Firewall update and Security reviewDecember 20, 2007 at 3:04 pm | Posted in Computers, Security, Software | 3 Comments
At one time, computer security was pretty simple. Then it become an oxymoron. While Linux and Mac computers are based on the secure Unix platform, Windows PC’s are, well, full of holes. Everything thats designed to connect you with others becomes a vector for an attack.
The security that comes with Windows is next to useless. Primitive firewall, no anti-virus, but a basic anti-spyware tool in recent versions. Without some basic protection, you are a sitting duck and WILL be attacked in a surprisingly short time. No firewall is like waving a sign thats says kick me.
Such an attack may not even be obvious. They simply install a bot and use your computer to attack others or distribute their malware. Or track your usage and steal personal information. These days, a large number of such computers are compromised. This is no light matter.
(and it never would have been an issue like this had ISP’s and Microsoft not deemed the issue a problem for users to deal with, but don’t get me started)
For a long time, the free Zone Alarm was highly recommended and has quite a wide following. But more recently, its lost a great deal of its luster and essentially is running on its name. The “Pro” for fee firewall is still decent but they’ve not kept the free version up to the same standards. Indeed, it has become rated “very poor” in numerous tests.
When Zone Alarm gave me grief on a new install for a friend, I decided it was time to take another look. One of the best rated free firewalls around these days is the offering by Comodo.
Myself, I like security tools that are clean, reliable and “light” on the system. Recently, a number of firms have shifted to the security Suite model but few suites do all of it well. And many of them place a major resource burden on a computer. I prefer targeted applications that are the top of their class. But for an average person with little time for all this, a Suite can be the best answer.
Windows Secrets maintains a security baseline they recommend for all systems. I don’t agree with all of their recommendations, but you can’t go wrong with them.
1) Hardware firewall. Protects your network. Typically a router.
2) Software firewall. Protects your system as well as blocking outgoing if you do get infected. What we’re talking about here. For free, go Comodo.
3) Anti-Virus. Don’t leave home without it.
This shows you how badly many of them do. These days, I’ve switched to the top-rated ESet NOD32, but its not free. If budget is tight, better to go with a free one than risk worse exposure. AVG is the best compromise there.
4) Anti-spyware. To avoid the virus-like cousins designed to monitor you. Windows has a basic one included free. Watch out for the junk offerings in this category and all the useless browser toolbars that can be spyware themselves.
2, 3, and 4 are covered by suites. Windows Secrets has recommendations although I stay away from Symantec now – too bloated.
5) Update management. Use Windows Update. Stay current. Just announcing they plugged a leak tells attackers where to attack people who don’t update.
6) Safe Site tools are a very useful browser plugin. Basically, they warn you when a site you have landed on or is listed in search results has a tendency to spam, distribute malware, phish, and so forth. I’ve been using SiteAdvisor for awhile. Mcafee has bought them and now offers a not-free “plus” version, but the free versions is probably all you need. Windows Secrets suggests you can also try LinkScanner Lite, Finjan SecureBrowsing, or the Comodo VerificationEngine though they seem to cover less than SiteAdvisor. Windows Secrets has an interesting review of similar products but its only available to subscribers. Personally, I think that suggestion of 3 separate products is overdone.
In short, a hardware firewall, a security suite, Microsoft Update on, and SiteAdvisor will have you set nicely. But remember – its a big world out there. Don’t talk to strangers, stay away from bad neighborhoods, and don’t eat it if you don’t know where its come from.