Various Anti-virus company logos
Ok, let’s talk about anti-virus. Ugh. This one is like opening a nasty can of worms. But it’s gotta be done. Your network security would have a big leak in it if you’re running without it. But believe it or not a lot of people do. Some of the frustrations over anti-virus is the simple fact that there are so many options available. There are also so many differing reviews. Then there’s the question, should I buy separate anti-virus and firewall or buy a security suite? Or, should I purchase my anti-virus and firewall. Or should I use free products? How can anyone possibly make an educated decision on which to choose. I say read a bunch of reviews, pick your top three or four, then throw the names into a hat. Shake it up and pick one out. Here, I’ll make it simpler. I’ll pick the top four (in no particular order). Kaspersky, Bitdefender, McAfee and Comodo.
If you’re going to choose a paid for option, make sure you carefully read what you are getting and shop around the various sites. To make a point take Comodo for example. You can get their Comodo Internet Suite for$39.99 here. Or you can go here where they offer a ‘Go for Pro’ option for $27.99. Then if you click on the ‘Free’ button in that same window, they will again offer you ‘Go for Pro’ for only $19.99. All three options are for the same exact suite. Whats more I don’t see what features are offered between the paid options and their free download. The paid and free options both include the firewall and anti-virus.

You will find other security vendors to be just as confusing. I think they are counting on people getting so confused that they just click on the ‘Total’ packages just to be sure they are protected to the fullest. Well you may not need the extra bells and whistles that make the ‘Total’ package total. You may even find the free version to offer everything you do need. I’ll discuss the free options in more detail below as I think you can get everything you need without spending a dime.

As for whether you should use a separate firewall or use a security suite, those in the know will say to keep them separate. I don’t think it matters much anymore as the security suites available today do a pretty good job at both. In fact, you can get a top-notch security suite such as Comodo Internet Security (CIS) for free, which has been rated for years as having one of the best firewalls available. I purchased their CIS Complete package three years ago and was impressed with the customizability of the firewall and how easy it was to learn it. I occasionally had virus’s slip by the antivirus however. Plus the price was a bit steep. I’ll always go for free unless there is something I really need and can’t find for free. As for an anti-virus/firewall suite, I really don’t need the extra’s they put into their ‘Total’ package. In fact, the only feature I was missing was password management which we’ve already discussed in a previous blog.

AVG Avast or Avira
As for the free anti-virus and firewall’s there are plenty of good options available that are as good or maybe even better than the premium packages. No anti-virus will protect you from everything, none of them have scored perfect scores in all the tests. Paid or free. You can find free options such as AVG, Avira, Avast, Bitdefender, Comodo or Sophos Home which have high scores in the tests as well. I’ve had viruses get through both Comodo and Bitdefender paid versions in the two years I used their products. Yet I’ve used a free product (Sophos Home) for the past year and haven’t had anything get through yet. Is it better than the paid for options or am I just lucky?  I don’t know, maybe a little of both.
I do a lot of on-line research so I come across more than an average amount of the bad stuff. I also put my protections to the test by running them in a virtualized environment and deliberately go out looking for the bad stuff to see how it holds up. So far Sophos Home has held up 100% with no false positives. Since it’s free I’ll continue to use it until it lets me down.

It is a simple set it and forget it application. You can run it on up to 10 devices, which can be monitored and controlled remotely via a cloud based dashboard and it uses the same antivirus engine they use to protect fortune 500 companies. It has absolutely no nag screens to upgrade or buy additional features. It’s free, give it a shot. You can find it here. You’ll have to sign up for a free account with them so you can download the software and manage it remotely. Another nice feature of Sophos is their web filter by category as seen below. These filters are per user so you can have separate profiles for each end user device and they are only accessible via the on-line admin account. I have also never recieved an email from them so no worries about spam.

Comodo Secure Firewall
As for a firewall, like I mentioned earlier Comodo’s free firewall is an excellent choice and worth a try. You can learn more and download Comodo Firewall from here. Or if you prefer they are offering the Comodo Internet Security suite for free as well from here. It features the same award winning firewall along with their antivirus.

I personally now use a little known free firewall called Tinywall. It works hand in hand with Windows firewall and does an excellent job, (sorry but this one by its nature is not available for Mac). It works off a whitelist principle blocking everything until you ‘allow’ it access. And it’s a simple matter to setup initially or to add a program later. You can add things manually but the best way is to click on the taskbar icon and change the mode to ‘Autolearn’ mode, then you can startup whatever application you want to allow internet access to and it will create the firewall rules for you. A nice feature other software manufacturers should copy, just don’t forget to put it back into ‘Normal’ protection mode once the new application is learned. You can learn more and download Tinywall from here.

The big problem with internet security is that it has so many different threats to contend with and no software manufacturer has offered a single solution that covers all the threats well. That’s why it’s best to have several layers of protection for your valuable data. The problem is getting these layers to play along with each other and not hog up system resources, or your budget. Therefore, I gravitate more towards the free yet viable options out there if I can. Sophos Home, Tinywall, Windows firewall, Keyscrambler (covered in an earlier blog post), and other security solutions I use (to be covered in future posts), play along very well with each other and don’t eat up system resources. They are very good at what they do and they do it for free. I will of course always continue to test new solutions, paid and free, and will post those findings as well. I will only suggest paid applications where there are no other free viable options available.

Until Next Time