Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Best Internet Security

What is the best Internet security suite in the world? I've reviewed quite a number of Internet security suites and all of them have pros and cons, but what if we were able to take all the good features of each Internet security suite and build the perfect Internet security suite of all time? It is not completely impossible, because most Internet security suites have stand alone versions of their anti-malware and firewall components and some even have a stand alone version of their spam filter. Right, so what do you really need for an Internet security suite?

First of all you need a malware scanner and a resident anti-malware shield to protect your computer from malware attacks. Secondly you need a good firewall to control inbound and outbound traffic over the networks you connect to. Finally you need a good spam filter to protect you from e-mail fraud and other types of unsolicited bulk e-mails. I believe these are the most important components of a good Internet security suite. These days Internet security suites contain all kinds of extra features like parental control tools, anti-phishing tools, identity theft protection, special protection for browsers, sandboxing tools to isolate suspicious applications, ad blockers and more.

I have discovered a combination of 3 specific security applications that will protect you against malware, hackers and spammers. I chose these applications because they provide the highest level of protection without affecting the performance of your computer too much.

I will start with malware protection. avast! has the best malware detection rate of all the malware scanners I've reviewed so far. Apart from its good detection rate, it also has an impressive resident shield (or rather several resident shields). You get the File System Shield, Mail Shield (scans your e-mails for malware), Web Shield (protects you against online threats while browsing the Internet), P2P Shield (protection against treats on P2P networks), IM (Instant Messenger) Shield, Network Shield (not a firewall, but adds an additional layer of protection over your network traffic), Script Shield and the Behaviour Shield (heuristic scanner). Apart from these shields, it also provides additional protection through its Auto Sandbox (allows you to run suspicious programs without harming your system), SafeZone (a special secure desktop environment to conduct online transactions safely), Browser Protection (a special web reputation plugin and the ability to run your browser sandboxed), Remote Assistance (enables you to receive technical assistance from other avast! users, remotely) and Site Blocking features.

I guess it is clear from all the shields it has to offer, avast! Pro Antivirus can protect your computer against most threats on its own, but no security suite is complete without a good spam filter and firewall.

Some people feel that a spam filter is unnecessary, but I believe a spam filter just adds another useful level of protection to your computer security. You need a spam filter to cut out all those unsolicited scam, malware, porn and enhancement product e-mails, just to name a few. Why waste your time filtering through hundreds of useless e-mails and walk the risk of being scammed or infected by malware? You might argue that the malware scanner should protect you against malware, but if the malware can't even reach your computer, there is even less risk of being infected.

Another big problem these days, is porn and indecent content being distributed and actually forced down the throats of spam victims. You don't want your children to be exposed to these e-mails and a spam filter will not necessarily eliminate the risk of exposure completely, but it will certainly lower it to an acceptable level.

SPAMfighter PRO is a unique community-based spam filter. When I say community-based, I mean that the strength of SPAMfighter lies in the amount of spam reported by SPAMfighter users worldwide. One may argue that a system like this can easily be abused. Yes, maybe, but it has been fighting the spam battle for quite some time now and is very good at identifying spam and leaving your good mail alone. When I reviewed SPAMfighter it did not flag a single good mail as spam and only a handful of junk e-mails were not identified as spam.

One of the main reasons why I like SPAMfighter so much is it compatibility with most popular e-mail clients. Many spam filters tend to work with Microsoft Outlook only, so if they are not compatible with your non-Microsoft e-mail client, they can't do the job at all, no matter how good they are at filtering spam.

These days you can't use the Internet without a proper firewall, providing adequate two-way protection for your computer. Most people think a firewall only needs to protect you from hackers trying to break into your computer, but you walk a greater risk of having sensitive information leaked from your computer to a remote location, than someone trying to gain access to it from a remote location. So you also need something to monitor your outbound traffic as well.

There is not a single personal firewall solution that can beat the level of network security and effectiveness provided by Agnitum's Outpost Firewall Pro. You know a firewall is good when companies like AVG Technologies, Lavasoft and Sophos use Agnitum's firewall technology in their own products. This is not your standard firewall, Outpost Firewall Pro comes with several additional features like Anti-Leak, System Guard, Application Guard, File & Folder Lock, Anti-Spyware scanner, Ads and Sites Blocker and ID Block. You can read more about these features in our latest review of Outpost Firewall Pro. Performance is a big issue to me, because I believe your security software should never handicap your productivity on your computer. The latest version of this firewall (version 7.5.3, also known as the Performance Edition), has been enhanced quite a lot in terms of performance.

Firewalls tend to annoy users with endless prompts and warnings, but Outpost Firewall Pro works in special Auto-Learn mode for a while. During this learning period it suppresses all those annoying prompts while learning more about the programs you often use and the network connections you normally make from your computer. It is not completely prompt-less during this period and you will still be warned about serious attacks and unauthorised connections being made to and from your computer.

What I really like about Outpost Firewall Pro is that it is much more “intelligent” than most firewalls and only bothers the user when there are some serious decisions to be made, decisions that a firewall should not be allowed to make on its own.

The only drawback about this firewall is that it may be a bit too advanced for novice users, but only when it comes to customizing the firewall to suit your needs. Because of its “intelligence” it will make the right choices during the setup process and most of the settings should work out of the box, so novice users won't have to worry about changing any settings to make the firewall work. If you are a novice user, I suggest you install avast! Pro Antivirus and SPAMfighter PRO before installing Outpost Firewall Pro, just to make your life a little bit easier.

avast! Pro Antivirus, SPAMfighter PRO and Outpost Firewall Pro are exceptional security programs, each in their own right. Running them side by side, gives you an edge over malware, spam and hackers.

There are basically only two disadvantages of this setup. Firstly, you can't manage these applications from a centralised location, like with an integrated Internet security suite, so you have to manage and configure them individually. One may argue that the Windows 7 security centre gives you a birds eye view over the status of all your security applications and all three applications have an auto update feature, so is it really such a big deal if you have to manage each one separately, because how much management and configuration do you have to do by hand anyway? It is probably not such a big deal, but I know some people will still prefer to have all these components bundled into one integrated security suite.

The second disadvantage of this setup is cost. It the time of writing this article, avast! Pro Antivirus will cost you $39.99, SPAMfighter PRO will cost you $19.97 and Outpost Firewall Pro will cost you $29. That is a total of $88.96. If you compare this price to that of an integrated Internet security suite, you will find that the latter is much more cheaper. avast! Internet Security will cost you $49.99, Outpost Security Suite Pro will cost you $24.97 and Kaspersky Internet Security will cost you $59.99. These suites may have a couple of extra features and they may be much cheaper, but the level of protection provided by this setup surpasses that of any integrated Internet security suite.

avast! Pro Antivirus, SPAMfigther PRO and Outpost Firewall Pro each has a free version as well, making them a great choice for a free Internet security setup you don't have $88.96 to spend on computer security software.

 About the Author
Coenraad is webmaster and founder of Cyber Top Cops, leaders in Internet security, analysers of security software and raising awareness about internet fraud and malicious software

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