Great American Privacy Makeover

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Software: Top Utilities for Your Toolbox

Illustration: Joe Zeff
To keep your online security simple and low-cost, check out this list of tried-and-true products that can help you cover your bases.

  1. Antivirus: Everyone should have an up-to-date antivirus application--period. Symantec's Norton AntiVirus Pro 2004 ($70) is a consistently good performer, and the 2003 version was a Best Buy in July. If you object to Symantec's product activation, try McAfee Security VirusScan 8 Home Edition ($50). (See New Products for more details on these and other parts of the companies' security suites.)
  2. Spam fighter: Keep yourself out of harm's way by culling e-mail that may try to infiltrate your PC or your wallet. Sunbelt Software's $20 IHateSpam is a good choice for Outlook users. Other options for people with Outlook and other e-mail clients: Symantec's Norton AntiSpam ($40) and McAfee's SpamKiller Home 5 (also $40), or the Mailblocks service ($10 yearly subscription).
  3. Firewall: For anyone with a broadband connection, firewalls are a must. For the rest of us, they're a very good idea, especially as worms and spyware proliferate. Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm 4 remains our top choice; the free version supplies a basic firewall, but the $50 Pro version adds a comprehensive security tool kit.
  4. Adware/spyware remover: These utilities can help keep pop-up ads from multiplying and prevent your surfing habits from becoming public knowledge. PepiMK's free Spybot Search and Destroy does a terrific job; the free Lavasoft Ad-aware 6.1 has fewer features but is also a good choice.
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