This week, we're discussing free web-based software option, which may be able to replace its more expensive name-brand counterpart. These options may not replace the paid versions for professional use, but are usually sufficient for casual at-home use. Earlier this week we talked about photo-editing, and yesterday, we talked about converting documents to .PDFs. Now, let's talk about securing a home computer, for free.
Remove Spyware, Viruses, Trojans
Most of the "junk" we end up getting on our home computers is put there by marketers, for the purpose of selling us stuff. However, some "spammers" have more malicious intent, which violate our privacy, and damage our computers. Even the more "benign" cookies and spyware can slow us down and should be removed. Two programs available for doing this effectively that I have used numerous times are Ad-Aware by Lavasoft (download the free version), and Housecall by TrendMicro (download the free version). These programs will detect and remove basic spyware, viruses, and trojans, and will work with most existing anti-virus protection software and firewalls.
One way to have less spyware, and fewer viruses and trojans is to keep your anti-virus protection up-to-date. Two applications I have used and liked are the free versions of AVG and Avast! Note that you will need to choose one or the other of these (and uninstall an existing anti-virus protection), because anti-virus programs tend to detect each other as viruses, and tend not to work well together. At the very least, you'll constantly be getting "false alarm" pop-ups, which can be very annoying.
In addition to a good anti-virus program, you need to have a good firewall, which helps block spyware, viruses and trojans, and stop hackers from hijacking your computer and modem. Internet service providers are increasingly providing better firewall protection, so check with your internet provider, to see what is already provided with the service you're paying for. If you need additional protection, consider ZoneAlarm. Note that as with anti-virus software, firewall protection programs do not always play well together, so choose one and stick with it.
To make it a little more difficult (not impossible) for the webmasters of the websites you frequent to track your web-surfing habits, you can use a "proxy server," which masks your true I.P. address (the unique identifier assigned to your internet connection by your internet service provider). Java Anonymous Proxy (JAP) is a good free service. Again, there is no way to completely block your I.P. address, so I would not recommend doing anything using the software that you would not do if you knew your I.P., address were being tracked.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is a trainer and tech writer in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking. Her weakness is the mocha frappuccino.