April 12, 2009

Making my computer safe (Part 2)

Last time we covered Antivirus and the Internet (Routers). Today it's Firewalls, Malware and Security Suites.

Unfortunately, this is a subject that is very controversial and gets complicated very fast. The purpose of a firewall is to prevent a program from accessing your computer from the Internet and/or accessing the Internet from your computer.

There are a lot of folks who don't believe that firewalls are necessary (I'm not one of them). The argument is that if you practice "safe computing" and have a good anti virus, you should not have a problem. Some believe that the firewall provided in a router is sufficient. Others think that the built-in firewall in XP and Vista is sufficient. Yet more think you need a full blown 3rd party firewall software that monitors all incoming and outgoing transmissions.

I would be in the last group except for one thing. Virtually every firewall software out there requires "learning" what is good traffic and what is bad traffic. It does this by asking you if it is OK and then whether you want to "remember" that decision. While this sounds good, it's actually very annoying and usually so cryptic that the average user hasn't got a clue. The result is that they say"OK" to everything, defeating the purpose.

I tend to set folks up with a good antivirus software and activate the XP or Vista firewall (by the way, the Vista firewall is MUCH better!). Together with reasonable precautions on using the interned and e-mail, it provides a very good level of protection.
For technically savvy users, I strongly recommend getting a good software firewall. The problem is that there are very few good free firewalls. You end up paying for it (I like the Sunbelt Personal Firewall).

Security Suites
A security suite is a software package that includes and anti virus software, firewall, e-mail protection and, usually a spam filter. There are a number of very good packages out there:

  • Trend Micro
  • Comodo
  • ESET
  • Webroot

There are lots more. If you want to go that route, you can download trial versions from their web sites, usually good for 30 days.

You'll note that I didn't include Norton (Symantec) and McAfee. This is not an accident. I consider them to be over priced, "bloatware" (too many unnecessary functions) and they slow down the computer performance dramatically. I recommend folks avoid them at all costs....

I don't want these posts to go on too long, so I'll leave the last, "Malware", for another time


Post a Comment