So you’ve decided not to risk it any longer. You are going to install some much needed security software. We think that’s a great decision! Now all you have to do is pick your package and away you go. It’s as simple as that, isn’t it? Well not always – you see, there are products featuring protection aimed at anti-virus, anti-spy, anti-spam, firewall and many more areas. What on earth do all these tools do and how do you know if you need them?
There are seven typical components of an online suite and only a few people need them all. Seven pillars of online security suite wisdom if you like – and knowing what kind of guidance and protection you need now becomes critical. You might never have tried to ‘define yourself’ before, but now is the time as you will probably be making a decision on what type of product you need based upon what type of user you are.
Anti-virus software – everybody’s bread and butter for online safety:
This is the one that everyone has heard of. Anti-virus software is often free for the basic editions. It knows about, detects and prevents malicious software code intended to damage your computer or your data (basically, your personal information). Malicious software code may also intend to use your computer to launch attacks on others, and anti-virus software can prevent that too.
Anti-spyware software – if you don’t have it today, then you need to get it:
This is protection against the type of malicious software that tries to watch what you are doing online in an attempt to steal your information; passwords, bank account number, etc. This is part of the reality of our everyday world and will soon be as commonplace to your PC usage as your keyboard is to you now.
Link scanning software – essential for the casual surfer and the heavy web user: A ‘Link scanner’ integrates into your Internet connection and automatically warns you if you are about to visit a website that is a potential threat, found perhaps through a link in a search engine’s results list, or through a link that has been sent in an email. This type of tool is an essential must-have for both heavy and light users for different reasons: the light user may not see enough potentially malicious links to build up a general awareness of what is harmful, a heavy user might surf so fast that they fail to spot them, either way a LinkScanner becomes essential.
Anti-spam software – essential for new users, extremely nice for all of us to have: Spam is the common term for ‘junk’ email which you receive that you never asked for and don’t want. Spam is gradually getting more malicious, as it can now be the carrier of a ‘phishing’ attack – asking you to go to ‘your bank’ or ‘your Facebook account’ and then to enter your username and password. Anti-spam software filters out these messages so they never reach your inbox in the first place. Most regular PC users have their own spam filters set up via their email account, but a little extra protection doesn’t hurt.
Behaviour monitoring software – especially useful if someone else helps look after your PC: Different vendors have different names for this (AVG calls it Identity Protection), but essentially this is software that forms a layer on top of your anti-virus package to detect any suspicious behaviour of programs on your computer. Typically, behaviour-monitoring software doesn’t need to get updates from the Internet. Instead of watching for the latest known threats it watches out for software doing things that it shouldn’t. If you are one of those people that uses a friend or even a local software support company to help you run your PC, then this kind of security layer is essential for peace of mind.
File download, online chat and social networking protection – are you a heavy web application downloader? This is software that specifically checks downloaded files for Internet threats after they have been received, but before you open them. If the file is perceived as a threat, it is normally blocked or archived somewhere on your PC where it cannot be activated. This type of product has a useful place on any PC for sure, but it will be of most value to those users who typically download a lot of applications from the web and/or are heavy users of web-based applications themselves.
Firewall – not just for large enterprises and corporate businesses:
A firewall watches everything on your computer that tries to exchange Information with the Internet and also watches anything on the Internet that tries to send data back to your computer. It then either blocks information exchanges that it knows shouldn’t be happening or checks with you whether the software that you are running really needs to connect to the Internet. While you might still perceive this kind of protection layer as something only used by companies, Firewalls have a place in all systems and it won’t be many years before we start to think about bringing in Firewall protection layers.