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Monday, April 21, 2014

Avoiding computer nasties

Ed Stephens Jr.

Once a year or so I like to take a look at personal computer security in this humble column.

Today is a good time to do so, given that the recent "Storm Worm" computer virus (well, not technically a virus, but a worm, but you get the point) was the first big scare of this year in this realm.

What follows, then, is my current list of "need to have" computer security programs for Windows XP. I have no idea how any of this stuff works with the new Vista operating system, so you’re on your own on that note.

* * *

1. Anti-virus: NOD32

I’ve been trying out various anti-virus programs for years now, trying to find one that would enable me to get Norton’s products off of my computer. Some freebies were OK, but I’ve settled on forking over $39 a year for NOD32, which is excellent. It is small, nimble, unobtrusive, fast to update, and, from the tests I’ve read, unrivaled for efficacy.

Goodbye, Norton. I won’t miss you. Not one bit.

2. Anti-spyware: Spy Sweeper 4.5

My old favorite, Spy Sweeper, continues to serve admirably. Many a Tribune reader has thanked me for this tip from years past. So far, so good, but I will note this: The old version, 4.5, is a great one (and is still available), but newer versions have been nightmare city for some of us. I’m sticking with 4.5, and if the day comes where it’s no longer supported, I’ll probably abandon this product. Cost: $35 for one or two years, depending on if you can get a discount.

3. Firewall: ZoneAlarm

The free version is great. I’ve never even tried the pay version.

4. Root kit detection: Blacklight

Root kits are stealthy, evil little buggers. I don’t really know much about them, other than I don’t want any on my computer.

Blacklight is freeware, offered by a company called F-Secure. They say it’ll be free until April.

5. Other: WinPatrol

WinPatrol is a freebie favorite that I’ve been recommending for years now. The pay version is even better; it has a one time fee of $39, and its sharpest trick is explaining the lineage of those mysterious background programs that are always running on your computer. For me, it’s money well spent.

* * *

Incidentally, Blacklight is used to scan your computer periodically. All the other programs, by contrast, are designed to run all the time, thus providing real-time protection (or the illusion thereof). These programs seem to work and play well with each other, at least in Windows XP.

No, I’m no computer expert. I’m just a hapless user who is diligent about keeping my computers free of harmful software. And I can’t help but noting here that many "experts" seem to be shills for magazine advertisers, which is why I no longer subscribe to computer magazines. I’ve found I’m better off web-surfing for honest reviews from real users.

And that’s what you got here: An honest review from a real user.

(Ed Stephens is an economist and columnist for the Saipan Tribune. His column runs every Friday. Join Ed and other luminaries at SaipanBlog.com.)

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