Virus & Malware
Computers are a part of everyday life. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do, it’s likely that you will use a computer on a daily basis. Indeed, if you are reading this blog, then you are savvy enough to use a computer at it’s most simplest level.
Many people will talk about antivirus software, and most PC’s get bundled with a free 12 month free trial or less of some sort of antivirus software. However, a lot of people are scared into buying their antivirus at great cost, when (as with other software) there are free alternatives out there that will protect you.
New computers with Windows 8 and above on them have Microsoft Security Essentials on board, which antivirus developers regard as baseline protection. That is to say, it will give you basic protection against threats, but it is not as good as having a dedicated antivirus program by a third-party company.
What’s the difference between paid for and free antivirus? - Avast!
Usually there is very little difference between the paid for versions and the free versions of antivirus software. As the name suggests, the antivirus part of the program will protect you against virus definitions that are being released daily and is included as standard in free versions.
As an example for this guide, we will look at Avast! Antivirus and Spywareblaster. Avast! is available in a free version, plus various variants of paid-for versions. But what extra’s do the paid-for versions include?
Well, the free version has Intelligent Antivirus, Anti-malware protection plus the excellent web-reputation as standard, while the paid for versions have a SafeZone for payments, a Firewall, anti-spam for emails, plus options for having the software keep your computer programs up-to-date and enhanced data-shredding software. The last couple of items are not needed by the average person, but we will look at the paid for item that are not included with Avast! Antivirus Free.
SafeZone. This basically runs a web page in a safe place that acts like a virtual machine. This means that access to the secure web page is totally prevented from outside programs. It is in effect a walled garden that ensures safety when making secure payments and banking. For all intents and purposes, as long as you only visit a trusted website, have Avast! Free running and have the web-reputation plug-in enabled, you should be perfectly safe.
Firewall. Again, the paid for version of Avast! has a program that already exists on your PC. Windows firewall is perfectly sufficient in protecting outside programs reaching your PC. Make sure it is enabled (it is by default), and you will be safe.
Anti-Spam. Avast! offers a program to try and stop you receiving emails with potential phishing programs attached to them. Phishing is the art of obtaining information from the user by pretending to be someone they are not. For example, you could have an email that say’s it’s from your bank, and it is asking you to confirm your bank details. Never do this! Anti-Spam software stops these emails, however, email providers these days usually supply some kind of safeguard against phishing.
Of course, no amount of antivirus or malware protection will be 100% effective if the user is not also careful. There are some guidelines that I personally follow, and have always followed, that have ensured that I have not been hit by a virus in many years (yes! I learned in my naive early days the hard way!).
- Only visit websites that are tried and tested (rely on you web-reputation plug-in’s and your common sense!)
- Do not download programs off sites that are not the original source of the item you are downloading.
- Remember to uncheck any boxes that ask if you want to install any extra software when installing a program from the internet.
- Never turn your antivirus off!
- Most importantly, use common sense and don’t give any information to anyone that just asks for it!
In addition to Avast! Antivirus Free, the other recommended program to run alongside to add to your protection is SpywareBlaster. SpywareBlaster is a simple program that helps prevent software doing nasty things to your computer.
First of all, SpywareBlaster will prevent the installation of ActiveX-based Spyware and other potentially unwanted programs. Secondly it will block spying and tracking cookies from being used on your computer, while last but not least it will restrict the actions of potentially unwanted or dangerous websites.
While this sounds complicated, SpywareBlaster is a passive program that just works alongside your antivirus. It basically updates your web browser so that it blocks thousands of unwanted sites from installing ActiveX instructions and cookies onto your PC. It’s simple and effective!
There are numerous free antivirus software programs available, and I recommend Avast! Antivirus Free as the program of choice because not only is it effective against virus infections, but it is simple to setup and use, and has low demands on system resources.
SpywareBlaster is something that you must remember to update manually once a week or so, but again is simple to use and very effective. Again, this has been used for many years and as a result my PC’s have stayed virus and spyware free.
The most important thing to remember when trying to be safe on the internet is common sense. Make secure passwords, don’t give out information, don’t click on links simply because they ask you to, and stick to the websites that are tried and tested. Using the programs I have mentioned, and making sure Avast! Web-Reputation is available (this will tell you if a website is trustworthy in your search results), you should have years of safe surfing.