By: Tim O’Dell
Any PC or laptop running Windows software can be open to cyber attack if they access the Internet. From spyware, to viruses, worms and malware, there are bewildering arrays of cyber attacks that can be used against the unwary surfer. The only way to protect your hardware from these attacks is by using antivirus and firewall software. Often these are shipped with new operating systems but, once the gratis period has expired, it can become expensive to keep renewing the licence. It doesn’t have to be this way however. With a little research it is easy to get yourself protected for free.
Most versions of Windows ship with a basic firewall included. However, this may not provide complete protection and an independent firewall will provide better cover. Zone Alarm is one of the superior standalone firewall applications and the free package includes the basic firewall as well as providing screening for all applications accessing the Internet. Also included in the free suite are anti-phishing facilities, identity protection applications and a 2GB back-up facility. Zone Alarm does offer a full security suite with antivirus and a higher protection level but the yearly subscriptions are equivalent to products such as Norton or McAfee so may not be worth the outlay.
Firewall software is, however, just one piece of the security solution. To fully protect your system you also need a good antivirus program. There are a number of free options available but two of the best are Avast! and AVG.
Avast! antivirus is one of the most comprehensive free antivirus programs. Besides the antivirus, the free package includes real time shields that monitor various areas to check for suspicious activity. Avast! real time shields provide cover for: file systems, to monitor all programs running on your system; emails, to ensure all incoming messages are safe; browser activity, to check websites are not malicious; file-sharing, to ensure no malicious downloads occur; instant messages, to guarantee all downloads are clean; networks, to block any worms or viruses that try to attack your system via the network, and behaviour, to alert the user to any suspicious behaviour on your system. Free Avast! also includes an auto sandbox that allows the antivirus program to run suspicious applications safely, as they are executed, preventing harm to your system. The program also allows customised site blocking. Avast! do sell a full security suite that is a little cheaper than the alternatives but the free package, along with a firewall, provides all the protection home users need.
If Avast! does not appeal a good alternative is AVG Free. AVG was once one of the most popular free antivirus programs on the Internet but a virus attack on the software itself tarnished its reputation a little. However, the current antivirus suite does offer good protection but only against viruses, malicious downloads, and other threats. AVG can also provide a full security suite at a reasonable price but this is not necessary for the basic user as the free services offer adequate protection.
If you are using the Internet with any Windows operating system, protection against malware of all descriptions is essential. At the very least firewall and antivirus software should be installed. This need not cost the earth as some very good free applications are available. Even if you want the extra protection, all these software providers have upgradable options that cost the equivalent of more established products and may be worth the investment for complete peace of mind. For the general user however, with basic security needs, the free options offer a decent service. With all the hackers and cyber criminals on the Internet it is wise to ensure your computer is protected and with so many free packages around there is no excuse to leave your system open to attack.