There are three main things that you need in order to keep your windows
PC secure -
1 - Firewall
2 - Antivirus
3 - Antispyware
firewall is a bit like a gatekeeper. It monitors internet traffic
coming into and going out of your PC. The reason for monitoring inbound
traffic is to make it difficult for hackers to gain access to your
computer and steal passwords or corrupt your files. Some firewalls also
monitor outbound traffic. The reason for doing this is to prevent
trojans that may have infiltrated your PC from sending passwords or
other sensitive data back to the sender of the trojan.
the internet security suites currently on the market include a firewall
as part of the package. There are also several firewall only solutions
available. One of the best known and popular firewalls is Zone Alarm.
It's popularity is due mainly to the fact that it works well and there
is a free edition in addition to the commercial edition. The commercial
edition has more features as you would expect. The company that
produces Zone Alarm also has a full security suite that includes
antivurus and antispyware.
Even if you haven't installed a
firewall you don't need to panic because Windows XP and Vista
include a basic firewall which is usually activated by default when you
install Windows. If the Windows firewall has been de-activated for any
reason and you don't have any other firewalls then Windows will usually
dispaly a warning in the system tray in the bottom right corner of the
screen (assuming you have Windows XP service pack 2 or later).
to firewalls is that they can sometimes prevent programs that need to
access the internet from working properly. They can also prevent you
from accessing a network connected printer on your home or office
network. They can also prevent file sharing across a network. All of
these problems can be resolved by configuring exceptions in the
firewall configuration but this is not always easy to do. Ironically it
is often the more expensive firewalls or security suites that seem to
cause these problems.
all wireless (and wired) routers now include a firewall which is
usually enabled by
default. If you have a router with a firewall then you may not
need a third party firewall running on your computer. In this situation
the Windows firewall should be adequate.
purpose of an antivirus is to protect your computer from infection by
viruses. It does this by maintaining a list of virus signatures and
comparing files on your computer with this list to detect virus
infected files. It does this in three main ways.
The first is
called "Resident Shield" in AVG or "active scanner" or "active monitor"
on others. This works by scanning all programs just before they run to
make sure they are not infected. Obviously this will slow down your
computer by a greater or lesser amount depending on the individual
antivirus. Some antivirus programs will slow your
computer down much more than
others. This slow down is very noticable on older computers with small
amounts of RAM.
The second way is simply to scan all the files on your
computer one by one. This might take anywhere from fifteen minutes to
several hours depending on the amount of data on your computer and the
speed of the computer. If you don't schedule a regular scan with the
antivirus or run a scan manually by opening the antivirus control panel
and selecting the option to scan the computer, then this just won't
happen. This is one of the reasons why computers get infected even
though they have an antivirus.
The third main way an antivirus
protects your computer is by scanning all incomming emails for
infections. Viruses usually spread by malicious web sites or email.
Many viruses will scan your address book and immediately send a copy of
themselves to everyone on your address book without your knowledge.
This is why all emails need to be scanned even if they appear to be
There are probably more than 100,000 different
viruses in existence and new viruses are being created every day which
is why it is important to keep your list of virus
signatures up to date. A virus signature can be thought of as the
digital equivalent of a fingerprint used to identify individual humans.
antivirus programs will update their signature list on a daily basis.
This updating process is often accompanied by a pop up window to let
you know it is occurring. This daily update process should not be
confused with scanning the whole computer for viruses. Many people
think that because their antivirus program is updating every day that
it is scanning the whole computer for viruses every day. This is not
the case. In addition to regular updates you also need to do regular
scans of the computer.
If the computer is at high risk of
infection (e.g. the kids play on it) then scanning every day is
probably a good idea. If the computer is only used to access safe well
known web sites then scanning the computer once or twice a week will
probably be adequate.
There are dozens of different antivirus
programs on the market. Some are very good. Some are not so good. There
are even some that are only pretending to be an antivirus when in
reality they are actually spyware. These pretend antivirus programs
will often "invite" themselves onto your computer and then pretend to
run a scan which detects an alarming number of viruses. You will then
be asked to buy the full version of the program for about $40 USD so
that the detected viruses can be removed. Click the following link for
an example of this
also need to be wary of apparently independant web sites that claim to
have tested all the top antivirus products and found "DoublePlusGood
Antivirus" is the best in the world and a bargain at only $39.95. You
often find that this independant web site is in fact owned by the same
people that created DoublePlusGood Antivirus ...
Bulletin is one independant organisation that specialises in testing
antivirus products. They conduct in depth tests of most of the top
antivirus programs and publish the results on their web site -
anitvirus programs that pass the test are awared the VB100 award.
Please note that you will have to register (for free) to access the
latest VB100 results.
Another organisation that conducts independant antivirus testing is -
should never install more than one antivirus product on your computer
because they will interfere with each other and slow your computer
down. If you want to change your antivirus you should un-install the
old one before installing the new one.
If you are on a tight
budget you may prefer to get a free antivirus. There are several that
are available. AVG and Avira are two of the better ones. Both of these
products have commercial versions which include extra features but the
free versions provide good basic protection. Please use the two web
sites listed above to check out any free antivirus you may be
considering downloading to make sure it really is an antivirus and not
spyware in disguise.
antispyware program protects your computer from spyware or malware. It
works in much the same way as antivuirus programs by scanning your
computer for known spyware signatures.
Spyware refers to
any software that tries to obtain information about your web browsing
habits without your consent or tries to get you to buy products online
by hijacking your web searches for example. Spyware is commercially
motivated. They are trying to make money. It often installs itself on
your computer without your permission and is nearly always
harmfull to the operation of your computer.
Most of the newer
internet security suites include an antispyware component as standard.
It is also possible to get programs that just protect your
computer from spyware.
Windows Vista includes an antispyware
program called Windows Defender that appears to work quite well. You
can also download this program for free for Windows XP by going to the
Downloads section of the Microsoft web site. It runs unobtrusively in
the background and does a quick scan for spyware once a day. You can
also run a full scan of your computer if you suspect you may have
spyware. To run a full scan, do the following -
- Click on Start and then move the mouse to "All Programs"
- Locate "Windows Defender" and left click it. This will open the
Windows Defender screen.
- Left click on the small white triange just to the right of the scan
menu at the top of the window.
- Left click on "Full Scan". This will do a full scan instead of a
full scan in Windows Defender is more thorough and takes much
longer than the quick scan which usually runs every day.
addition to the many commercial antispyware programs on the market
there are several very good free antispyware programs. One of the
better ones is "Spybot, Search & Destroy". This takes quite a
to scan the whole computer for spyware but seems to be quite thorough.
There are several dubious antispyware programs with simillar names to
Spybot so make sure you are getting the real thing.
Search & Destroy
Another good free antispyware is Ad-Aware from Lavasoft.
antispyware or antivirus program will detect all viruses or spyware, so
if one program does not fix your problem then it is often worth trying
a different one. Having more than one antispyware program installed is
usually not a problem but you should not have more than one antivirus
program installed. You should un-install one antivirus program before
installing a different one.