Security solutions on the cheap By Jay Dougherty


dpa German Press Agency
Published: Sunday January 28, 2007

By Jay Dougherty,
Washington- Viruses, spyware, malware, spam - these
computer-borne threats not only cost you time. They also cost you
money.
Add up charge for multiple commercial software packages designed
to deal with these malicious intruders, and you're talking serious
money.

But you don't have to go broke to keep your PC - and your personal
information - safe. There are some fine security solutions that are
either free or cost next to nothing. Here's a rundown of some of the
options.

--- Antivirus

What do you really want from your antivirus software? If the
answer is something like "virus protection and only virus
protection," you'll probably be quite happy with the free antivirus
packages on the market today.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition (http://free.grisoft.com) is a case in
point. Unlike its commercially-available older brother, AVG Pro, the
free AVG gives you reliable antivirus protection without a lot of
hassle. Regular updates are available, just as they are with the paid
version, so your software won't become out-of-date over time.

avast! Home Edition (http://www.avast.com/eng/avast_4_home.html),
while free, packs on some of the features that you'll have to shell
out good money for in commercial packages. In addition to halting
viruses, avast! includes a mailware stopper, a network shield to stop
Web-borne worms, and help with scanning e-mail messages for potential
threats.

AntiVir Personal Edition (http://www.free-av.com) boasts a user
base of more than 15 million people and detects over 80 thousand
viruses. The program even uses heuristic detection to detect
previously unknown viruses. The program sits unobtrusively in your
system tray, giving you a status of its activity.

--- AntiSpyware

Spyware is a bigger threat to many than viruses these days. Even
worse is that no one anti-spyware tool - commercial or otherwise -
does a thorough job of rooting out all infiltrations of spyware on
your PC.

So it makes sense, with this category of software, to use more
than program in defending yourself - all the more reason to turn to
multiple free packages rather than many commercial ones.

Ad-Aware SE Personal edition (http://www.lavasoftusa.com) has been
around for several years and continues to do a very good job at
detecting and ridding your PC of spyware. The personal edition has
most of the features that the fee-based pro edition does, except for
the memory-resident Ad-Watch portion of the program, which monitors
your PC constantly and alerts you as soon as spyware is detected.

Microsoft's Windows Defender appears automatically in Windows
Vista, but for the rest of us, it's available as a free download
(http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.ms
px). The program's interface is typical Microsoft: easy to navigate
and understand.

Spybot Search and Destroy (http://www.safer-networking.org)
targets cookies, browser hijackers, keyloggers, Trojans, and other
threats. The program also features immunisation options for the most
popular Web browsers, and it can even help protect your privacy by
removing any trace of which Web sites you've visited.

--- Firewalls

Many people already have and use a firewall and don't even know
it. If you connect to the Internet through a broadband router,
chances are good that there's a firewall built in. Such hardware-
based firewalls do a good job of stopping outside intruders from
gaining access to your PC.

But if you have spyware or a virus already on your computer that
tries to send data out without your consent, a hardware-based
firewall won't help. That's where software comes in.

Windows XP's built-in firewall doesn't deal with rogue outgoing
connections, but other free solutions do. Sunbelt Kerio Personal
Firewall (http://www.sunbelt-software.com/Kerio.cfm) works for 30
days in a full-featured mode that offers pop-up blocking, intrusion
prevention, and other niceties, but the firewall protection continues
even after the 30-day trial period expires.

ZoneAlarm (http://www.zonelabs.com) continues its reign as perhaps
the most popular free firewall on the market. Now at version 7, this
firewall does a good job of blocking suspicious incoming and outgoing
Internet traffic, and you can even set it up to block all online
activity while you're away from your computer.

--- Too good to be true?

It makes no sense to skimp on security when protecting your data
and personal information is of vital importance. But plenty of users
of commercial software have learned the hard way that paying good
money for off-the-shelf software does not guarantee trouble-free or
even reliable protection. At the very least, these free security
packages demonstrate that it's worth evaluating the no-cost
alternatives before laying out your money on high-priced
alternatives.

© 2006 - dpa German Press Agency