Each week in this column I answer your technology questions in a way that hopefully makes your life easier and your interaction with techie things less complicated. Sometimes your unspoken questions seem more important to me than the spoken ones. Let me explain. For example, clients bring me PCs with various ailments that they want addressed and rightly so. When I boot up the machines, I often find more basic problems that need to be addressed before I can tackle the clients expressed complaints.
It is very common for me to examine a PC for the first time and discover that it either has no antivirus software or that the subscription has run out or that the virus definitions are not up to date. You remember the story of the guy who was asked if he had anti-freeze in his car and he replied, “Sure, I have 2 gallons in the trunk”. You really need a working antivirus program than is turned on and up to date. Remember, the bad guys are inventing new malware or updating old ones on a daily basis.
Regular column readers know that I recommend a four-pronged approach to PC security. First, turn on a firewall; second, keep your software updated (especially your Operating System); third, use antivirus software and fourth, use anti-spyware software.
There’s really no reason not to have good antivirus protection on your PC, since there are so many good, free, easy to use programs available. I recommend Avira, Avast and my personal favorite AVG Free.
AVG Free is one of the most widely distributed free security softwares in the world today (80 million active users). This antivirus software by AVG Technologies is a good alternative to the paid subscription AV programs that many of you are familiar with. In conjunction with your firewall, automatic Windows updates and maybe some anti-spyware software, AVG Free will give most home PC users the protection needed on the Internet and not slow down your computer like some of the paid suites do. The new AVG Free Version 9 has a more streamlined user interface and more importantly, scans your hard drive about 50 % faster than the older versions.
The free version of AVG 9 also includes email scanning to protect you against dangerous Web links and unsafe attachments in your email. Anti-virus and anti-spyware protection are also included in the free edition. The new LinkScanner feature warns you when you are about to download a potential phishing Web site. All versions of AVG 9 include basic anti-rootkit protection as well. Space does not allow me to explain all these features, but they are useful as part of your security arsenal.
There is also a commercial edition of AVG 9 for about $34.99 a year, if you require or want additional protection (see their Website for descriptions). My recommendation, if you want to go that route, is to test drive the commercial version with a 30 day trial first.
Some of you may experience minor annoyance choosing between the free and commercial versions on AVG’s Web site. A simple alternative is to download the free version from filhippo.com. It is usually listed in their top ten most frequent downloads. One more caveat: when you are maintaining your AVG Free, you want to continually” update”. “Upgrade” means you want to switch to the commercial (i.e. paid) product.