Firewalls, Spyware Protection, And Anti-Viruses

The above are three separate types of programs to protect you against distinctly different threats. As I discovered during a phone call this morning, there is a lot of confusion between these three items and how they differ, and how the protection against them differs.

Those of us who have been dealing with these programs that can range from being a nuisance to unfolding complete disaster, the differences are easily discernable. But to a new user, it can boggle the mind and, at the very least, frighten to some degree. Usually the outcome of this is overkill.

First, let me tip my hat to an excellent site that new users can peruse at their own pace and learn everything they may wish to know. How Stuff Works will explain all three of the items I have mentioned above in much more detail than I will go into here. For our purposes here, let me just give a bit of an overview and try to allay some of your fears.

I think that last sentence is important. DO NOT BE AFRAID! Fear is, of course, the goal of the morons that are utilizing these nuisances. You should be able to use your computer in an enjoyable and relaxed mode.

I know I have mentioned before to employ a firewall, spyware protection, and virus protection. During my phone call this morning I realized that there was some confusion as to the difference between all of these “protections” and how many of each we should employ on our computers. First, read the information on each of these items at How Stuff Works. Then begin the process of deciding what will work best for your needs.

I believe that the firewall that Microsoft supplies is certainly adequate, but I strongly recommend that you purchase a more robust firewall marketed by Computer Associates, Zone Alarm, Norton/Symantec, or others. My personal choice is Computer Associates and ZoneAlarm Pro, but to each his own. I am not here to critique products. That is not to say that I will not give advice to friends that ask for it. I recommend ONE firewall product on your machine, not six.

Next we move to the evil spyware/malware! I am joshing you, of course. It is not all evil. Some of it may even be beneficial to you, but I firmly believe that you should make that decision – not some faceless person behind a desk (yes, I was once that faceless person in a marketing department prior to spyware but in the heyday of magazine ads). In my case I truly believed in my product – but I didn’t follow you around to see what else you were doing in your life (we had focus groups for that)!

There are malicious programs that will take over search bars, address bars, and are just plain intrusive and deserve to be removed from your computer. There are a myriad of products out there and you can do a search and see which one does the job for you. Again, don’t forget the How Stuff Works site to learn all there is to learn. I personally use the Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta with Ad-Aware SE as a backup. I also have SpywareBlaster installed to prevent the spyware from getting installed in the first place. I must say that so far I am very impressed with the Microsoft Beta.

Last, but most certainly not least, are viruses. I hate them, hate them, hate them! I have absolutely no idea why they exist and probably never will, but that is besides the point. Our job is to keep them from infecting our computers. Again I advise you to read all you can at How Stuff Works so that you have a good understanding of what a virus can and will do to your computer and to the computers that yours may interact with. Then investigate and install a good, thorough anti-virus program. Do a search and read what others say regarding their experiences with different programs and choose the one that seems to get the best grades. Some magazines online also give reviews of different programs. Personally I use Computer Associates anti-virus. I use its EZ Armor, which encompasses the anti-virus and the firewall. This in no way is an endorsement of the product, just my personal preference that could change. I have ZoneAlarm Pro on another one of my computers and it is working just fine.

I realize that this article covers some items that I have covered in previous articles that I have written, but after my telephone conversation with my friend (a new computer user) this morning, I realized that there is some confusion out there. Something in writing that can be referred to is much more helpful than verbal communication that can get completely mixed up together in one’s mind.

My final advice: Utilize How Stuff Works and print out this article and I promise all of this will become second nature in no time. Of course, by then there will be a new threat!