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10 free security tools that actually work March 25, 2009

By Susan Sales Harkins


PC security is a hot industry, thanks to forces from the Dark Side. Your system, more than finances, will
determine the tools you use to protect it. However, for the casual home or business computer, a number of free
security products work well. Almost all of these products offer a paid version with more features, and many users
eventually upgrade -- which is why these companies can afford to offer free products.
Before you spend your hard-earned money on expensive security products, check out the following free tools.

1 AVG Anti-virus Free Edition


Without doubt, AVG is probably the most popular, free, antivirus software. It protects your system
against both viruses and spyware. Initially, the free version of AVG was stable and effective. As the Dark Side
advances, AVG has fallen behind a bit, but, it is still a good product if you combine it with other products
(specifically, #2 and #3). Don't depend solely on AVG.

2 Malwarebytes
Malwarebytes fights malware -- programs designed with malicious intent. Unfortunately, there's no way
to uninstall malware once it's installed, because it doesn't show up in the Control Panel. In addition, these files
usually install helper programs that re-download then reinstall the malware if you delete it. Malware includes
viruses, worms, rootkits, spyware, and trojans. As these products evolve, they are harder to detect and remove.
Malwarebytes is one of the best programs, free or not, for detecting and removing malware.

3 Spybot - Search & Destroy


Spyware tracks your Internet usage to create a marketing profile that is then sold, without your
knowledge, to advertising companies. If you notice a new toolbar in your browser, most likely you're being tracked
by spyware. Sometimes, these programs hijack your browser homepage, forcing you to browse the Internet
through their system. Although spyware isn't inherently destructive, it usually affects performance. If your system
suddenly slows down, chances are you've been infected. Spybot - Search & Destroy detects and removes
spyware, which isn't covered by many other anti-malware applications.
Note: A combination of #1, #2, and #3 provides adequate protection for most single-user systems. They're easy to
use and don't require special technical knowledge.

4 WOT
Within the context of the market, WOT is a fairly new offering that adds security, via an add-in, for your
browser. It will keep your system safe from online scams, identity, theft, spyware, spam, viruses, and suspect
commerce sites. As WOT encounters suspect sites, it alerts you. Of course, you decide whether to continue or
not, but at least you go into the transaction forewarned.

5 WinPatrol
WinPatrol is a robust security monitor that alerts you to hijackings, malware attacks, and changes
made to your system without your permission. Traditional security programs scan your hard drive, searching for
specific threats. WinPatrol uses a heuristic (discovery) behavior to detect attacks and violations by taking
snapshots of critical resources and alerting you to changes.

6 Secunia Personal Software Inspector


Most of us have at least one insecure program installed, which puts our systems at risk. Secunia
Personal Software Inspector (SPI) scans your PC for insecure programs. It also keeps you informed of updates
and patches for your installed programs.

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10 free security tools that actually work

Sysinternals Security Utilities


7 This free utility from Microsoft performs a number of important security functions. For example, it:
Lets you know who has access to files, Registry keys, and other Windows services.
Finds programs configured to run on startup.
Uses command-line utilities to list processes running on local or remote systems.
Scans system for rootkits.
Offers a Department of Defense-compliant secure delete program.

8 Wireshark
System administrators will appreciate Wireshark, a network protocol analyzer. Security features
include, among other things:
Live capture and offline analysis.
Display filters.
Rich VoIP analysis.
Decryption support for many protocols.

9 Nmap
Nmap is a network-mapping utility for network exploration and security auditing. Uses for Nmap
include:
Determining what hosts are available.
Determining what services hosts are offering.
Determining what operating systems are running.
Determining the type of packet filters and firewalls in use.

10 Online scans
If you suspect your system has been infected and your current tools aren't able to deal with it, try one
of the following free online scan services:
Ewido Online Scanner
X-Block Free Scanner
Trend Micro Online Scanner
F-Secure Online Scanner

In addition, you can test your firewall at ShieldsUP.

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10 free security tools that actually work

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Published: March 25, 2009

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