Lock It Up
Security and Antivirus Tools
Spybot Search & Destroy Spyware: It can slow your system, monitor where you surf, and even make your browser malfunction. Though no tool is a cure-all, Spybot is a powerful antidote to many ills. In addition to finding and deleting spyware, Spybot can continuously monitor your system for changes, giving you an opportunity to permit or disallow critical Registry modifications before they happen.
Lavasoft Ad-Aware SE Personal Another reliable tool, Ad-Aware scans your PC for spyware, uncovering digital snoops that lurk in memory or on your hard drive. The free version performs on-demand scans only, not continuous monitoring. But Ad-Aware catches some programs that Spybot misses (and vice versa).
Microsoft Windows Defender Yes, you do need another antispyware app. Though this beta software (formerly known as Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware) expires on December 31, 2006, it's worth downloading. Microsoft's tool catches spyware that other programs don't--including the dangerous rootkit carried by some Sony music CDs that were released last year.
All-in-One Secretmaker If you must use Internet Explorer, the least you can do is plug its security holes. All-in-One Secretmaker can help. It blocks banner ads and pop-ups, filters spam, and offers a collection of utilities for cleaning up and securing your system.
ZoneAlarm This firewall keeps watch over inbound and outbound Internet connections, helping avert attacks by hackers and spyware programs. It offers greater control and is easier to use than Windows XP's built-in firewall. Make sure that you download the basic firewall, which is free for personal and nonprofit use, instead of the trial version of ZoneAlarm Pro.
Anonymizer This company hosts a free anonymous browsing service at its home page. Enter a URL, and Anonymizer displays the page you want--without revealing your IP address, your cookies, or any other information to the sites you surf.
GRC Shields Up Think your PC is secure? Visit programming guru Steve Gibson's site to be sure. Shields Up is a convenient browser-based tool that checks for common vulnerabilities, such as open ports and hackable file-sharing services.
Trend Micro HouseCall If installing antivirus and antispyware programs isn't an option, do yourself a favor and visit this site regularly. Trend Micro's software runs in your browser to scan for and eliminate malware on your computer.
AirDefense Personal Lite You should never lose sight of the security risks involved in using Wi-Fi. This simple program alerts you whenever you connect to an insecure wireless network or to a hotspot that you haven't designated as safe.
Avast Home Edition This easy-to-use antivirus scanner is free for noncommercial or home use. Unlike online scanners, it can perform a boot-time virus scan (the most effective way to catch viruses) and will continually monitor your system for threats. Avast is free, but you must register at the company's Web site to use the program beyond its 90-day trial period.