Protect the droids
April 27, 2008 12:56 AM   Subscribe

I am in the market for some new anti-virus software and possibly a new router. Any recommendations?

I had to do an overhaul on my laptop last week, so now is as good a time as any to fine tune my internet protection. I currently have a three year old HP Pavilion laptop running Win XP SP2 through a 2WIRE DSL router using AT&T/SBC DSL. I used to use Trendmicro but it got wiped so I am looking for some recommendations. Some have suggested not running any AV at all, but this just blows my mind. The idea is that you are ok as long as you have a good physical and software firewall. I am just looking for a good set-up to protect my computer from hackers and malicious programs. Thanks
posted by Brandon1600 to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Etrust and nod32 are good AV products.
posted by mphuie at 2:13 AM on April 27, 2008

AVG is free and works well.
Don't ignore AV.
posted by k8t at 2:42 AM on April 27, 2008

unless you were dropped on your head as a baby.

posted by complience at 2:49 AM on April 27, 2008

btw, don't be too worried about 'hackers' just don't put your ssn or credit card in an unsecured website.
Malware - do Windows updates, run Firefox, don't download pirated software or music or porn and you'll probably be fine.
posted by k8t at 3:31 AM on April 27, 2008

Another in what will probably be a long line of people saying AVG, Firefox and hell, while we're about it, I like to scan with Adaware too.
posted by Jofus at 4:06 AM on April 27, 2008

Any DSL router that uses Network Address Translation (NAT), as most do, is inherently a firewall. If you're using NAT, nobody from outside can connect to any machine on your LAN unless you deliberately redirect Internet-facing ports on the router to machines inside the LAN. If you go into your router's admin page and turn off Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), then the only way this redirection can happen is if you set it up by hand. Do that.

Internet Explorer remains the biggest source of infections in Winboxen, largely due to the same issue that makes Windows itself less than secure in practice: Microsoft's dogged commitment to backward compatibility, and all the cultural baggage that comes along with that. Using any other browser will improve your security. Use Add/Remove Programs->Add or Remove Windows Components to disable access to Internet Explorer, lest you be tempted to click into it by accident. If you end up choosing Firefox (and it's a solid choice), the IE View extension will let you auto-open selected web pages in IE, if you strike pages that Firefox doesn't render properly for whatever reason, and NoScript will protect you from most cross-site scripting and phishing attacks.

If you absolutely must pay money for antivirus, NOD32 is probably what you should spend it on. Personally, I wouldn't. AVG 7.5 Free has long been a perfectly adequate antivirus that's very easy to live with. It's just been superseded by AVG Free 8.0. I have no reason to hate 8.0 yet, though my only exposure to it has been to the commercial version. Note that 8.0 no longer supports Windows 9x.

Another free AV that's due to come out of beta Real Soon Now, with less restrictive licence conditions than AVG's free version, comes from Comodo. Their personal firewall software has a good reputation, but since I was unable to make the beta Comodo antivirus work behind an authenticating web proxy, I can't tell you whether it's any good or not (online review opinion is pretty mixed). Worth keeping an eye on, though.

The single most effective Windows security measure you can take is to turn on the single most effective security mechanism that Windows has to offer: using a non-administrative user account for everything except computer housekeeping tasks. This excellent facility, first introduced to the Windows world in Windows NT, remains sadly underused - largely due to the prevalence of badly-written application software requiring administrative privileges to run at all (this is part of the cultural baggage I mentioned earlier). Whether you reckon you're going to waste less time tweaking apps to work without the admin magic hat, or cleaning up malware infestations, is of course your call.

No comment on Windows security would be complete without a plug for Ubuntu (which, like other Unix-derived operating systems, has always had mechanisms to separate system administration tasks from day-to-day user activities).

8.04 (Hardy Heron) has just been released, and comes with an option to install the entire Ubuntu system as if it were just another Windows application program, using the standard Windows application installation mechanism. After you've done this, you get to pick Windows or Ubuntu from the Windows boot menu. If you pick Ubuntu, you boot into a pure Ubuntu environment (it's in sole control of your hardware, not running "inside" Windows in any kind of virtual machine) so you get the full benefit of Ubuntu's inherent lack of infections. You also get full access to your existing Windows filesystem.

Installing Ubuntu this way does not involve repartitioning your hard disk, or making hard-to-reverse changes to your existing Windows installation. The entire Ubuntu installation fits in a single (very large) file inside your normal Windows filesystem, and you can uninstall it using the Windows Add/Remove Programs control panel item if you don't want it any more. Just download the Ubuntu CD image, burn it to CD, insert that into a computer running Windows, and the installer should auto-run.
posted by flabdablet at 5:25 AM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

AVG is your best bet. It's FREE and awesome. I am the 'family tech help' for all my relatives. I used to get a call every other day from an uncle, or a cousin. Once I installed AVG on all of their PCs, I almost never heard from any of them again as they were no longer getting infected with viruses. It's the first thing I install anytime I get a new PC/Laptop.
posted by xotis at 6:17 AM on April 27, 2008

Anti-Virus: AVG Free
Cheap router: Tomato Firmware on a WRT54GL.
posted by Nelson at 7:33 AM on April 27, 2008

2nding Tomato Firmware on a WRT54GL -- it's what I use and I _LOVE IT_
posted by majikstreet at 8:35 AM on April 27, 2008

I've abandoned AVG Free in favor of Avast!, which also has a free version. It's just been less bother on my PCs. I haven't run a side-by-side comparison but Avast is effective and fast.

Router, yes Linksys WRT54G
posted by airplain at 8:55 AM on April 27, 2008

If you're going free, go Avast or AVG. If you're going to pay, use Kaspersky. Using any pay product other than Kaspersky is pure lunacy...places like Symantec purchase virus definitions from them. Avast pisses me off with the ZOMG UPDATED screens that you have to click to make them go away---but it's good. Nothing touches Kaspersky though.

Routers, meh---they're mostly the same. Stick to a big name with the features you like, Linksys or DLink are my faves. Not a fan of netgears.

If you grab a Linksys, go for one that you can hack the firmware for, it's pretty cool.
posted by TomMelee at 6:32 PM on April 27, 2008

Nthing AVG.
For the router, I picked up a Asus 520gu a month ago. It's a WRT54GL with Linksys crossed out and Asus scribbled on with a sharpie. The packaged firmware blows chunks but it's trivially DD-WRTable, Asus even has a program for easily flashing the firmware even when the system is halfway bricked (which is very very nice).
posted by Skorgu at 7:33 PM on April 27, 2008

I've used AVG and AVAST!, but I've had better luck with AntiVir (also free). AntiVir tends to come out on top in AV shootouts.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:48 AM on April 28, 2008

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