One of the most common questions we receive from readers is: “What do I need to protect my computer?” In this article, we tell you what you need to provide a strong defense against malicious programs and users.
One of the most important things you can do to protect your computers is to put a router between the computers and your broadband Internet connection. A typical wireless router has a built-in hardware firewall, which uses security measures such as SPI (stateful packet inspection), a technology that compares incoming and outgoing data, to block malicious users and malware from accessing your network. Your router also hides your PCs behind its own address, making it harder for malicious users to reach them. Use a router, even if you have only one PC. (If you buy a wireless router, but don’t intend to use the wireless radio, use its settings to disable or encrypt the signal so you aren’t sharing your Internet connection with neighbors and snoops.)
A software firewall is an important layer of protection for an individual PC—and it won’t interfere with your hardware firewall. Keep in mind that a software firewall protects only the computer on which it resides (unlike the firewall in your router, which protects all PCs on the network), which means you’ll need to run a software firewall on each PC that you own. You can enable a basic but serviceable software firewall right now: Windows Firewall is built into Windows 7. Click Start, enter “Windows Firewall” in the search field, and click Windows Firewall. You can enable it from this menu. For advanced features, consider buying a third-party software firewall.
Virus, spyware, and other programs and materials designed for malicious activity (collectively referred to as “malware”) are rampant on the Web. Your PC will almost certainly come into contact with these threats, despite your hardware and software firewall.
To protect your PC, install antivirus software. For basic protection, you can download Microsoft’s free antivirus software, Microsoft Security Essentials. Windows Defender is a free program from Microsoft that protects against spyware. You don’t need Windows Defender if you have Microsoft Security Essentials, as that program handles the same functions (and more). In fact, Microsoft Security Essentials will likely disable Windows Defender.
The Benefits Of The Bundle
As we mentioned earlier, many security software publishers offer Internet security suites that bundle multiple anti-malware products into one unit. This is an easy way to protect your PC, as you have a single program to install, to keep up-to-date, and to troubleshoot when problems arise. Also, a security suite usually lets you manage the options for all of its components from a single dashboard. If you’re locking down a PC for a non-techie friend or family member (or want a simple solution for yourself), a bundle may well be worth the price.
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