Is your computer running slow? Don’t pay for a solution when you can get it for FREE!
Simply put, almost every program you install on a Windows Computer requires Root Access. Root access enables spyware, malware, adware, viruses, root-kits and more to take control of parts or all of your Windows Computer System. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are a number of free programs you can install to protect yourself (or rather your poor unsuspecting computer) in the increasingly shark-infested virtual ocean waters we call the internet. But first:
Watch Where You’re Going!
The first line of defense is proper net surfing habits. Don’t click on flashy, thingy, “you’re the winner”, types of links. They are intended for idiots and you don’t fall into that category. Don’t open any attachments on emails from email addresses you don’t recognize. If you use Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express, I recommend turning the “Reading Pane” off. The bad guys are able to initiate malicious code in image files by simply displaying the image on your computer. The “Reading Pane” opens the image, and viola, you’ve just been infected. Also, pay attention to links in emails. Bad guys will change one letter or add a .de or something similar in a familiar looking link to trick you into clicking on it. When you mouse-over the link in Firefox, the link address is displayed in the bottom left corner of the browser, just take a look before moving forward. The next thing to look out for is FAKE system alerts. Watch out pop-ups that look like the following:
Fake System Warning – Pop up
Fake Spyware Warning
Fake Critical Error Message
Fake Internet Explorer Warning
Fake Infection Notice
Fake Spyware Ads
People have gotten really good at FAKING system error messages and behavior. They trick you into believing you have some sort of infection, then offer a link to remove it. What they actually do is infect your system even more. Fortunately there are a number of free resources available to protect you.
1. Spybot Search and Destroy – (download link)
Spybot has offered their excellent FREE anti-spyware software since 2000. I recommend this every time because it’s still the best. It is constantly updated and one of the premiere products of this type. It takes a few minutes to download and install, but has many features to keep the bad guys out. Here’s a few features:
|Removal of adware and spyware
Removal of dialers
Removal of keyloggers
Removal of trojans and other baddies
Removal of usage tracks
|Save removal of threats by shredding them||Yes||Yes|
|Backups of every removed problem||Yes||Yes|
|Exclude option to ignore specific problems||Yes (1)||Yes|
|Permanent blocking of threatening ActiveX downloads
Permanent blocking of known tracking cookies for IE
Permanent blocking of threating downloads in IE
|Command line parameters to automate tasks||Yes||Yes|
|Number of targets||> 600||> 600|
|Number of detection files and entries||> 10000||> 10000|
|Detailed information about problems found||Yes||Yes|
|Strict criteria to define targets||Yes||Yes|
|Integrated update function
Update notification by mail
|Free email & forum support||Yes||Yes|
|Settings to automate scan, removal and update||No||Yes|
|System reports to locate even unknown threats||No||Yes|
|Skins to adjust interface to the users liking||No||Yes|
2. Ad-Aware from Lavasoft – (download link)
No spyware, malware, virus removal software is all inclusive. I don’t care what their ads say. Ad-Aware from Lavasoft is the perfect accompaniment to Spybot. Between the two of them, you catch most of the junk out there. Here are a few more features from the Lavasoft site:
- Improved Threat Detection
- Spyware, Adware, Trojans & Hijackers
- Fraud Tools & Rogue Applications
- Password Stealers & Keyloggers
- Enhanced Rootkit removal system
- Faster Updates & Faster Scans
- Less Resource Usage for optimal computer performance
- Easy to Download, Install and Use
- Lavasoft ThreatWork submission tool
- Compatible with Windows Vista (32- and 64-bit)
- Supported Languages: Dutch, English, Flemish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
3. AVG – Antivirus – (download link)
AVG is another tried and true FREE Anti-virus software package that is constantly updated and protects you against many of the nastiest bits of code prowling the net. A little more about AVG:
- Automatic update functionality
- The AVG Resident Shield, which provides real-time protection as files are opened and programs are run
- The AVG E-mail Scanner, which protects your e-mail
- The AVG On-Demand Scanner, which allows the user to perform scheduled and manual tests
- Free Virus Database Updates for the lifetime of the product
- AVG Virus Vault for safe handling of infected files
These three are a great start, however I will warn you that almost any anti-spyware, anti-virus, etc., will have an effect on system performance. Things will slowdown a little. Each of these programs attempt to catch the rogue code before it makes onto your hard drive. That means there are millisecond delays before pages load, emails appear, etc. so that’s the trade off. Paid for versions by Norton, McAfee and other are no better, in fact in most cases they are worse.
If you’re a pretty safe surfer and you don’t want to bog your machine down with a bunch of software than there are FREE online Scan alternatives. I refer all my friends to these:
TrendMicro – is a FREE online virus scanner. It’s completely trustworthy, effective and up-to-date.
Panda ActiveScan – is another great FREE online scanner.
A couple other safeguards are switching to Mozilla’s Firefox browser instead of Internet Explorer. Firefox has a number of builtin safety factors that IE is trying to implement, but just doesn’t do as well.
I hope this was helpful. Any comments are welcome of course.