Monday, October 02, 2006

Free Security Applications for Windows

Let me be clear here, there is no shortage of good free security software programs. Therefore, there is no good reason for anyone not to have at least an antivirus and firewall installed on their PC. While viruses are still the number one threat to business and home PC's, adware and spyware are growing at a tremendous rate. Gone are the days in which an introverted computer hacker starved for attention takes to digital world and creates a virus for boasting rights. Now, malware is driven by money. Be it a botnet that launches a denial of service attack or phishing scam which steals your user ID and password, it is grief that you do not need. As the old proverb says "a pinch of caution is better than a pound of trouble." Below, I have gathered a not so short list of security freewares. Where possible, I listed if a download requires registration. In addition, I provided links to reviews for the software. You can find the reviews at the bottom of the article. Enjoy!

Antivirus Scanners

  1. Antivir Personal Edition Classics free for home and non-commercial use. Antivir has very good detection and removal rates. It comes with heuristic scanning for zero day exploits. One weakness is that it does not scan incoming e-mail messages. However, it can scan outgoing e-mail. When updating new virus signatures, it will display a splash screen for their premium products, which is a little annoying. In addition, it takes it takes a while to download the new signatures. No registration required. (1)
  2. AOL Active Virus Shield a free version of Kaspersky Lab Antivirus. Kaspersky Lab is one of the most respected security software vendor. Prior to Active Virus Shield, Kaspersky Lab only offered commercial products. AOL has negotiated with Kaspersky Labs to produce a lite version of its popular antivirus. AOL Active Shield was released shortly after AOL's debacle of releasing the search data of more than 650,000 users. Perhaps, this is their way of redeeming themselves. This lite version has one of the best detection and removal rates. Registration required. (2)
  3. Avast Home Edition free for home and non-commercial use. Avast was one of the very first free antivirus. It has a decent detection and removal rates. Unlike Antivir, it will scan incoming and outgoing e-mail messages. The most recent version includes intrusion detection functionality. Basically, it monitors key areas in Windows operating system and alerts users if it detects something trying to change these areas. Registration required every 4 months. (1)
  4. AVG Free Edition free for home and non-commercial use. Again, AVG is one of the very first free antivirus for personal use. Its detection rate is subpar. But, long time users swear by it as the best free antivirus available. Grisoft, the parent company which owns AVG, has recently acquired Ewido Anti-Spyware (Ewido is mentioned later in this article) Despite its name Ewido Anti-Spyware provides protection from spyware and Trojan horses. It is very likely that Grisoft will include Ewido's technology in to future version of AVG. AVG is a small program and requires little computer resources, which makes it a good choice for older computers. No registration required. (1)
  5. Comodo Antivirus free for all users. Comodo Antivirus is one of the newer entrants to security software industry. It boasts very good detection and removal rates. Comodo has been criticize for including adware in their products but this should be taken with a grain of salt. Registration required.
  6. Computer Associates Antivirus free for all users. Computer Associates is the maker of the popular anti-spyware PestPatrol and Etrust antivirus. This free version comes with a 12 month subscription of virus signature updates. It detection and removal rate is subpar. It is a small program and requires little computer resources, which makes it a good choice for older computers. Registration required.

Firewalls

  1. Ashampoo Firewall free for all users. Shampoo is one of the newer entrants in to the security software industry. Their firewall is very easy to use and requires very little resources, which makes it a good choice for older computers. It is a work in progress and users can expect to be a few bugs but that is true about all the other firewalls in this article. Registration required.
  2. Comodo Firewall free for all users. Comodo is one of the new entrant to the security software industry. PC Magazine has given rave reviews for Comodo Firewall and PC Magazine rarely gives any software such a high rating. Proving once again, free is not synonymous with poor quality software. Registration required. (3)
  3. Outpost Firewall Free free for home and non-commercial use. Outpost Firewall is small but efficient. One unique feature it has is the ability to add plugin to extend its functionality. For example, it has a plugin to remove banner ads. Registration required. (4)
  4. Sunbelt-Kerio Firewall comes with a 30 day trial. After trial period some advanced functions disabled. Almost a year ago, Kerio made the decision to stop developing their home firewall products and focus instead on their firewall products for businesses. Fortunately, Sunbelt (makers of the popular anti-spyware CounterSpy) stepped in and took over the development of Kerio Personal Firewall and changed the name to Sunbelt-Kerio Firewall. Kerio is one of the best firewalls I ever used. It has two modes; one mode is for novices and the other is for advance users. Free for all users. No registration required (4)
  5. Sygate Personal Firewall free for all users. Sygate is truly a great firewall but, unfortunately, it is no longer being developed. People can still download the last free version but be warn there is no support for this product. No registration required. (4)
  6. ZoneAlarm Free for home and non-commercial users. ZoneAlarm is almost a household name. ZoneAlarm Firewall is included in ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite. However, they do provide a lite version of their famous firewall. In the beginning, ZoneAlarm will prompt the user to either permit or deny connections but, once trained, the number of prompts drops tremendously. Registration required. (4)

Adware and Spyware Scanners

  1. Lavasoft's Ad Aware Personal free for home and non-commercial use. The free version is identical to the commercial version except it does not offer any real time protection. The controls are a little confusing and sometimes you need to dig deep in to subfolders to find the settings you want. Nevertheless, it has decent detection and removal rates. No registration required. (5)
  2. Spybot Search & Destroy free for all users. Spybot is one of the first anti-spyware application ever made - if not the first one. It offers real time protection. Though I would recommend you not turn on the "Tea Timer" real time protection feature. It is more suited for Internet Explorer than any other web browser. It adds a large list of malicious websites to IE restricted zone. In addition, users can add Spybot's hosts file. Spybot can lock the hosts file, IE's homepage and IE's default search engine. No registration required. (5)
  3. Windows Defender (beta 2) free for all Windows users. To download Windows Defender, you need to have already gone through the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) validation process. A few years back, Microsoft acquired Giant Software, an anti-spyware software vendor, and used their technology to create Microsoft Anti-Spyware. Later, Microsoft changed the name to Windows Defender. Windows Defender is still in beta testing. Personally, I think Microsoft took a very good piece of software and butchered it. However, it does offer better real time protection than the other two anti-spyware applications. Windows Defender will be included in Windows Vista, Microsoft's newest operating system.

Trojan Scanners

  1. A squared Free free for all users. The free version does not have any real time protection. You need to purchase the commercial version to add real time protection. No registration required.
  2. Ewido Anti-Spyware comes with a 30 day trial period. After trial period, real time protection is disabled but all other features are still enabled. Don't be fooled by the name, Ewido is one of the best - if not the best - Trojan horse detector and remover.

Rootkit Scanners

  1. BitDefender Anti-rootkit Uncover beta is free during the beta testing period. Requires registration to become a beta tester. Bitdefender plans to add Uncover to its future Internet Security suite.
  2. F-Secure Blacklight beta is free during the beta testing period. Blacklight is the fastest of the scanners. F-secure plans to add Blacklight to its next Internet Security suite. No registration required.
  3. Sophos Anti-rootkit is free all users. No registration required. Sophos plans to continue providing a free version of its rootkit remover. I haven't had time to test Sophos Anti-Rootkit but have read some very good reviews.
  4. SysInternal Rootkit Revealer is free for all users. It is the slowest of the free rootkit scanners. Its a very good scanner but it generates a report which is hard for non experts to understand.

Anti-Phish Toolbars

  1. Cloudmark Anti Fraud Toolbar is only available for Internet Explorer
  2. Earthlink Scam Blocker Toolbar is available for both Internet Explorer and Firefox.
  3. Netcraft Anti-Phishing Toolbar is available for both Internet Explorer and Firefox.
  4. Windows Live Toolbar is only available for Internet Explorer. Windows Live Toolbar comes with a anti-phishing module. The same module will be included in Mircosoft's newest Internet Explorer 7.

Reviews

(1) "Review: Free Antivirus Software" -- written by Mary Landesman,about.com. (http://antivirus.about.com/od/antivirussoftwarerev)

(2) "AOL Active Virus Shield" -- written by Robert Vamosi, cnet.com. (http://reviews.cnet.com/AOL_Active_Virus_Shield/45)

(3) " Comodo Firewall Review" -- written by Neil J. Rubenking, pcmag.com. (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1969207,00.as)

(4) "Firewall Reviews" -- written by Neil J. Rubenking, pcmag.com. (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1864603,00.as)

(5) "Spyware Fighter" -- written by Narasu Rebbapragada, pcworld.com(http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,126818/article.h)

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