This article has been updated as of Feb. 8, 2013 to bring to date some links and add a note about Java.
Please also note: below applies to Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP SP3 users only now. Windows 8 comes with Windows Defender for Windows 8 which is essentially Microsoft Security Essentials. AV protection is included out of the box. That said, you can check with your favorite AV vendor for a version that works with Windows 8 for your edition of Windows 8.
Today, navigating the web safely is as important as locking your car downtown, or having a neighbor keep an eye on your home when you are away. Just like out there where we all know and have learned techniques to keep ourselves safe, there are also techniques to keep ourselves safe online.
The first one is to browse safely. Never click on a link in an email unless you fully trust both the source of the email and know the site it is going to send you to. That also applies to links sent in Instant Messages or on Social Networks (like Facebook or MySpace).
Just like knowing your kids are safe, good browsing habits will bring you peace of mind.
It is also just as important to be vigilant in protecting the data stored on our PC’s. Cyber-criminals are hard at work each day reverse-engineering code so they can find ways to hack programs. This is an unfortunate truth in today’s world. As PC users, we are their main targets. Why spend all day waiting for a well dressed man to walk through the park when you can wait outside the mall? That mall is Windows and most are using it as it is the best option.
The items listed below are all free or have free versions for home users. If you want help securing your PC, think you have a virus, or want to learn of the many ways professionals keep their data secure each day, drop me a note using the contact form and I will be glad to take on that work.
Antivirus and Antispyware Programs for Windows Home Users.
The items below are what I use on my personal computers at home to keep them safe and up to date. They will all run well with Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7.
Before installing any of these home use Antivirus/Antispyware solutions, it is critical to make sure that any previously installed products have been properly removed from your system including any quarantined files!
Microsoft Security Essentials
Microsoft Security Essentials Download
A Free Antivirus and Anti-spyware Solution from Microsoft for home users. Note: Microsoft Security Essentials is FREE, there are no trials, no paid for versions, it is FREE.
AVG Free Download
A Free Antivirus and Antispyware Solution from AVG for home users.
The Programs and Utilities below are each quite useful in cleaning up an infected PC.
Each has a specific use. Improper use can damage your system!
A full system scanner that can be run in safe mode and remove files that many other scanners cannot. I use it every time I find a PC with typical malware issues, and often it removes bad programs that users allowed on their systems by not paying attention to warnings and prompts. Free for home users.
Hijack This Download
A great tool to see what is running on your system. It requires advanced knowledge of the default settings in most cases.
Autoruns for Windows Download
Tells you what ‘runs’ on your system. This is a good tool for removing unwanted start up items and more, but again, it is an advanced tool.
The programs below are used to keep your installed programs and your browsers up to date.
Today, Operating Systems and Browsers are hardened and are not the main vector of malware attacks. Today’s malware writers are attacking your installed programs and browser add-ons. These programs should be regularly checked for known security issues. The first item below will keep you informed of any updates required to common Windows programs.
Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) 3.0
Secunia PSI Download
A very well respected security provider to major enterprises and is also concerned about the home user as it is the home user’s PC that often is infected and acts in ways that can impact enterprises. They have created a great tool called Personal Software Inspector. This tool runs in the background on your PC and can warn you if you have programs that require security updates. The tool includes specific links and recommendations to keep all of your programs secure and therefore your PC.
Adobe Flashplayer Download
A browser add on that is used heavily by most users and is required to view video from sites like YouTube and Hulu. It is highly recommended to always use the latest version as it will contain important security updates. Because the updater does not remove older versions of Flashplayer from your PC, I strongly suggest that these be uninstalled first and then use the download link.
NOTE: Unless you or your organization has a very specific need to use Java in your Browsers, I strongly recommend that Java be uninstalled from your system or use the latest version only and only allow access when truly needed. This is done through the Control Panel Java item, Security settings tab.
Because the updater does not always remove older versions of Java from your PC, I strongly suggest that these be uninstalled first and then use the download link.