Computer security: What to buy or download for free

Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2009

Although at NZ$55* for a downloaded version it is one of the most expensive standalone antivirus programs on sale in New Zealand, Kaspersky is the most effective. The company is also quickest off the mark when it comes to delivering updates to protect customers against the latest emerging threats. The program is one of the easiest to use with a polished user interface and clearly labelled options – though you’ll have to set up its scheduled scan yourself. I’ve not tested Kaspersky’s Internet Security 2009.

  • When I visited the online store points New Zealand customers to an Australian site where the download price is A$55.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009

The best-known name in PC security combines a first-rate antivirus program that also pounces on spyware with a solid firewall in its security suite.

All the security functions are accessible from a control centre which clearly shows when something’s wrong – clicking this will normally fix things in a jiffy. If you run a home network, you can inspect the security settings of all computers from a single screen.

Norton Internet Security 2009 will slow your machine a tad, but in practice I find it far less disruptive than McAfee’s products and a noticeable improvement on earlier versions of the Norton software. Norton also stays out-of-the-way when you are working. At A$99 or NZ$99 to protect three home computers the price is good too.

http://www.symantec.com

Trend Micro HouseCall

If you’ve been slack with your computer security and suddenly feel under threat Trend Micro’s Housecall (http://housecall.trendmicro.com) is a free web-based antivirus and spyware service that can check your system for problems and then fix them. It works with both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, you download some code and then set it to work in your browser while you get on with other tasks. It works just like any other anti-spyware product and is at least as good at finding nasty software. While using HouseCall isn’t as safe as having security software running on your machine, it is a great quick fix.

Kaspersky offers an alternative online scanner at http://www.kaspersky.com/virusscanner. It works fine, but is  tricky if you’re running Windows Vista as you have to open your browser in administrator mode. That’s a non-trivial road block.

McAfee Total Protection 2009

In the past McAfee’s security tools haven’t been the best. I’ve found them to deliver less than first-rate protection while slowing down my computer and getting in the way of everyday work. What’s more, the company seems heavy-handed about extracting money from customers with pop-ups and constant email reminders.

And to cap it all, McAfee’s products are expensive. Total Protection 2009 costs A$130 in Australia and NZ$130 for customers buying direct from the web site. Computer stores may sell it for less but the rival programs are cheaper and have a better track record so why risk it? While I haven’t had the chance to test McAfee Total Protection 2009 personally, the marketing blurb says its simpler to user and uses fewer resources. It’s not the product I’d choose, but there are people who swear by McAfee.

http://au.mcafee.com/

Avast Antivirus

Avast is free for home users. You can’t argue with the price. Business users are expected to pay, but prices are low in comparison to other antivirus options. It’s a light program and uses hardly any computer resources which means it won’t slow you down. It’s also simple enough for non-technical people to use without being bamboozled. You’ll get regular automatic updates as required too.

http://www.avast.com/

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.0

As the name suggests, the price tag on AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.0 is a big fat zero. Unlike Avast, AVG makes the free version harder to find on its web site and goes to great lengths to persuade you the paid for products make more sense, but in reality it’s a good anti-virus tool at keen price.

http://www.avg.com.au

Comodo Firewall

Don’t be lured into a false sense of security by the firewalls built into Microsoft Windows Vista or Windows XP, you need better protection. The paid-for internet security suites all include robust firewalls, Comodo is widely regarded as the best free option. You might find it a bit annoying at first when it keeps asking you about programs, but after a while it’ll settle down and keep the worst malware at bay.

http://www.personalfirewall.comodo.com/

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