Everyone’s freaked out, especially when big organizations start getting hacked in larger numbers every day. Companies are currently trying to profit from the fear people have by selling them security solutions that many of them don’t need. I’ve been anti-virus-free since 2002 and haven’t since had one single problem with a computer. However, there are many reasons some people who aren’t experts in assembly code need an anti-virus, and no one should deny them that. What I’m here to say is that you don’t really need to pay for applications made by anyone other than Microsoft to keep your PC free of issues.
1. Stick With Microsoft Security Essentials
Gone are the days you have to shell out money for computer security just to get rid of a couple of viruses every year. For its customers, Microsoft already offers an application called “Microsoft Security Essentials“. It doesn’t come as part of your Windows installation, but it’s been around, and it’s been free for a very long time. You can download it if you run Windows Vista (32 or 64 bit) or later.
Microsoft’s Security Essentials software keeps you updated with its own virus definitions and helps you combat even the most complex infections. An additional bonus to install MSE is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of resources from your computer, like other “bloatware” anti-virus solutions do.
Go ahead and download MSE from here.
2. Windows Firewall Is as Competent as Any Other Firewall
It’s become a new fad lately to criticize every product Microsoft comes up with. While some of the complaints are well-merited, people often avoid using Windows Firewall because they hear it won’t really protect them. In reality, you can configure the firewall to do practically anything any other firewall can do. Contrary to many beliefs, Windows Firewall has the possibility to block outbound connections coming from a malicious application and monitor your network for anything else:
It’s all about searching. You can get to this window by clicking “Advanced settings” when you reach Windows Firewall settings in the control panel. There’s no reason anyone shouldn’t be able to have a secure system running solely with Windows Firewall. Honestly, though, configuring outbound blocks doesn’t really help you stop anything. If malware is making outbound connections through your computer, you should really consider getting rid of the malware. Blocking the malware’s access to the Internet doesn’t really stop it from hogging your computer’s resources.
On the other hand, you should really keep an eye on inbound connections, which often try to hook onto your Internet line and exploit your computer’s vulnerabilities. We can speculate as much as we want, but having Windows Firewall running on your computer is no different than using iptables on Linux. Both are very secure and difficult to exploit.
3. Download Windows Updates
Don’t listen to the conspiracy theorists saying that Microsoft Windows Update is an evil service that attempts to control your computer. While they might be right about the “control” part, it’s not like you’re going to suddenly see that you can’t go to a website because Microsoft is trying to “protect” you. The only thing that can happen is that they’ll pull an application from your system if it violates their policies, and that’s not going to happen until Windows 8 comes out. Still, they don’t need Windows Update to do that.
Downloading your updates is as important as running a firewall and keeping an up-to-date virus database. In fact, some malware has been rendered useless (like the “Conficker” virus) within a short while, when Microsoft patched up a vulnerability in Windows that it released as an update. People who refuse to use Windows Update might scoff at this, but it’s no laughing matter when you consider that many people also said that smoking isn’t bad for you.
It’s true that sometimes Windows Update might accidentally detect your Windows installation as counterfeit, but you can always ring up Microsoft on this. They’re always glad to assist you should anything go wrong on their end.
Are you annoyed by Windows Update forcing your computer to restart all the time? This isn’t an issue, as you can always configure it not to auto-restart after the update.
4. Disable UAC & Stop Downloading Suspicious Files
There’s a certain something that Microsoft should have never included in Windows: User Account Control. This intervention isn’t necessary in most systems, and certainly shouldn’t appear in home PCs. UAC basically is the pop-up that comes up whenever your computer wants to make sure you’re running an application on your own accord. It looks something like this:
To disable it, read this article, which teaches you how to disable it under the “Disabling UAC” section.
Aside from disabling UAC, you can keep your computer secure using prevention. Download only from familiar sources and don’t download suspicious files. It only requires common sense. If someone links to a “.exe” file and says it’s a picture, don’t approach it. Someone links you to a page where you must log in to a website you’re already logged into? Don’t go to that page! These are simple and common tactics of fooling people, but as you grow more aware of what’s going on, you might prevent a major system catastrophe.
If you have a file you want to download and don’t know whether to trust it or not, upload it to VirusTotal and let its results tell you about it. The website runs the file you just downloaded through a ton of different anti-virus solutions and lets you know what each of them picks up. A few false positives might appear, but if many of the anti-virus solutions say that it’s an infected file, you’d best steer clear from it.
Following all this advice will help you thwart most common attacks, and even some rare ones, without ever having to pay for third-party software. If you have more ideas, throw them at us in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you!