bounce spam messages, as if your email address was not valid, although the usefulness and appropriateness of this is questionable. There is a free version called "Mailwasher," but it omits the functions that I consider critical for this purpose — such as safely previewing the emails safely before they ever get to your email inbox.
I’ve written about WinPatrol a number of times and have used WinPatrol Plus for years. With free and paid options, I always put WinPatrol on my computers. WinPatrol monitors your computer for installation of auto-running programs, for changes to certain system settings, allows you to control auto-starting programs, to delay auto-starting programs, and many more functions.
I recommend the paid version WinPatrol Plus, which adds a few more functions and, more importantly, includes access to BillP’s database of program information. However, if you don’t get the paid version, be sure to get WinPatrol.
- WinPatrol Review | WinPatrol Plus Review
- A Look Inside WinPatrol and WinPatrol Plus
- WinPatrol – for System Control and Protection
- Controlling the Programs that Start Automatically
When we think of security software, we usually think of antivirus, firewall, antispyware and antispam software. But, what other kind of software is security software? Backup software, of course.
We need to make backup copies of our important data. That data may be financial, such as your checkbook in Quicken, or your spreadsheet tracking your investmants. Or, it may be personal, non-financial data such as digital family photos.
What if your hard drive won’t start one day? What will you lose? What if your computer is stolen (let’s ignore, for now, whether you should encrypt data on your hard drive to protect it from others — let’s just think about the inconvenience and loss to us!)?
There are two basic types of backups you should do.
You need to regularly back up your individual data files to another computer, to an external hard drive, or even to an online repository (but realize, if you have to rebuild the data on your computer, it may have to be downloaded for days and days). An external hard drive is the best choice if you don’t have a home network where you could copy to another computer.
If you have a home network, use Karen’s Replicator (free for personal, non-business use) to back up the files that change. I have it scheduled to copy my data files every evening from my notebook to another computer at my home. You should also get an external hard drive (or two, so you can alternate them) and make occasional backup copies to it. Preferably store it at a relative’s house or your safe deposit box.
If you don’t have a home network, get an external hard drive (or two, so you can alternate them) and make regularly scheduled backup copies to it. Use Karen’s Replicator (free for personal, non-business use) to back up the files that change to your external drive. Preferably, store one external drive at a relative’s house or your safe deposit box, so that if the worst happens, you haven’t lost irreplaceable photos and other information.
The other type of backup is an image backup. This gives the ultimate in quick restore capability. Just plug in the external drive, boot the cdrom, and restore the image back to your hard drive. I use Acronis True Image Home 2010 (they also have discounts for upgrades)to make backups across my network every three days. Once a month, I make a full backup image. Every three days, it makes an incremental backup — copying only those files that have changed.
Acronis True Image Home, as of version 2009, allows you to recover individual files and folders from the image files, so you don’t have to restore everything. The nice thing about making my backup across the network is that I can restore individual files across the network from those images. Sometimes that’s the easiest thing to do, especially when the brain takes a little nap… <grin>
Why use both Replicator and Acronis True Image Home, if we can restore individual files from both? Replicator will always have the latest version it backed up — but not any earlier ones, and it can be run daily or even hourly without taking up much more drive space (backups are replaced when changed, rather than storing additional copies). With Acronis True Image, we can have multiple versions of the files to choose among. We can restore one that’s months old, if we like, not just the latest version.
If you have a cable modem or a DSL modem, you need to have another layer of inexpensive protection between you and the Internet. A cable/DSL router isolates your computer from direct connection to the Internet. Your computer can easily request your email, web pages, etc. through the router. The responses come back to the router and are smoothly routed to your computer. But, someone on the Internet side of the router can not initiate a connection to your computer — they can only respond to your request.
Even if you only have one computer to connect to your cable or DSL modem, I recommend that you purchase and use a cable/DSL router because of the protection it can give you against attempts to attack through some flaws in Windows itself.
A router isolates your local network, whether it is only one computer or several, from the Internet by actually making it a separate network. The router gets the "public" IP address and handles all your outbound communications and the responses to them. But, it blocks computers on the Internet side from being able to initiate communications with your computer! This will prevent you from falling prey to many worms that try to attack security holes in Windows itself.
For a wireless router, I have chosen the Cisco-Linksys E3000 High-Performance Wireless-N Router
. I’ve paired that with a couple Cisco-Linksys High-Performance Wireless-N USB 2.0 Adapters. Actually, I bought two of the refurbished ones.
If you don’t want wireless, it’s hard to find a non-wireless router these days — or at least, the non-wireless ones don’t seem to go on sale. Get a wireless router, log into its control screens, and turn off the wireless function.
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