How can the average individual keep their own personal computers safe from harm? There are a handful of tools we recommend, for novices as well as experts. Here are a few favorites listed in order by your level of paranoia:
OpenDNS (www.opendns.com) – DNS (Domain Name Service) is how your computer changes a web address such as my.bucknell.edu to something a computer can handle (an IP address). OpenDNS helps to identify bad addresses and prevents you from going there. OpenDNS offers several setups for personal use (including free) depending on your needs.
Anti-virus / Anti-malware – These are single or multiple software packages that protect your computer from viruses’, malware, ransomware, and other threats: Malwarebytes (www.malwarebytes.com), AVAST Antivirus (www.avast.com), Kaspersky Antivirus (usa.kaspersky.com) AVG Antivirus (www.avg.com) or Sophos Antivirus (www.sophos.com) or McAfee Antivirus (www.mcafee.com). All these are generally comparable in their capabilities, and vary in price, from free to a small annual fee.
Hijackthis – Hijackthis (www.sourceforge.net/projects/hjt) cleans up systems after an infection. This tool is not for the novice, as it can cause some significant damage to your operating system if used improperly. However, if you are comfortable with advanced computing tools, it can certainly help get you out of some tough spots.
Firewall – A firewall is a device that sits in between your high speed network connection and your home network or PC. A firewall’s main purpose is deflect any unwanted traffic from the internet, thereby protecting your computers from different types of attacks. Many wireless routers have built in firewall capabilities which provide an adequate layer of protection as long as certain actions are taken (such as changing the admin password). For those wanting additional capabilities or protection there are many consumer grade firewalls by companies such as Cisco, Watchguard, ZyXEL, Juniper Sonicwall and others (for between $200-$500). For the advanced geeks, I highly recommend ClearOS (www.clearos.com) an open source firewall with a large number of capabilities and add-ons.
Finally, if you have a home wireless network, it should always be secured with a password. NEVER leave your wireless unsecured!