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!
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)
Trend Micro: http://housecall.trendmicro.com/
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.
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
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
Spyware, adware, and other unwanted software lurks in spam and on websites. Anti-virus stops some, but not all.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Federal Trade Commission information on free credit reports
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