My take on AntiVirus / AntiSpyware applications

August 20, 2008

Virii suck, I just though I’d throw that out there.  They cost the world billions of dollars a year and keep people like you and me up at night.  I wish I had the final solution for you but I don’t, however, I do have a list of applications/tools/services that I use to keep my computers running virus and spyware free.

Desktop Antivirus / AntiSpyware

At work my company has standardized on NOD32 from ESET.  I had never herd of the company until I started at my current position about a year and a half ago and now, I rarely use anything but NOD32.  They have a couple of editions but I’m only familiar with ESET NOD32 AV v2.6 and v3.0.  So far I have not had a single problem with virii or spyware (except for a few hacking/cracking tools that I use on occasion).

If I’m not using or recommending NOD32 for home / client computers I go with AVG.  AVG AntiVirus 8.0, the newest version from AVG covers pretty much everything you would need from an AntiVirus / AntiSpyware software suite.  They even have a free edition that can be found here for home computers that only need basic protection.  If your on a budget, AVG Free Edition is for you.  Again, so far, with my use of AVG Antivirus, I have not had a single problem.

Safe Internet Browsing

This is a huge deal when it comes to keeping your computer safe.  Sometimes it doesn’t involve any software at all.  Just some intelligence and PG13 level surfing (no porn or online gambling allowed!!).  However, because of my ADHD and endless appetite for information, even I run across some potentially bad websites.

To combat this I use OpenDNS.  I’ve done a blog post on them a while back.  Search at the right if you are interested but I’ll cover a few points to OpenDNS here.  First of all, OpenDNS is cool.  Second, OpenDNS is free.  Now that I got those two things out of the way, I’ll explain it a bit.  OpenDNS is a free DNS service that you point your network DNS servers, clients, etc towards and you instantly get a bit better service.  If you go to the website and create an account and then register your IP address there, you can have settings specified that would prevent people from surfing websites that fall within a specific category.  Below is what I have mine set to.

The moderate setting includes blocking of Adaware, Alochol, Dating, Drugs, Gambling, Hate/Discrimination, Weapons, Tasteless, Lingerie/Bikini, Proxy/Anonymizer, Sexuality, Nudity, Pornography, and Phishing.  The last one is especially cool because it uses the phishing database PhishTank, which is THE defacto standard in phishing databases…well at least I believe so.

Desktop and Network Firewalls

As much as I should use a desktop firewall, I don’t.  It hinders my ability to do network scans, attach to different networks, open up shares on my computer remotely, test software, etc.  But, do what I say and not what I do.  If you have no reason not to use one…then do so.  The built in Windows Firewall is fine but if you need to feel a little safer at night, I recommend ZoneAlarm.  It has both high reviewes in the major computer magazines and is recommended by the security research group Gibson Research Corp.

My home network firewall is pfSense, a free open source, fully featured firewall that I have installed on an old workstation with two network interfaces.  Visit the website for a full list of features.  Other firewall’s that I would recommend would be the Cisco PIX or ASA, m0n0wall, and any Linux distribution running iptables.  It’s not that these are the only secure options out there but rather I only have extensive experience in this small list.

SPAM Protection

This cannot be stressed enough…  Never use an email address without a **GREAT** SPAM filter.  For personal use, grab a free GMail account.  For corporate use get a Barracuda SPAM firewall, use Postini or build your own SPAM filter based on SpamAssassin.  For the DIY I recommend Maia Mailguard.  The reason for this is quite simple, spyware and virii can be transmitted quite easily through email.  If you are not protected, you are asking for trouble.

Defense in Depth

Although all of my recomendations, in my option, are good ones..not a single one of them guarantees that you will not get infected.  Things like zero day attacks, trojans, virii, spyware, adaware, malware, etc are not always easily detected and therefore may hit a large number of computers over a short period of time without the security companies knowledge.  However, with the use of all of them together, you now have the tools for a fighting chance and with any luck, you’ll be virus free.

Hopefully you’ll take my advice on one or more of the above topics and have a safer more enjoyable time on the internet.

Extras!!

Here are a few extra tools that I did not fit in.

ESET Online Scanner | TrendMicro House Call | TrendMicro HijackThis | Symantec Removal Tools

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