Friday, July 29, 2011

7 Essential Security Downloads You MUST Have Installed

These days when we pay our bills, manage our bank accounts, store sensitive data in the cloud and frequently buy stuff online you should be more careful about keeping your computer secure then ever before.
Below, I would like to share my favorite essential security downloads that have helped me keep my system secure over the last 2-3 years. Check them out and tell us what you think in comments.

1. AVG Anti-Virus (Windows)

AVG is a free anti-virus program, also a really good one. In the past I have tried Norton, Kaspersky, NOD 32 and several others but finally settled on AVG. It’s been my preferred anti-virus program for the last couple of years. MakeUseOf readers seem to agree as well.
AVG Anti-Virus- essential security downloads
We have already reviewed the AVG on MakeUseOf before so if you want to know all the details check out Mark’s AVG review here.
To get an idea here are some of the things you get with AVG:
* real time virus checking
* automatic daily updates
* scans incoming/outgoing emails for viruses
* removes malicious tracking cookies from the browser
* scans search results (ex. Google) and warns about non safe links.
* option control the speed of virus scanning process

2. MalwareBytes Anti-Malware (Windows)

Malwarebytes is an easy-to-use and effective anti-malware application. With over 8 million downloads MalwareBytes is ranked as the 6th most popular software download on and second in spyware removal category. The users ratings and reviews are pretty good as well.

essential security software
Malwarebytes’ claims to detect and remove malware that many of the other well known spyware removal programs fail to detect. I can’t really confirm that but after using it for about 2 months it has become my primary spyware removal/scanner app. I must admit I haven’t been using this one long enough yet but so far it has done a pretty good job.
While MalwareBytes doesn’t offer as many features as other tools in that category, it has a comprehensive library of threats to protect against. It’s also very light on your system resources.
The program does have a few more options open to you. For instance, it adds a contextual right-click option to scan individual files. This second option is handy for times when you have to download a file that you think is suspect or need to open someone’s flash drive.
There are some other handy addons as well. You can read more about MalwareBytes in a previous MakeUseoOf article Stop & Delete Spyware With Malwarebytes.
The Basic version which consists of a spyware scanner and removal tool is free. The Pro version costs $24.95 and comes with an additional Protection Module that can detect malware before it can do any significant damage.

3. Spyware Terminator (Windows)

I use Spyware Terminator as my secondary spyware removal tool.
Spyware Terminator
I first heard about it from Bill Mullins, a security expert and MakeUseOf author who recommended the app for real-time spyware protection. In his own words:
As you can see, Spyware Terminator is my current application of choice in the spyware protection/removal category. Having tested virtually all of the major anti-spyware apps over the last year or more, I’ve settled, for now, on Spyware Terminator.
The program is easy to setup and customize, for both less experienced and expert users alike. One noteworthy feature of Spyware Terminator is its ‘Real-Time Shield’ that silently runs in the background and offers strong active protection against both known and unknown threats.
Spyware Terminator
Moreover, there is a simple option to schedule automatic updates and fast spyware scans on a daily basis to ensure your computer is clean.

4. Comodo Firewall Pro (Windows)

Firewall has an essential role in safeguarding your PC. It can block unauthorized remote attempts to access your computer as well as attempts to transfer data by locally installed programs. Unfortunately not many people know about that.
Windows XP and Vista users already have the default Windows Firewall but based on my past experience I don’t find it effective and prefer Comodo Firewall instead (and so do many others).
Comodo Firewall pro
Just like the above mentioned AVG, Comodo Firewall also came out as the best Firewall in our poll. It’s also probably the lightest one when it comes to your precious system resources. For me it takes only about 3.2 MB on average.
Comodo automatically monitors your connection and alerts you whenever some remote computer or locally installed program tries to initiate an unauthorized connection.
Comodo Firewall pro
In many cases it also gives you advice on how to react to the alert.
Moreover, Comodo Firewall also comes with something called Defense + Host Intrusion Prevention System. This security addon helps to further secure your computer against malicious craplets before they can do any harm to your system.
Comodo Firewall pro
Note: Like with any extensive security software if you haven’t used a Firewall before you might find Comodo alerts a little overwhelming. So, keep in mind that it takes some time to get used to.

5. NoScript – Firefox

noscript-firefox With over 42 million downloads NoScript is the most popular Firefox addon out there. So if you haven’t tried it before it’s time to do so now.
To put it simply, NoScript makes web browsing safer by blocking everything that can potentially be used to harm your computer. The includes JavaScript, Java, Flash and other executable content.
Now there is one thing to keep in mind here, while you do get a safety net with this addon, as a novice user at the beginning you might find it annoying to constantly add sites to your “trusted sites” list. For instance, when you visit Youtube for the first time after installing it the videos won’t load unless you add Youtube to your trusted list.
But the good news, adding sites to the trusted list can be accomplished with a click of a button and you need to do it only once.
Also for the websites that present information from several sources you might have to “allow” several sites before you are able to view them in full. In such cases you can simply select “Allow all this page” option.
To sum up, NoScript does take some time to get used to but is definitely worth it. Just like like the Comodo Firewall. If you have any questions check out their FAQ page here.

6. Lastpass (Firefox / Internet Explorer)

LastPass is that one password manager you have been waiting for. Unlike Internet Explorer and Firefox’s built in password managers, data in your LastPass Vault is encrypted. The encrypted login details are stored on LastPass server which are then accessible from your browser or any web-enabled computer that you have Lastpass installed on.
It takes about a minute to install and setup.
lastpass password manager
Once you have set it up, you can start adding your accounts by simply going to sites and login as usual. When Lastpass asks if you want it to remember the login details for the site, click ‘OK’ and done. Next time you visit the site lastpass will fill the login details automatically.
You will only need to know one password, that is the the password to your Lastpass account. You will have to enter it everytime the browser is restarted.
lastpass password manager
Once logged in you’ll be able to access your web accounts with a single click. Other lastpass features include:
- auto online form filling
- ability to access your account details from multiple computers
- password generator
- and more …

7. WOT (Web Of Trust) – Firefox

Another extremely popular Firefox addon. I have been using WOT for about 4-5 months and so far it has been great. The purpose of WOT is to warn users about unsafe websites before they actually enter them. These unsafe site can mean a site known to scam visitors, deliver malware, send spam etc.
WOT uses color-coded icons show ratings for over 21 million websites – green for safe, yellow for caution and red for stop. Screenshot below shows WOT safety icons on Google search results.
WOT firefox -  security programs for computer
As you can see from the screenshot above WOT warns about the first two entries. So I would skip them.

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