No one seems to understand how to secure their computer these days. Here is exactly what you are probably doing and why you should stop this very second.
I don’t claim to be a computer security expert by any means, but I’ve been around the block a few times. Enough times to have killed a computer in my childhood, taken an A+ Computer Repair class in highschool, spent literal weeks researching the effectiveness of sandboxing, antiviruses, firewalls and etc. Indeed, I have taken a stroll or two around the digital block, and I have to say, it is a seedy place. We’ll be discussing each type of computer security, it’s pros and cons, and why you probably have been doing it wrong.
Antivirus. This is the biggest, heavest, most well known term in computing these days. What do you think when you hear the word? For most people it’s Norton or McAfee. The problem here is the expense and vast resources required for each. An antivirus is a program that detects and destroys/quaranteens viruses based on databases. McAfee and Norton are like feeding your computer sludge; it slows at an extreme pace. 2011 scores show McAfee at a 96.8% detection rate with zero false positives and Norton at a 95.1% detection rate with many, many false positives. That sounds pretty good for McAfee, right? Well… Eset’s NOD32 scored 97.3 % with very few false positives, is about $30 a year, and runs like lightning on most modern machines. Mmmm. Avira and Avast!, on the free side of things, scored 99.5% with few false positives and 97.2% with few false positives, respectively. For FREE protection. See what I’m getting at? Computer security does NOT need to be expensive! Antiviruses are not better just because they are paid for. (Source: http://www.av-comparatives.org/images/stories/test/ondret/avc_od_aug2011.pdf)
Firewall. This is a famous word often used in movies and TV to mean an impenetrable or difficult to bypass security measure. In reality, no average user needs a firewall. I mean, if you’d like to, you could, but… Install Comodo Firewall for an hour, and you will immediately scrap the idea. What these programs do is ask you, the user, to okay EVERY process that tries to run on your PC. This can be up to, in my experience, in the region of 15 PER PROGRAM. Do you want to okay a program to run fifteen times just to actually make it run? If you answered yes, then you’re nuts, but I respect you. The program learns which processes are safe over time, and the amount of alerts will drop significantly over time, but the first week is absolutely painful, and the chance of actually stopping a threat once you’ve gotten into the habit of angrily pressing “Allow” each time that demonic window pops up is virtually zero.
Sandboxing. I see the benefit of this one. It’s a pain to use, seeing as if you’re mindlessly browsing and decide to download something, you’d have to switch browsers, but… If you’re browsing websites you don’t trust, sandboxing it is a fantastic option. Sandboxing, in essence, opens the web in a temporary, secondary operating system. (For those of us less versed, the operating system is windows. It’s what runs all of your programs and provides an interface to interact with). This means, in effect, that any virus or malicious download will be destroyed when the browser closes, along with the secondary system. No virus can be downloaded while sandboxing, but no programs can be either. It’s a worthy tradeoff for those with patience.
Antispyware. This is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Never pay for one, seeing as Spybot Search and Destroy is free and arguably the best, but not removing spyware is bad for one’s privacy and can slow your computer. Running Spybot once a week can improve performance as well as remove trackers, which even sound downright evil.
Antimalware. I’ve never found these to be necessary if you have a combination of antispyware and antivirus. This one is cut and dry; No necessity to use one.
Encryption. Best used if you have something to hide. Encryption is purely anti-person protection, however. No virus will care if you need three passwords to unencrypyt your drive and boot. If you have valuable or classified data, then by all means encrypt. Otherwise, skip it!
In conclusion, while threats and anti-threat software will always exist, and I’m positive I didn’t cover everything, if you follow the advice I have given here, your computer will always be well protected. Keep in mind, however, that the best protection is caution. One should not ever browse somewhere they don’t trust, give information in any way that seems fishy, or listen to anything that seems too good to be true (it likely is). Best of luck to all of you, and I hope you’ve learned to save money and stress!