Give the gift of safe Internet use this Christmas

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Internet use can be far safer for most home computer users through the use of free tools and services that help protect computers from malicious code that can lead to identity theft and fraud. In this article:

  • Free anti-virus
  • Free online virus scan
  • Free DNS filtering
  • Free personal firewall
  • Free rootkit detection
  • Free anti-spyware
  • Free patch updates
  • Free file eraser
  • Free disk encryption
  • Free password storage
  • Free encrypted e-mail
  • Free credit check

All of the tools represent the best of the best – they are all popular and renounced for their quality and effectiveness. If you doubt any of these, google these topics yourself and see where these tools appear in your search results.

Note: I have been using many of these tools for years, and am very happy with them. Data security is my profession; I am paid to know this stuff. Happy Holidays!

Free Anti-Virus

Most users don’t need fee-based anti-virus programs like Norton or McAfee. Instead, consider using AVG anti-virus. It’s free, easy to install and use, and just as effective as the big boys.

AVG from Grisoft: www.grisoft.com (you’ll have to hunt around on their site to find the free version. Keep looking.)

Free Online Virus Scan

Not sure if your installed anti-virus program is finding all the viruses on your computer? Go to one or more of these sites to get a free online scan – like getting a second opinion on the health of your computer.

Panda: http://www.pandasoftware.com (look for the ActiveScan link on the home page)
Symantec: http://security.symantec.com/default.asp?productid=symhome&langid=ie&venid=sym
Trend Micro: http://housecall.trendmicro.com/
Kaspersky: http://www.kaspersky.com/virusscanner
CA: http://www3.ca.com/securityadvisor/virusinfo/scan.aspx

Free DNS Filtering

By configuring your system (or home router) you can make sure that your system won’t be able to visit sites containing unsafe or undesired content.

OpenDNS: www.opendns.com
ScrubIT: www.scrubit.com

Free Personal Firewall

A firewall can block incoming threats like worms and bots that can otherwise harm your system and steal your data. Like the other tools on this page, these two products are both free. Firewalls require a little more knowledge, so you might want to find a power-user friend to help.

Zone Alarm: www.zonelabs.com
Comodo: www.personalfirewall.comodo.com

Free RootKit Detection

Rootkits are a new kind of malware (like viruses etc) that seek to evade detection from regular anti-virus programs. These are free and easy to install and use. More info here.

Panda Anti-Rootkit: www.pandasoftware.com
AVG Anti-Rootkit: www.grisoft.com
Sophos Anti-Rootkit: www.sophos.com
McAfee Rootkit Detective: www.mcafee.com

Free Anti-Spyware

Spyware, adware, and other unwanted software lurks in spam and on websites. Anti-virus stops some, but not all.

Spybot: www.safer-networking.org
Spyware Blaster: www.javacoolsoftware.com
Microsoft Defender: www.microsoft.com

Free software patches

Okay, software patches should be free, and free they are. It is very important to stay up to date with Windows and Office security patches. If you run Windows, get your patches straight from Microsoft. Unless you’re an IT pro, I recommend you set up Automatic Updates so that patches are installed automatically.

Microsoft update: update.microsoft.com (only works with Windows Internet Explorer)
Learn about automatic updates: www.microsoft.com

Free File Eraser

Did you know that “deleting” files on your Windows computer doesn’t really delete the information at all? It’s still there for any clever intruder to find – even after you empty your trash can. This free tool called Eraser safely *wipes* your deleted data so that it cannot be discovered. Read this tip.

Eraser: sourceforge.net/projects/eraser/

Free Disk Encryption

If your laptop (or desktop) computer is stolen, thieves are going to be able to steal all of the data on your hard drive. You can encrypt your hard drive, which will result in thieves being unable to access your data. Read this tip.

TrueCrypt: www.truecrypt.org

Free Password Storage

I have mentioned in the past that you need to be careful how and where you store your passwords. If you store them in your computer, intruders can find and exploit them by logging in to your websites. Please do not use your browser to store passwords! Instead, use one of these two free tools to securely store passwords. More info here.

Password Safe: passwordsafe.sourceforge.net
KeePass: sourceforge.net/projects/keepass/

Free Encrypted Email

If you are sometimes concerned that a third-party may be able to read your e-mail – you’re right and you’re not alone. Sending e-mail is like sending postcards through the mail: others can easily see what you are saying to your friends and colleagues. Hushmail safely encrypts e-mail with world-renowned PGP (and your power-user friends who use PGP can send and receive encrypted mail with you). Best of all, it’s free, like the other tools on this site.

Hushmail: hushmail.com

Free Credit Check

U.S. citizens can get free credit checks once per year. You can get them from all three credit reporting bureaus all at once, or do one every four months, picking a different bureau every time. By monitoring your credit, you are more likely to discover fraudulent use of your identity.

Annualcreditreport.com
Federal Trade Commission information on free credit reports
Equifax
Experian
Transunion

Learn more about computer security

Computer Viruses for Dummies – teaches all the basics, not just about viruses but online Internet use and many tips to stay safe online

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14 thoughts on “Give the gift of safe Internet use this Christmas

  1. Gary Hinson

    Nice work Peter!

    People are always interested in freebies and, though I don’t personally know all of the software you recommend, there is nothing there I’d disagree with.

    Using “my mum” as the benchmark non-IT-geek, I’m sure she appreciates the need for antivirus and probably antispyware but the others on your list are perhaps less obvious requirements. How about a follow-up item expanding on the reasons why people should be looking seriously at all of the above?

    Also, don’t forget Windows Update – another freebie – and similar online patching systems for other software. Staying up to date on all security patches significantly reduces the chances of being hit by worms, spyware and other nasties out there. I’d like to recommend Secunia’s PSI software although it’s probably too geeky for mum.

    Merry Christmas!
    Gary

    Reply
  2. peterhgregory Post author

    Wow, I didn’t even think of Windows Update! My mindset was fixed on “good, free substitutes for things that many people pay money for”, so I didn’t even consider it. I’ll consider adding this too. Thanks Gary!

    Peter

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Money for nothing and security for free — Security Bytes

  4. planetheidi

    Good list. I give out a similar list at the end of any security awareness training as a “take home bonus” for the students. Hmm… I think I’ll take the inspiration from Peter and update it for my readers.

    Reply
  5. mfmjos

    There is one item that I found recently that looks very promising which is not included on the list. http://www.Untangle.com It’s not for “your mum” but I’m sure I’m not the only geek reading this. Basically, it’s a full featured firewall built on linux. I plan to replace my existing hardware firewall with untangle when the time comes. I’m tired of paying for subscriptions when I don’t see the need.

    Reply
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  7. Woody

    WOW! I just got this list from an Email friend. Never heard of Peter Gregory before so Googled it & am pleasantly surprised at the accomplishments.
    I just used Revo Uninstaller to get Norton off my computer (Was surprised how easy Revo made it) & put Windows Live one on.
    Happy so far with it but do I need to do more for good safety?

    Thanks for all you do!!!

    Semper Fi
    Woody

    Reply
  8. LookinglSoftware

    Good Reviews.
    I just want to provides exactly address to download AVG antivirus, you can found at this address http://free.grisoft.com/

    And want to share some tips. There are many software on above list. You may ask should I download and install all in your computer. The answer is depend on your needs. The most necessary are:

    Anti-virus is used to protect from viruses, worms and trojans.
    Anti-spyware is used to protect form spyware and adware.
    Firewall is used for protection from hacker and unauthorized access through network.

    And other are just computer utilities.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: Give the Gift of Computer Security ~ Net Patrol

  10. Belinda

    It sounds like you’re creating problems yourself by trying to solve this issue instead of looking at why their is a problem in the first place.

    Reply

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