11 Critical Security Apps

April 15, 2008 – 10:35 AM

If you don’t have security software, your PC is an Internet mugging waiting to happen. We show you the eleven best pieces of software for defending yourself against online thugs.

The PC security landscape is constantly changing. Well paid, malicious programmers keep cranking out new and different attacks, and the security software vendors do their best to stay ahead. The security vendors also contend with each other, vying (and claiming) to be the very best—it’s tough to sort the wheat from the chaff, and there’s plenty of chaff. More than half the products in our latest Worst Tech roundup are failed security apps. To make matters worse, there’s a ton of rogue antispyware apps out there that actually assault your PC, while claiming to defend it. It’s a mess. But don’t worry: I’ve rounded up all the best security software that’s come through my testing lab in the past few months to create a super-security guide for you. Whether you want a bulletproof security shield or just a spam blocker, there’s a security app here for you.

The easiest way to secure your PC is to purchase a kitchen-sink security suite that will take care of all your needs. A good suite offers a two-way firewall, protection against viruses and spyware, antispam, and some variation on parental control or identity protection. Even the best suites have strengths and weaknesses. I use Norton Internet Security 2008 myself; I like the intelligence of its no-questions-asked firewall protection and its very good malware protection. I’d install Norton 360 Version 2.0 to give the same protection to friend or relative with less computer experience. But the parental-control features and antispam are weak in both Norton products. And some people, burned by past experiences, can’t quite believe that Norton Internet Security doesn’t slow your machine to a crawl anymore—although it doesn’t! A strong alternative to the Norton family, ZoneAlarm Internet Security 7 spam protection is among the best you’ll find in a suite, and it offers significant identity protection features. Its main drawback is an old-school firewall that (despite considerable and admirable efforts) still asks the user confusing questions, so it’s not for the faint of heart. Check my roundup of Security Suites 2008 and choose one that’s strong in the areas most important to you.

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