Anti Virus & Firewall

Antivirus software provides an essential layer of protection from a multitude of virus, trojan, worm, spyware, adware, dialer, keylogger and rootkit infections. Traditionally antivirus programs just detected viruses and spyware removers just detected spyware but nowadays the boundary between antivirus and spyware removers is unclear. Most current antiviruses have at least reasonably good detection rates of all forms of malware.

Malware includes viruses, trojans, worms, spyware, adware, dialers, keyloggers and rootkit threats that perform malicious activities on a computer. With the huge increase in malware, antivirus software cannot keep up with detecting all of it. But using more than one real-time antivirus uses much more system resources, can cause conflicts and even reduce protection. So I recommend you only choose one antivirus for real-time protection. Instead, you can increase your protection using other security software.

I looked at several free antivirus programs which are vital in protecting your computer from virus threats and other types of malware.

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Avira AntiVir Personal Edition is my top pick for the best free antivirus software if you’re looking for the best protection against virus, spyware and rootkit threats. AntiVir is very light on resources and the detection rate of malware is outstanding, better than almost every other antivirus according to tests. However, there are some reservations.

First, AntiVir does not include web or e-mail scanning capabilities; this is only available in the paid version. The lack of an e-mail scanner is not really a disadvantage, it just means that AntiVir won’t warn you of infected emails before you open them. But should you open an infected email, AntiVir will still spring into action, so it doesn’t mean that you’re not protected from email-based infections. Second, AntiVir has advertisements that appear with every update, although you can disable these ads. Finally, AntiVir has a time-limited license. It is renewable, but be aware that you’ll have to periodically go through the hoops.

Although AntiVir had signature updating problems in the past this seems to be fixed now.

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No other freeware product causes as much angst to users, whether in installation or day-to-day use, as a firewall. To find a stable and high quality firewall for windows often involves a process of trial and error. Firewalls should protect while not being too intrusive or too complicated to handle. This article gives you a selection of the best free software firewalls available.

If you want to learn more about firewalls, visit these excellent sites: How Firewalls Work and Microsoft Security Firewalls FAQ. If you don’t decide to use one of the firewall products in the article, at least remember to turn on the Windows firewall. Be sure to use only one software firewall at a time. But feel free to combine a hardware and a software firewall to improve protection. Additionally, most products highly recommend uninstalling other third-party software firewalls before installation (and disabling the Windows firewall if they don’t).

Oh, and I always create a drive image or restore point before installing a new firewall since they are known to give your PC serious problems if they conflict with anything. I installed and uninstalled each firewall several times during testing and had no major problems, but I was careful to make sure each one uninstalled cleanly before installing another firewall (often with Revo/Zsoft Uninstaller and additional cleaning as needed with CCleaner/Autoruns, or with a fresh drive image or restore point).

Firewalls are increasingly useful to help you control the activities of Internet facing applications. Many users now leave their Internet on all the time, increasing their risk to malware. It’s also becoming difficult to tell when applications connect online because they link so many of their features to Internet resources. Few programs stop to ask your permission. So I predict that firewalls will be ever more important for privacy and control.

Comodo FirewallIf full featured security is your criterion, then the Comodo Internet Security is the top contender. It has a robust and a very active HIPS or application monitoring feature called “Defense+”, which matches or exceeds the security performance of pay products. Its Defense+ also provides image execution control (or a “memory firewall”) that seems unique to Comodo. Comodo allows for much control and customization, with a plethora of additional settings to tweak for the curious or for the just plain paranoid. On the minus side, its Defense+ is initially talkative with popup alerts in some configurations, which may annoy or alarm users.

During installation, it gives you a choice between three levels of security. The “Firewall Only” mode is discussed in the next section; it disables intrusion protection against outbound malware threats. The default (or middle configuration) uses most Defense+ protection and monitors for common exploits, but it turns off some monitoring (right-click the tray icon > “Manage Configurations” > “Firewall Security” to switch to it at any time). The maximum configuration, “Proactive Security”, uses all Defense+ monitoring and increases its aggressiveness (right-click the tray icon > “Manage Configurations” > “Proactive Security” to switch to it).

After installation Comodo automatically selects either “Clean PC Mode” or “Safe Mode”. “Safe Mode” maximizes proactive protection to a high level and is the best mode for most users. But it relies on numerous popup alerts for applications not in its trusted vendors list (you can browse this list to see if you trust the vendors: go to the Defense+ tab > “Common Tasks” > “My Trusted Software Vendors”). When you answer “allow” and “remember your answer” to popup alerts for an application, Comodo creates a custom policy for it. Some of its policies are fairly liberal (the one for CCleaner gives it “allow” status for almost everything, but the one for some parts of OpenOffice are set mostly to “ask”).

In the more liberal “Clean PC Mode”, Defense+ automatically treats all applications on your drive as safe (but if any malware is currently hidden on your drive, it too would be considered safe). Applications still receive some minimal monitoring for Comodo’s two protected lists (“my protected registry keys” and “my protected COM interfaces”) and for running as an executable, or more/less monitoring depending on their custom policy. And new files get sent to a list of files “waiting for your review” in the “Summary” page. Files listed for review will be considered possibly unsafe and will provoke popup messages, as if in Safe Mode, until their custom policies are made.

Comodo limits the frequency of alerts by automatically treating some programs as safe and allowing some applications to access the Internet. You can additionally automate the behavior of Defense+ by one or more of these methods for treating applications as safe:

  • Have it “remember your answer” to all popup alerts when an application first runs, which works for some applications (because some custom policies set this way are close to “trusted” status). But if an application still nags you, click “More Options” in the alert and use the drop down box to select “trusted” or “blocked” (etc.), if available, or set an application to trusted manually (“Defense+” > “Advanced” > “Computer Security Policy” > “Edit…” > “Use a Predefined Policy”), which finally ceases popup alerts and most intrusion prevention for that application.
  • Add files to the lists of “My Own Safe Files” or “My Trusted Software Vendors” in the interface (see the “Defense+” tab), which is most helpful for “Safe Mode” or “Paranoid Mode”.
  • Use the “Clean PC Mode” (right-click the tray icon and select it under the “Defense+ Security Level”). But make sure to scan and remove any malware first.
  • You could also browse these guides on minimizing Defense+ alerts: How to Tame Comodo Defense+ Without Disabling It and Comodo Forum Help.

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All of the above advice was provided freely by


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