Internet Security: What do you need? Free version or spend the $$$

Internet Security: What do you need? free version or spend the $$$

Remember when virus security meant not opening an e-mail attachment from someone you didn’t know. Well, the game has certainly changed from those days. Now you need to be concerned about viruses, spyware, malware, adware, worms, bots, Trojans, Internet attacks. Well, some of these terms overlap – but you get the idea. So what software do you need: Anti virus software, Anti-Malware, Internet Security software, an appliance firewall? Here is where you need to have an understanding of exactly what you are looking at.


Virus: A program that is copied onto your computer , boot sector or document. It can be transmitted through attachments, downloaded files or reside on a CD.

Malware: “Malicious Software” – a program that installs itself on your computer without your permission. It comes in many forms such as viruses, worms, Trojans, adware and spyware.

Spyware: a dangerous form of Malware. It can steal private information stored on your computer.

Worm: A virus that replicates itself by resending itself as an e-mail attachment or as part of a network file.

Firewall: will monitor all the network traffic (transmitting behind the scenes). It’ll block unknown and unsolicited traffic from entering your computer, thus protecting you from hackers, worms and viruses. A Firewall provides the first line of defense.

Most Internet Security Suites will cover all the bases for you- that is: they come with anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall and usually parental controls. Most of the free software only covers 1 or 2 of these topics. So, when choosing this route you will probably need to download each component separately. You also need to verify that the programs are compatible with each other. You may run into a scenario where a firewall from one vendor is not compatible with the anti-virus program from another.

You still have more work to do: you should get an anti-virus program that has real time protection, on demand scanner, auto updater, Heuristic analysis, Email protection and automatic online upgrading.

Make sure your malware program has real-time protection, heuristic scanning, on-demand scanning, quarantine controls and online upgrading.

And, don’t forget about the firewall.

Why a firewall? Well there are worms that spread through ports from other computers on the network (or Internet) without the help of any program. They transmit behind the scenes. The firewall will block this unsolicited traffic. This is why anti-virus software is simply not enough to protect your computer on the Internet.

The most basic firewall will detect and prevent intrusion to your computer from unsolicited network traffic. It can also make your computer invisible to others on the Internet, makes it harder for other computers to find you. There are many other features that come with firewalls that cost you some money. These include 2-way firewall, anti-phishing, identity protection and parental controls.

Is Windows firewall good enough, do I really need added software? One key question is: do you want to put your security in the hands of Microsoft. There are some studies that have shown some data leakage through the windows firewall. I’m a believer in using multiple vendors to help cover all the bases. So, my vote is to go out and get a firewall from a vendor that specializes in security.

And just one note about MAC’s: Just because you are running on a MAC, doesn’t mean that you are not vulnerable to viruses. One theory for why you haven’t heard about viruses on the MAC’s is because the hackers were going after the pc world since pc’s hold an overwhelming market share over the MAC. It’s no fun to attack a small crowd. But, as the MAC increases its market share –the viruses are starting to become more prevalent. Nothing to panic about, but it is something to be aware of. Funny, some experts tell MAC users not to open E-mail from someone you don’t know, don’t launch any program that looks suspicious and use password protection. Isn’t this where security for a pc started?

And, of course, make sure that the software you are planning on using is not Malware itself!

Why not spend $50 for full suite protection (anti virus, anti-malware, 2-way firewall, identity protection, parental controls and anti-phishing). Seems to me, spending $50/year to help ensure that your computer and identity data are safe is money well spent. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good, free products on the market. You need to do your homework to make sure you are completely covered, that all components are up-to-date and working properly. It is your responsibility to make sure your signature files (key data files) are up to date.

And, when I say up-to-date – I mean daily!