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Free Anti-Virus/Anti-Spyware Solutions October 8, 2009

Posted by twiznc in Services & Software Recommendations, Virus, Spyware & SPAM Issues.
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Updated March 6, 2016

If a computer is connected to the Internet, it MUST have a current anti-virus/anti-spyware program installed and running with the latest “virus definitions” downloaded and installed in order to avoid being infected with malware.  This article covers the dangers of virus and spyware infections, steps to safely browse the web, and why an available FREE anti-malware product is an excellent alternative to the “name brand” internet security products (Norton, McAfee, etc.) for home users whose budget does not allow the expense of subscribing to those products.

Click here for a comparison of the major “paid subscription” malware protection products.

ANTI-VIRUS OVERVIEW (courtesy of Ken Dennis on TheEffectiveAdmin.com, with my edits in purple text)

Anti-virus software is used to find, remove or fix files that are infected with computer viruses. Most anti-virus companies release updates of their databases on a daily basis (or more often) to help keep you safe. Your anti-virus software uses these updates (also known as virus signatures or definitions file) to identify newly discovered viruses.  The most basic anti-virus programs normally have several features to it:  the memory resident scan, the system or file scan, and an automated updater. Many more sophisticated programs have many other integration tools that scan into your instant messengers, your e-mail software and many other programs.  It’s very important when you configure your anti-virus software to always make sure you can download new updates as often as possible. If you scan your system for viruses, and your definitions file is out of date, it may not even find a problem with your system. Additionally, you should make sure you do in fast scan your system on a regular basis.  (…) .

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Although there are steps you can take to improve the safety of your web browsing activities, if you don’t install an anti-malwareprogram and keep it up to date then it is just a matter of time (usually not very long) until your computer is infected with a virus or spyware infection which will not only affect the speed and performance of your computer, but can also comprimise the security of your data and even put you at risk for identity theft.  Running anti-malware software is a MUST for every user whose compter is connected to the Internet.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You should never have more than one “real-time scanning” anti-virus program installed on a computer.  If more than one anti-virus program is running there is a very high likelihood that they will conflict with one another and adversely affect the performance of your computer (slowing it down, or even causing freezes or system crashes).  There is no such thing as 100% protection against viruses, spyware, worms and other malware.  So it is important to choose one effective anti-virus program and keep it updated with new virus signatures at all times.

RANSOMWARE PROTECTION: There is one exception to the “use only one anti-virus program” rule. “Ransomware” malware reared its’ ugly head recently.  This new type of virus can encrypt all of your data files; the only way to get them back is from a backup (assuming you are backing up your file), or by paying a ransom (via bitcoin on the Internt) to the entity that infected your computer.  The ransom asked is often hundreds or thousands of dollars. Although not an anti-virus program in the traditional sense, FoolishIT’s CryptoPrevent software can be a valuable tool in your efforts to keep your computer secure from the new “ransomware” type of virus.  CryptoPrevent is a free, legal, safe application and can be run in conjunction with a traditional anti-virus program.  Bear in mind that nothing (including CryptoPrevent) can provide 100% protection from malware of any kind (especially including ransomware infections), so alway be careful when opening email attachments (especially from unknown sources) and always be care when entering website addresses as you might inadvertently land on a “poisoned” website which can infect your computer.

IS A FREE ANTI-MALWARE PRODUCT AS GOOD AS A NAME BRAND PRODUCT SUCH AS “NORTON” OR “MCAFEE”?  – For normal persona use, the quick answer is “yes”, provided you choose the right free anti-virus product.  There are perhaps hundreds of “free” anti-virus products promoted on the web.  Unfortunately, many of them are “fake” programs that are at best worthless and at worst will actually infect your computer with viruses and spyware.

Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 8 come with a built-in “beefed up” version of Microsoft “Windows Defender” malware protection.  However, businesses and users whose browsing habits put them at greater risk of malware infection should consider a premium “business class” internet security application like Webroot Smarter Cybersecurity, which utilizes a new “behavior based” detection method that allows for a very small and fast installation and does not require signature updates.  Click here for a comparison of the major “paid subscription” malware protection products.

Windows 7 and Windows Vista came with Windows Defender but this was a much less robust application and only protected against spyware (not viruses, worms, rootkits, or ransomware).  We strongly recommend Microsoft Security Essentials as the best free anti-malware product for Windows 7 and Windows Vista.  It provides real-time protection for your home PC in a single program that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.  Microsoft Security Essentials is a free download from Microsoft that is simple to install, easy to use, and automatically kept up to date so you can be assured your PC is protected by the latest technology. The software runs quietly and efficiently in the background so that you are free to use your Windows-based PC the way you want—without interruptions or long scanning wait times.  Businesses and personal users whose browsing habits put them at greater risk of malware infection should consider a premium “business class” internet security application like Webroot Smarter Cybersecurity, which utilizes a new “behavior based” detection method that allows for a very small and fast installation and does not require signature updates.  Click here for a comparison of the major “paid subscription” malware protection products.

Click here for more Consumer Guides and Recommendations.

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