Software recap

To date I’ve recommended five computer programs that are essential to keeping your privacy and security intact. They are all free, they all work very well, and they all rival similar programs that often cost a lot of money. Here’s a recap:

Web browser:

If you’re still using Internet Explorer, you’re exposing yourself to unnecessary danger when you surf the web. Malicious websites can install spyware, adware, and viruses without your knowledge or consent by exploiting IE’s subpar security architecture. If you’ve got some spyware on your computer and don’t know where it came from, there is a good chance IE invited it in.

The fix is really easy, so there’s simply no excuse to stand on the sidelines any longer. Stop using Internet Explorer, download Mozilla Firefox, and start browsing the web safely.


Norton Antivirus and McAfee are bulky programs that may actually have a disadvantage because they are industry leaders.

On the other hand (or should I say hook?), Avast antivirus is a lightweight, effective program that gets the job done with minimal fuss.


Spybot Search and Destroy and Adaware are top notch programs that have been keeping my computer clean for years. Update and run them once or twice a week, then brag to your friends about how fast your computer runs without spyware and adware to slow it down.


Firewalls sound like complex things, but ZoneAlarm keeps things simple and still does an amazing job. Once it’s installed, ZoneAlarm won’t allow any program to access the internet unless you first say it’s okay. Don’t worry, though, ZoneAlarm only asks you to make a decision the first time a program requests internet access. After allowing internet access for your most frequently used programs you won’t need to actively manage anything.

If you’re thinking of skipping the firewall for any reason, I urge you to reconsider. If ever some spyware or a virus escapes the clutches of your other defense mechanisms, your firewall will prevent the malicious program from doing any real damage. If a program can’t access the internet, it can’t spread viruses to other computers, “phone home” to the person who created the program with your banking password, or act as an infected zombie machine that spams other computers when commanded to do so.

A final note:

I am in no way affiliated with any company or product mentioned in this article or on this website. I use these programs on my computer at home and think they’re good enough to vouch for. If you’ve used these programs and have any comments, good or bad, I’d love to hear them (just leave a comment below).

Read more about recommended software


  1. Pingback by Samsung’s security flaw and what to do about it | Defending The Kingdom: Security and Privacy in Your Digital Life — 15 September 2006 @ 8:43 am

    […] If you don’t think you’re prepared, see this article I posted late last month that will help you get up to speed. […]

  2. Comment by James — 10 September 2009 @ 9:45 pm

    Would you consider updating this article?

    Since 2006, there are newer applications that appear to serve these roles better (the most recent releases from Symantec, MalwareBytes, and others).

    I’d appreciate hearing your updated opinions of the effectiveness of what’s on the market today.

    Thank you!

  3. Comment by Ian Saxon — 10 September 2009 @ 10:07 pm

    Hi James,

    I haven’t said much about software in the last 12 months because it’s my impression that it is becoming less important to know what’s good. There are a lot of good tools out there, including the basic stuff that is included on most new computers. So it’s harder to go wrong than it once was.

    You don’t have to be a Windows fan to say that IE7 is reasonably secure, Windows Defender is an adequate antivirus/antispyware program, and Windows Firewall will do a fine job for many home users. There are better programs, but I don’t see the urgency in advocating them that I once did.

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