Even though Windows isn’t my everyday OS, I do look in for a bit of housekeeping fairly regularly. It is still my gaming platform of choice and, of course, I have to keep popping back whenever I need to review software or test a website. Earlier tonight, when I found my antivirus application wasn’t loading and also decided to finally lose patience with the patchy performance of TinyWall, you could say there was a security emergency.
Given that I’ve written quite a lot on PC security and also bullied friends into taking a closer look at their computers’ security arrangements, I’d probably have to live the rest of my life wearing a paper bag on my head if my computer was struck down by malware. And that too because I was being lazy with fixing my firewall or that I had a malfunctioning antivirus.
Thus, sleeves were rolled up and Windows is now all tucked up safely. And here is a glimpse into my armoury.
I’ve been a big fan of Avast antivirus for about a decade now. I’ve flirted with others, but have always come back to it. I use the free version, which is a much slimmed-down avatar of its premium products, but is good enough for my needs. Avast 2014 has a nice, new interface, though one thing that’s always creeped me out is the loud “ting” and the breezy voice announcing that my database has been updated. That’s the first thing I turn off.
A note for those who believe that free antivirus is crappy (and yes, this is for all you computer technicians): Not even the world’s most expensive antivirus program can guarantee you 100 per cent security. Your safety actually depends upon something else—your own common sense. If you forget to keep your virus database updated, if you download dodgy programs from shady places, if you visit unscrupulous sites, and if you don’t keep a very close eye on what’s going on when you’re installing software, you’re in trouble anyway. I’ve been writing on computers and tech for 15 years and have never used a commercial antivirus solution. Also, I’ve never been laid low by malware. Hard disk crash, yes; accidentally deleting essential registry items, yes; virus/malware infection, nope.
Though I have Windows Firewall turned on, till about a year or so ago, I was also quite happy with ZoneAlarm Free. Then things started going a bit sour. When you updated, they tried to arm-twist you into installing additional toolbars, which hijacked your browsers. I can’t recall why, but I finally lost patience with it and I zeroed in on TinyWall. I’d heard good things about it, and after sussing out the (freeware) competition, I decided to give it a shot. Long story short: happily ever after didn’t happen.
Anyhow, today, I went back to ZoneAlarm. We are not friends yet, but willing to give each other a second chance. For those unhappy about the compulsary toolbar installs, here’s some good news—it’s not compulsary, it’s just been very sneakily designed to make you think it is. To get around it, make sure to: (a) Opt for the custom install (small type under the snazzy Quick install button); and (b) Look for the “Skip all offers” text in very tiny type and an inconveniently dark colour in the toolbars install section. Function-wise, ZoneAlarm is an excellent firewall, so I’m hoping our second round will be trouble free.
I also keep Malwarebyes Free as a back up. It doesn’t have real-time scanning, which is only available in the paid edition, but I like to run it every now and again. It’s been known to pick up malware your antivirus app might miss. I also run Windows Defender every now and again (oh all right, when Windows reminds me).
So, here’s to safe PC-ing!
(Photo credit: Ambrozjo at SXC.hu)