NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2008
My Favorite FREE PC Utilities Part 2 Security Software
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

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In my continuing efforts to help save my readers money during these trying economic times, this series on my favorite free PC utilities continues with some more quality software available for free.

I have worked with a lot of people, including some of my students, radio show listeners, and others, who want a quality antivirus and anti-spyware protection utility product that is freeware. While there are several utilities that comply with this requirement, the one that is the most popular by far is the free version of Grisofts AVG Anti Virus Free Edition, Version 8 (free.avg.com). With the consent of the users, I have personally installed AVG Free Edition on countless computers, both desktop and notebook models, and have had only strong indications of satisfaction with AVG, with no complaints. Internationally, the free version of AVG has earned a very large and loyal following, with over 70 million copies of the free version downloaded.

Despite its total lack of cost, AVG Anti Virus Free Edition is no weakling in providing virus protection, having earned praise from many of the services that test and rate the protection level of antivirus products. In addition to providing protection from the computer virus threats that plague us, the latest versions (version 8) of AVG also provide comprehensive protection from spyware threats as well. The free edition is only licensed for private, non-commercial (home) use on a single computer, and lacks some of the support and other features of its commercial iteration. The new version 8 will only run on computers with Windows 2000, XP, and Vista, and is compatible with the 64-bit versions of Windows. The older versions of AVG, which would run on older operating systems, are no longer supported. For those home users who want a proven quality antivirus and anti-spyware product, the free version of AVG 8 would be a wise choice.

With the myriad variety of contemporary cyber security threats that we all face, having a decent quality antivirus and anti-spyware product by itself (such as AVG) is not adequate protection from those threats. In addition to a utility such as AVG, we also must have a firewall installed to protect us from intrusion while we are online, and to protect us from unauthorized software or malware which wants to connect to the internet. While there are several very good free firewalls available, one that has frequently been at the top of the published quality ratings is Comodo Firewall Pro version 3, a freeware product available for download from http://www.personalfirewall.comodo.com. Even though this is a free product, it is fully featured and not a stripped down version like some of its freeware competitors. Comodo Firewall Pro 3 offers comprehensive protection from hackers and crackers, as well as others who would want to break into your system. It offers protection from spyware, Trojans, and some forms of identity theft. This new version 3 includes a Host Intrusion Prevention System that prevents many types of malware from being installed on the computer. In the early stages of its install, Comodo Firewall Pro 3 will thoroughly scan the computer for viruses, spyware, and Trojans that may already infest the machine, and remove the malware from the system. Comodo pledges that this is a free download, and that there will be no license fees or other charges ever for the use of the product.

Comodo Firewall Pro 3 is an intelligent program, in that it learns about the programs that are frequently used, and identifies applications and their respective risk profiles of unfamiliar programs, protecting the user from unauthorized internet access. This firewall will also detect and protect from the threats from key loggers (identity theft programs that steal log in information and passwords), and other forms of malware. This firewall also protects the system from other viruses, Trojans, and spyware by preventing their installation on the system. Since many forms of malware attempt to modify critical system files such that they can wreak their havoc, Firewall Pro 3 prevents unauthorized modifications of system files and the registry.

If a potential threat is detected, the user is notified via a small pop-up window. This pop-up includes a plain English Security Considerations which provides advice on whether or not the user should block or allow the questionable process to continue or be blocked.

Many malware applications attempt to deactivate security applications so they can accomplish their nefarious tasks without hindrance; Comodo Firewall Pro 3 protects itself and its registry entries from change by third party applications, assuring that the firewall will protect the system, despite a sophisticated malware attack.

Since the threat environment is dynamic and ever changing, Comodo Firewall Pro 3 automatically updates itself every time the computer is booted. Subsequent updates can be scheduled for automatic and transparent downloading and installation, or updates can be manually downloaded and installed. Since many of the contemporary threats are rapidly appearing zero-day threats, that spread rapidly after their introduction in cyberspace, and before defensive measures can be implemented, there is a chance that an unknown threat may present itself. If Firewall Pro 3 detects an unknown threat, it will (with your permission) send that unknown threat to Comodo for analysis, and if the threat is verified, Comodo will add it to the database of over a million known applications, and that new threat will be in all users next update.

Even though this firewall is a free product, it is not without support. Support is provided via interactive online forums, or by email. A comprehensive users manual is available as a PDF file, an online knowledge base is available, and the integral help function provides adequate assistance when needed.

The quality of Comodo Firewall Pro 3 has been acknowledged by the media as an excellent product, earning the coveted CNET 5 Star Editors Rating, and PC Magazine gave it 4 stars, and its Editors Choice award. CNET described Comodo Firewall Pro 3 as "The program provides a smorgasbord of information and options for advanced users, but it's simple enough for beginners, and runs smoothly and silently in the background. The most obvious new features include support for Windows Vista" PC Magazine said, The program aces all basic personal firewall tasksBest of all, it's totally free for personal or professional use." The best endorsement that I can give Comodo Firewall Pro 3 is that I personally use it on my notebook computer.

If you need a free standing firewall, you can not do much better than Comodo Fire Pro 3 at any price.

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