Essential Software: Security Applications

Programs You Should Really Have To Prevent Your PC From Being Abused

Software Keeping Your PC Secure

For any computer system that is going to be accessing the internet or other computers on a network, security software is a must have item. Brand new systems that are put on the network before any security software is installed can be compromised in a matter of minutes. It is because of this risk that security software is an essential piece of software that all new computers should have. Most operating systems have some built-in features now but often you need more.

Many companies also produce software suites that tend to integrate many different features that fight the most common threats. So what exactly are some of the threats?

Viruses

Anti-virus applications cover a wide range of threats that a computer can be attacked with. Virus applications can have a wide variety of effects, but in most cases, it is for malicious purposes. In most cases, these are transmitted through email applications or downloaded infected files. The most common viruses attack systems that just view web pages with embedded code.

Many major brand computer systems tend to come with some security software that features anti-virus software installed on them. It may be from a variety of different vendors including Symantec (Norton), McAfee or Kaspersky. In most of these cases, the software is for a trial period of 30 to 90-days. After that point, the software will not receive any updates unless the consumer purchases a subscription license.

If your new computer purchase did not come with anti-virus software, it is important to purchase a retail product and get it installed as quickly as possible. Once again McAfee and Symantec are the two major players, but a wide range of other companies also offer products and there are even some free options.

Firewalls

Most homes now feature some form of always-on internet connection such as cable or DSL. This means that as long as the computer and routers are turned on, the computer is connected and can be reached by other systems on the internet. A firewall is an application (or a device) that can screen out any traffic that is not either expressly allowed by the user or is in response to traffic generated by the user. This helps secure the computer from being accessed by remote computers and potentially have unwanted applications installed or data read from the system.

Most homes are protected by their routers used for their internet service but software firewalls are still quite important. For instance, a laptop computer may be taken away from the home network and connected to a public wireless network. This can be extremely dangerous for infecting a system and a software firewall is essential for the computer. Now both Windows and Mac OS X feature firewalls within the operating system that can protect them.

There are additional retail firewall products available for computers as well that may add additional features for the systems. Such features are often included in many security suites which may be redundant with the built-in firewalls.

Spyware, Adware, and Malware

Spyware, adware, and malware are all some of the names for the latest form of software to threaten a user's computer. These applications are designed to be installed on computers and manipulate the system for the purpose of obtaining data or pushing data to the computer without the user's knowledge. These applications also tend to cause computers to slow down or act differently than the users expect.

Many of the major anti-virus companies include this type of detection and removal into their products. They do a good job of detecting and removing these programs from a system but many security experts actually recommend using multiple programs to ensure a greater detection and removal rate.

The best part about this market is that some of the major players are also free software. The two biggest names are AdAware and SpyBot. Windows now include some standard malware detection and removal tools in its standard Windows Update application as well.​

Ransomware

A new class of threat has emerged over the past few years. Ransomware is, in essence, a program that gets installed onto a computer that encrypts the data into it so that it is not accessible unless a unlock key is provided. Often the software will sit dormant on a computer for some time until it is activated. Once activated, the user is prompted to essentially go to a site and pay to have the data unlocked. It is basically a form of digital extortion. Failure to pay can mean the data is lost forever.

Not all systems are actually attacked by ransomware. Sometimes consumers may just visit a website that claims the system has been infected and requests money to "clean it up". Consumers don't generally have an easy way to distinguish whether they have been infected or not. Thankfully most anti-virus programs tend to also block many ransomware programs.