You have probably heard this before: every PC user should secure the computer as best as possible. You read stories like this in every other computer mag, your geeky friends probably tell you the same and even name some programs that you should use because they are the best and most secure.
I know that you would like to have a secure computer, well a secured computer, there is nothing like 100% security if you are on a network or the internet. Keep that in mind.
I will explain the basics of securing your computer, will tell you what you need to secure it and give you alternatives if there are any.
But first of all, all programs that I name will be freeware or open source. We want a secure computer but don't want to pay hundreds of $$ for it. There will also be some geeks who will comment that program XY is way better and pro than the program I named and that only people with no security understanding whatsoever will use. Don't listen to them, there are many factors that play a role in selecting a suitable software. I tried to find the best mix between security and user friendliness.
I will recommend the following type of programs for your personal computer: Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware, Rootkit Checker, Autorun Checker and Process Checker.
Wait, no Firewall? Yes no firewall, I will give you a short answer why there will be no firewall. This seems unusual but just wait a little more and you will know.
Before we start, let me give you a short advice. Running all these tools in the background does not make your system secure. Its more secure yes, but not totally. Therefor you should still use common sense when you do something on the internet, e.g. don´t click on mail attachments that are unknown to you, or on links in emails. Common Sense is probably the best protection against threats that are out there.
There are unfortunately thousands of free anti-virus products out there, what we need is the following. It should be up to date, have internet updates and use few resources.
Update: While those programs are good, BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition has risen to popularity thanks to its excellent (independent) test results.
Ad-Aware SE Personal, small and good, enough said. As an alternative Microsoft's own Windows Defender Tool. Update: Most anti-virus programs ship with solid anti-spyware modules so that you do not really need an extra program for that anymore.
Everyone knows about Rootkits since the Sony debacle but only a few know how to check their pc for a rootkit. Rootkit Revealer from Sysinternals does the job. Run this tool from time to time, its not necessary to run it all the time.
There are numerous places that can hold programs that autorun at startup, its a hassle to check them manually. Run a autorun checker from time to time to check on all places and programs and disable the ones you won't need. Your system will probably boot faster if you disable some.
I suggest you use Autoruns by Sysinternals.
Process Explorer from Sysinternals tells you which handles or dll process have opened or loaded, small great tool. Also great for research, latest versions include Virustotal checking of all processes.
The reasoning behind this is pretty simple. A software firewall gives the user a false sense of security. If you look up bugtraq for example you see lots and lots of firewall vulnerabilities.
Every software that runs on your system raises the danger of exploits and backdoors. Many trojans and worms already know ways to bypass firewall systems and use save routes (that means use programs that are safe to use for the firewall) to execute their malicious code.
Another problem that occurs is that if a malicious tool is installed with admin rights it could alter firewall functions. You find a simple code on netfirms.com that does press the YES button of Zonealarm automatically. There are of course other more serious possibilities.
The conclusion would be, that firewalls are not secure and malicious code can find ways around the firewall and even manipulate it.
Therefore i suggest you don't use a firewall but do something different.
Update: After some consideration I suggest you do use a firewall, hardware firewall if possible, on your system. Check your router or modem to see if it has one built-in. If not, use a software firewall like Windows Firewall that ships with all modern versions of Windows.
I suggest you download this small tool called Shutdown Windows Servers and run it on your system. This should be sufficient to avoid most of the nasty worms and trojans that float around lately without the use of a firewall. .Common sense of course applies
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.