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Protect Your PC From Becoming a Zombie Machine Using These Free Security Software

April 12, 2007 by  

A recent survey conducted by Symantec reveals alarming stats that showed 96% of computers in Malaysia are zombie machines.

This gives another reason for us to be more wary especially if you are using public computers such as those in cybercafes.

Zombie machines are PCs that have been compromised by hackers and used to send spam emails, or launched phishing attacked that lure unwitting computer users to reveal personal information such as credit card details and bank account passwords.

Malaysia ranks No 7 as a propagator of zombie machines in the Asia-Pacific region. China occupies the top spot, followed by South Korea , Taiwan , Japan , Thailand and Vietnam .

According to the survey, you are more likely to encounter zombie machines in Kuala Lumpur where many PC users have broadband Internet access. Once you become a victim of a phishing attack, your stolen personal information such as bank account could be sold and fetch up to RM1,100 in the black market. A verified PayPal account could be sold between RM175 and RM1750.

The reason for the problem can be attributed to the lack of awareness of the security precautions the users need to take to safeguard their computer. Those who install pirated software are also at risk because some of this software contained Trojans which is planted into the users’ computers when the software is installed.

One way to remedy this problem is to install security software that combines antivirus, firewall and instruction detection capabilities. Installing antivirus software alone is not enough to protect your computer.

You can purchase these software from Symantec.com, Mcafee.com or any other security companies. If you like you can also use the ones that are freely available. Having the later option gives you no excuse not to install security software to safeguard your computer.

I’ve listed several free antivirus, firewall and instruction detection software below

 

Free Anti Virus Software

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition
AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition scans files on access on demand and on schedule. The separate user interface between Control Center and Test Center can be a little confusion nevertheless it gets the job done.

Avast! 4 Home Edition
Those who like software with pretty interface will find this app appealing as it comes with skinnable interface. It scans files on demand, on access including email attachments but on schedule scanning is only available on the paid version. It also scan your computer at boot time.

 

Free Firewall Software

Comodo Firewall
Comodo Firewall helps to secure your computer by preventing hacker from accessing your computer and prevent unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet.

ZoneAlarm
One of the popular firewall software, ZoneAlarm doesn’t have all the features of ZoneAlarm Pro’s firewall. It monitors which programs are allowed to access the Internet by asking you instead of consulting the SmartDefense Advisor database.

 

Antispyware and anti-phishing software

SpyCatcher Express
This tool cleans out spyware from your system and prevent further invasion. My only gripe is that it doesn’t have antiphishing solution and a few high-end tools. You have to check for updates manually. If you can get over those limitations, it does its job well.

 

Other security software worth mentioning

Windows Defender
Not the best free spyware scanner around but its on-demand scanner is useful if you want a second opinion.

StartupMonitor
StartupMonitor alerts the user when a program tries to install itself whenever you boot up Windows.

SuperStorm Freeware
It protects sensitive file up to 200KB by encrypting it and hiding it inside a JPEG image. The original will be securely deleted.

 

Besides installing the above, my other advice is to keep your Firefox and Internet Explorer browser up-to-date. If you have a favorite free security software or tips to secure your computer, please share with us in the comment section.

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7 Comments »

Comment by Azmeen
2007-04-12 15:44:24

Is the built-in firewall in Windows XP not good enough that a third party one should be considered?

 
Comment by Gaman
2007-04-12 17:10:43

Good question.

If Windows Defender that comes with Vista isn’t good enough, what makes the built-in firewall in XP better?

Some says it does a good job of blocking and hiding your ports from unwelcome probes but it lacks the ability to control programs on your system that are trying to send information out to the Internet. So malicious programs already in your computer could still connect out making it a zombie.

It also doesn’t show any information about potential security threats, nor does it give you any means for tracking down their sources.

 
Comment by Azmeen
2007-04-12 17:56:00

I can’t comment on Windows Defender as I don’t use Vista (and won’t buy it personally). Therefore, I can’t see how it’s supposed to be superior to XP’s built in firewall. Furthermore, your statement implies that any newer version of a software is always better than its predecessor. Something that’s not necessarily true all the time.

Some says it does a good job of blocking and hiding your ports from unwelcome probes but it lacks the ability to control programs on your system that are trying to send information out to the Internet. So malicious programs already in your computer could still connect out making it a zombie.

I’m sure that is inaccurate. I’m looking at the Windows Firewall settings as I post this. There’s an Execeptions tab where you can select which programs or services you’d like to allow access to the internet.

It also doesn’t show any information about potential security threats, nor does it give you any means for tracking down their sources.

There’s also a “Display a notification when Windows Firewall blocks a program” checkbox there. Doesn’t that count as a “means for tracking down their sources”?

 
Comment by Gaman
2007-04-12 19:19:27

From the reviews I read Windows Defender for vista does not fare any much better than the current version.

I was actually talking about XP Firewall SP1. Never really paid attention to any updates because I’ve never used it. As you correctly point out they have improved things in XP SP2.

But apparently it is still lacking outbound protection. It’s not protecting nearly as well as most 3rd party personal firewall solutions and could result in false sense of security.

Check these articles.
Windows XP SP2 more secure? Not so fast
http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-3513_7-5324906-1.html

http://netsecurity.about.com/od/firewalls/a/aa081804b.htm

Comment by Gaman
2007-04-12 19:26:37

BTW, the previous version of Windows Firewall was called Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) not XP Firewall SP1

 
 
Comment by toxicle
2007-04-13 13:13:50

I use a combination of Spybot, Ad-aware, Autoruns, Process Explorer, TCPView, HijackThis and a few others not worth mentioning :)

 
Comment by toxicle
2007-04-13 13:20:40

And yes … I agree the so called Windows Firewall sucks. To make it worse … application protection on Vista .. it drove me crazy … get Blink Personal Edition instead!

http://toxicle.org/archives/405/blink-personal-edition/

 
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