For any computer system that is going to be accessing the Internet or other computers on a network, security software is a must have item. Brand new systems that are put on the network before any security software is installed can be compromised in a matter of minutes. It is because of this risk that security software is an essential piece of software that all new computers should have.
Anti-virus applications cover a wide range of threats that a computer can be attacked with. Virus applications can have a wide variety of effects, but in most cases it is for malicious purposes. In most cases, these are transmitted through email applications or downloaded infected files. The most common viruses attack systems that just view web pages with embedded code.
The two major players for the pre-installed software are Symantec and McAfee. Now the pre-installed software packages will generally have the same functionality as the retail product. The difference comes in the length of updates on the programs. Most retail products allow for updates for one year, but preinstalled software typically will range between 30 and 90 days. Additional virus update subscriptions can be purchased to extend this time frame.
If your new computer purchase did not come with anti-virus software, it is important to purchase a retail product and get it installed as quickly as possible. Once again McAfee and Symantec are the two major players, but a wide range of other companies also offer products and there are even some free options.
For information regarding specific software packages, virus outbreaks and what to do when a computer is infected, check out the About.com Anti-Virus Guide site.
Broadband Internet connections are fairly common. Both cable and DSL lines feature always on connections. This means that as long as the computer and modems are turned on, the computer is connected to the Internet and can be reached by other systems on the Internet. Proper configuration of a system can reduce the chances of successful attacks on a system, but with the number of items turned on by default in Windows, this makes it quite difficult.
A firewall is an application (or a device) that can screen out any traffic that is not either expressly allowed by the user or is in response to traffic generated by the user. This helps secure the computer from being accessed by remote computers and potentially have unwanted applications installed or data read from the system.
Software firewalls are a great solution for most consumers. No matter where the computer is connected or how, the software firewall will restrict traffic to the computer. Microsoft has enabled a default firewall in Windows 7 but it is limited. If you intend to connect to a wide range of external networks via Wi-Fi it is best to have another layer of protection with a third party firewall.
Big players in the personal firewall market are also names in the anti-virus business. Symantec and McAfee both have retail personal firewall software available for purchase. These applications are also included in their security suite bundles. Another popular firewall is ZoneAlarm that is offered for free. Upgraded versions with additional features are also available.
A great resource for information on firewall software can be found at the About.com Computer Networking Guide's Firewall and Firewall Technology page.
Spyware, Adware and Malware
Spyware, adware and malware are all some of the names for the latest form of software to threaten a user's computer. These applications are designed to be installed on computers and manipulate the system for the purpose of obtaining data or pushing data to the computer without the users knowledge. These applications also tend to cause computers to slow down or act differently than the users expect.
Many of the major anti-virus companies include this type of detection and removal into their products. They do a good job of detecting and removing these programs from a system but many security experts actually recommend using multiple programs to ensure a greater detection and removal rate.
The best part about this market is that some of the major players are also free software. The two biggest names are AdAware and SpyBot. Windows 7 now includes some standard malware detection and removal tools in its standard Windows Update application as well.
A great resource for those wanting to know more should check out the About.com Net For Beginner's Spyware 101 article.
Much of these applications mentioned above are now packaged together by software companies into security suites. These are typically a single integrated application that makes it easier for users to manage all of their security needs. They come with names like Internet Security, Security Suite or Security Center. If you see a product name like this listed among the preinstalled software for a computer, check with the software manufacturer to check and see what security features are included in the suite.