Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Can you have too much security?

How much security software do you have on your computer? A lot of people just have whatever came with their computer (not realizing it quit working after 90 days). Other people pay the license fee, or load software of their choosing. Some people use the "if some is good, more is better" theory. Unfortunately, when it comes to protecting your computer, more can definitely be worse.

If you have an anti-virus, anti-spyware, and a firewall you are probably as safe as the technology can make you. How safe will depend on how good the programs you are running are, but you won't be made safer by running multiple anti-virus. There's a good chance you will be made less safe as the different softwares interfere with each other and cause false positives, or worse, cause malware to be overlooked. On top of that, security software can take a lot of computing power. Set several anti-virus and anti-spyware programs running and they can really slow down your computer.

Multiple firewalls on a single computer won't increase security because both will either be set exactly the same, or they will conflict with each other. Running the firewall that comes with your operating system and one on a router can increase security by adding one more layer of protection for attackers to go through. 

So if you can only have one one anti-virus, which should it be? There are several good ones available. The suites from Symantec, McAfee and Kaspersky are all good. But if you don't like them, or don't want to spend money, I like Avast Free. Just as good (or arguably better) are AVG Free, Avira Antivir or Microsoft Security Essentials. Dottech.org reviewed all four, and found them to be in a virtual dead heat, though specific strengths and weaknesses varied between them.

You can have safely have multiple anti-spyware programs running. For free anti-spyware I like Spybot S&D and Adaware. There are others excellent programs out there, such as Spyware Doctor, and Prevx.

One more point for online security: It's a good idea to switch to Firefox from Internet Explorer. Firefox has had a few issues this last year, but is still far better than IE for security. It also has add-ons like No-Script available that greatly enhance it's security.

Twenty years ago you could put your computer on the internet without security software. I actually didn't start using anti-virus on my PC's until after 2000. But today it only takes moments to be compromised once you connect to the internet. So the proper use of anti-malware is essential.

Thanks to BikerDoug for his excellent suggestions to improve this entry