The first rule is, NEVER NEVER NEVER visit websites which are known for malware and trojans. How do you identify these websites? From the IT geek’s prospects, these sites are commonly providing porn clips, cracks for software which the user want to use without paying for it.
However, knowing the dangers of visiting such sites, the users are tempted to pay visits, try so called free software periodically. Especially the people who are in IT (including myself). This article is mainly for the people who fall into this category and explains how to secure your Windows 7 installation (though not entirely) by using free firewalls and antivirus software.
AVAST, AVG etc provide decent free antivirus solutions (for home users…apparently you start using them at work as well) which are installed on Windows 7 32bit and 64bit editions without any troubles. I personally was impressed by AVAST and use the same at home where I have a dual booting system with Windows XP professional 32bit edition and Windows 7 RC 7100 64bit (sigh, which is expiring pretty soon). The beauty is you download a single package for both operating systems and installation is pretty straight forward. Click on next next next and within few seconds the installation is over and you are protected from the nasty viruses (this is what AVAST claims)
Windows 7 has a pretty advanced firewall component compared to Windows XP professional (apparently I never tried Vista because of it’s notorious reputation). However, while going through the firewall, it made me terrified with the way it is structured and I waited until ZoneAlarm has released a Windows 7 compatible firewall.
The main issue I had with the built-in Windows 7 firewall was, it doesn’t have a front end interface which will allow the user to make decisions realtime, ie, a popup or warning window waiting for the user to decide whether to let a process or application execute or start. I was using ZoneAlarm firewall from quite a long time, possibly from those days when I started chatting over IRC and the Windows 98 exploits allowed “kids” to kick you out of the network by ping or flood, port scanning attacks.
So basically having a free firewall and free antivirus solution provides you hasslefree protection, unless deliberately intented by you. Free or paid, a firewall like ZoneAlarm is not for a person who doesn’t understand the complexity of what a particular application does and if not configured properly, would cause troubles than enhancements.
A fine combination of ZoneAlarm free firewall+Avast free home edition should a normal computer user moderate level protection from present day threats. (I prefer the free editions because they are less heavy because of the stripped off features and let my system repond faster compared to full and paid editions)