In every issue of my online newsletter, I have my current security software recommendations — and it’s even available as this web page My Computer Security Recommendations.
In that article, I write about the programs that I choose for antivirus, antispyware/antiadware, firewall and antispam. I also include a paragraph in the article on using a cable / DSL router.
But, I guess I haven’t had enough explanation in the article…
Recently, I received an email from regular reader and subscriber Jack Carmena, who asked:
Your security recommendations are all encompassing. They are an indication of what is needed.
But, it would be clearer if you could state what type and brand of software you recommend for “Joe Average”.
It may be what you list or a variation of that so as not to overkill.
Keep up the good info.
OK, let’s start from the top.
There are two things in my article that I consider as optional for ANY computer user. The other three categories are mandatory — if you want to prevent problems.
First, the optional ones:
an anti-spam program — you can let your ISP’s anti-spam measures do the best you can, and you can use any built-in features in your email program (Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, Thunderbird, or whatever) to try to handle anything that gets through.
Or, you can add a more specialized anti-spam program to give you better defenses (and identification of) spam.
a cable/DSL router for your cable or DSL Internet connection — It’s a great security tool that I don’t want to be without. If nothing on the Internet can actually initiate connections with my computer (because I’m on a local network and the router is the only thing on the Internet), this isolation helps protect me. I want it there, I recommend that anyone with a cable or DSL Internet connection get a router. It really should only be "optional" for dialup users — and it won’t work for them.
There have actually been problems where software firewalls couldn’t protect us because the problem occurred in Windows, before the firewall could ever come into play. But, a router is still really optional. That may change…
Now, the program types that I consider mandatory:
- an anti-virus program — how many times have you heard that? It’s true.
- an anti-spyware / anti-adware program — especially if you use Internet Explorer, but for non-IE-users, too. Microsoft did us no favors when they "built Internet Explorer into Windows" — that created a huge security issue.
- a firewall program — Not the built-in Windows XP Firewall — that one is a one-way firewall (inbound only). Even Microsoft has finally seen the light. Windows Vista has a two-way (inbound and outbound) firewall to defend the computer more effectively, as does Windows 7. Still, I don’t like Microsoft’s choices in automatically trusting certain programs.
Today’s new PC’s even come with trial versions of one of the big security suites. Depending on the manufacturer and the deals he made, you might get a trial of Norton Internet Security, McAfee’s Internet security package, Trend Micro’s Internet security package or another. These all have firewalls and antivirus, and most also have anti-spyware/anti-adware functions.
Even though some of the anti-virus programs are now identifying some trojans, worms, spyware and adware, these are not their primary functions. I do not recommend relying on your antivirus program to handle all the other nasties.
With a new PC, before you connect to the Internet the first time, you need your antivirus, your firewall and your anti-spyware/anti-adware programs in place.
That means, if you plan to use specific programs but you haven’t bought them yet, or if you haven’t previously downloaded them and put them on a CD, DVD or flash drive so that you can install them on the new computer, you’ll need to activate the trial package before you go on the Internet the first time.
Obviously, you don’t have to pick the programs that I recommend. I’ve trimmed my recommendations to a single program in each category, not because it’s the best of the best, but to avoid giving too many options.
On the other hand, I specifically do not recommend some of the big names (Norton and McAfee) because I have been dissatisfied with them for one reason or another.
In my security recommendations article, I have one combination package (firewall plus antivirus plus antispyware/antiadware) and one individual program for each of those categories.
If you get the combination package, you don’t need the individuals.