Like it or not, spyware and malware are here and probably always will be but we don’t have to spend lots of time cleaning it off our systems on a regular basis if we have a free anti-spyware toolkit at our disposal. This is exactly what we have put together, or at least our favorite ways to protect us against the elements of malware and spyware.
Spybot Search and Destroy – Scanning Software http://www.safer-networking.org
No anti-spyware article would be complete without Spybot Search and Destroy. This freeware utility I have, like many of you, been using for years and it has done really well for me and probably most of you as well. If you haven’t had the chance to use it before, head over to their website to download it.
I highly recommend it and so do many other people that I come across that have used it before. Spybot has both scanning features and protective features to protect again new threats. It’s more advanced and is more geared towards administrators, so I wouldn’t put it on grandma’s PC for her to use.
Lavasoft Ad-Aware – Scanning Software
This product comes to us from Lavasoft, which also has a paid-for version of Ad-Aware. The free version seems to work just fine, and I like to run it side-by-side with Spybot every so often. It’s great to get a second opinion at the doctor’s office, as is with anti-spyware – just to make sure nothing is left behind from either of the two scanning software.
Microsoft Windows Defender – Realtime Detection
Yeah, you probably didn’t think a Microsoft product would have been in this article, but this product I actually like – especially for the less technical users like Grandma.
Windows Defender is software that helps protect your computer against pop-ups, slow performance, and security threats caused by spyware and other unwanted software by detecting and removing known spyware from your computer. This is the main reason I like it. It’s also decent at finding and removing spyware already on the system, but for a good cleaning, I still recommend Spybot.
AVG Free Anti-virus – Realtime Detection http://free.avg.com
Let’s be real – spyware and malware go hand and hand usually with viruses and trojans. If you have one or the other, chances are you might have both. Therefore, to protect ourselves from the elements we need to have a good anti-virus running on our system and I chose AVG because it’s free, lightweight, and easy to use.
I’ve been running it for years without any problems at all – it’s found some nasty things along the way as well – which is good because it reminds me that it’s always working hard in the background for me. So, protect yourself from the nasties out there and grab a copy of AVG. You can also visit Microsoft.com for a list of anti-virus partners for the Windows version that you are running.
OpenDNS – Realtime Detection http://www.opendns.com
I bet you didn’t think DNS would be in this article, did you? Believe it or not, I highly recommend you check out a company called, OpenDNS. OpenDNS is the leading provider of free security and infrastructure services that make the Internet safer through integrated Web content filtering, anti-phishing, and DNS.
OpenDNS services enable consumers and network administrators to secure their networks from online threats, reduce costs and enforce Internet-use policies. The best thing about OpenDNS is that it’s free.
I’ve considered it a “Realtime Protection” tool as it blocks malware sites before you even get to them so that they never even hit your computer (if your DNS is run through a router). You’ll also gain access to parental controls, web stats, bandwidth information, and much more. We consider it another layer of protection against malware and you should too.
DEP – Realtime Protection http://www.grc.com/securable.htm
DEP is a feature built right into Windows and it stands for Hardware Execution Protection. It was introduced in Windows XP with SP2 but it’s not always enabled – at least for maximum protection. DEP basically protects the system from heaps, stacks, data and communications buffers from inadvertently running any executable code they might contain.
Buffer Overruns, the main target of crackers to exploit your system to gain access is the primary reason why you should make sure that your DEP settings are set properly. The easy way to make sure your CPU supports DEP is to surf over to GRC and download the Securable tool.
This tool will inform you if DEP is supported on your CPU. Next, if your CPU does support DEP you will need to use the following steps in Windows to make sure it’s enabled:
Go to System Properties -> Advanced -> Performance Settings -> Data Execution Prevention -> and then select the option to “Turn on DEP for all programs and services except those I select.”. Now, if you ever get a popup that says an application or service was blocked by DEP, you can add that application here – just make sure it isn’t a virus or something malicious.