Bigger Threats, Better Defense

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Today's malicious code does not just target your computer--it targets you. Criminals who traffic in stolen credit card numbers and identity information increasingly use viruses and worms to snare victims.

And viruses are only one of many threats. Some spam e-mail messages use so-called phishing schemes to trick recipients into revealing banking or credit card information. Miscreant advertisers use spurious pop-ups that exploit operating system weaknesses to hijack victims' browsers or install spying software.

As security threats have grown to encompass more than viruses, security experts have adopted the term malware to describe all malicious code. Combating this stew of invaders requires defense in depth--multiple barriers between the malware and your system. PC World evaluated 16 firewalls, virus scanners, spyware removal tools, and security suites to find the best arsenal. (For our review of spam fighters, see "Spam-Proof Your In-Box.")

Tool Kit: Best Defenders

Software and Hardware Firewall Best Buys

  • Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2004
  • Zone Labs ZoneAlarm Pro 4.5

Antivirus Scanner Best Buy

  • Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2004

Anti-Spyware Scanner Best Buys

  • Lavasoft Ad-aware 6 Plus
  • Spybot Search & Destroy

Spam Filter Best Buy

  • Cloudmark SpamNet
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