Most of my readers know that I am a big advocate of free software (free as doesn’t cost anything, period). I have recommended many free downloads from this space, but today I want to direct you to an unsuspected source for some great freeware. The software giant that we all love to hate also has some great free software to be used on any valid MS Windows System. Even if you hate paying Microsoft for their Windows OS and their ubiquitous MS office, give them credit for having some very useful freebies and you can be assured that anything downloaded from one of their sites is malware free. As a matter of fact MS offers so many freebies that I can only include the security ones in this column.
Let me start with what I think is their crown jewel, Microsoft Security Essentials. They describe MSE as the anti-annoying, anti-expensive, anti-virus program and the program lives up to the hype. It’s one of the best for detection rates and yet doesn’t slow your system down like some of the paid solutions. MSE has a very friendly user interface and it handles scheduled scans and updates virtually automatically. You don’t get a lot of pop-ups asking you to buy something and you will feel more secure in your surfing.
If you suspect a malware attack, MS offers the free Microsoft Safety Scanner that will scan your system and remove viruses, spyware and viruses while working with your existing AV software. Please be aware that the MS Safety Scanner is not the same as Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool which is updated every second Tuesday and offered as part of the monthly Windows Update package. That tool checks your computer for specific, prevalent malware and removes it if found. Note that the MS Safety Scanner expires 10 days after download so that you are forced to run an up to date version of the scanner.
The Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) is a bit of a geeky tool, but it is still useful to check your computer for missed security updates and security misconfigurations. I still like the free Secunia OSI scanner for checking updates if you’re not comfortable with the MBSA.
If you use Windows Live Mail or already have a Windows Live ID, you may want to consider Windows Live Safety which can help you monitor kids computer activities and filter the websites, games and programs they can access. It is not a substitute for parental supervision, but you can use it as one of your tools.
And lastly, there is a customized version of Internet Explorer 9.0 that works directly with The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in the UK (CEOP Centre). You can upgrade your IE 9 browser and it makes the CEOP tools available. CEOP is billed as a one stop shop for Internet safety. You may want to start at their website and read about what they offer and also check the reference links there.
Till next week, be safe and send your questions to: