New free anti virus software adds extra layers of protection

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

New tools fortify your cyberdefenses

Byron Acohido
USA Today

It’s riskier than ever to get on the Internet. Cybercriminals use tricks to get you to click on infectious Web links in e-mail, social-network postings and even search engine results.

Simply navigating to a well-known, legitimate website can result in what’s known as a “drive-by download,” the stealthy installing of a computer infection onto your PC’s hard drive.

The endgame for cybercriminals: take full control of your PC and use it to help carry out online thefts and scams. It’s essential to keep your anti-virus protection current and to regularly install all Microsoft, Adobe, Apple and Java security patches.

But that’s not nearly enough to stop many of the latest infections. The good news: There are new software tools that can help you clean up and repel the latest cyberattacks. Many of them are free. Most require patience to learn how to use. Be prepared to sacrifice convenience for added security, as using these tools will add steps to your ongoing use of the Internet. Here are four of the newest tools:

SlimWare Utilities

What it does: SlimComputer and SlimCleaner work together to boost overall computer health and performance. “We can help identify malicious programs that are hooked into your operating system that you may have picked up over time,” says Chris Cope, SlimWare founder and CEO.

How it works: SlimWare keeps track of your applications. It makes special note of apps configured to launch on start-up and run in the background, as well as programs set to run in your Web browser. It then guides you through deciding whether to disable each program.

What you gain: Disabling browser toolbars, instant-messaging programs and unnecessary software updaters (apps that periodically prompt you to update or upgrade games, media players and the like) can dramatically boost PC performance, says Cope. SlimWare also helps identify and eradicate apps that are clearly criminal, including banking Trojans used to steal from your online banking account.

Availability: Free consumer beta test version now available at

Qualys BrowserCheck

What it does: BrowserCheck monitors your Web browser, as well as popular browser plug-ins and add-ons, to make sure you’re running versions containing the latest security patches. “The cybercriminals know that many consumers are not aware that using out-of-date browser plug-ins can make them vulnerable to attacks,” says Wolfgang Kandek, chief technical officer at Qualys.

How it works: BrowserCheck verifies and, if necessary, guides you to update security patches for Windows service packs, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader, Adobe Shockwave Player, Apple QuickTime, BEA JRockit, Microsoft Silverlight, Microsoft Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, Sun Java and Windows Presentation Foundation plug-in for Mozilla browsers.

What you gain: Hackers use automated tools to sequentially check each of these browser components for unpatched security holes. So if you’re behind on patching any one of them, they will find the flaw. Running BrowserCheck once a week and installing the recommended updates will help keep your browser locked down.

Availability: Free tool available at

Cloudmark DesktopOne

What it does: DesktopOne blocks nuisance and malicious e-mail and can serve as an added layer of protection, even if you already use a spam filter. “It will protect you from anything e-mail-borne that’s malicious or unwanted,” says Kris Politopoulos, director of customer support at Cloudmark.

How it works: Once installed, DesktopOne filters e-mail continuously, even if your e-mail program is not open, or if you happen to be accessing e-mail via a browser or from a remote computer. A basic free version allows you to protect a single e-mail account. A pro version enables you to manage protection for several accounts and includes more features.

What you gain: It will quarantine messages carrying spam, phishing scams, tainted Web links and viral attachments. The pro version lets you manually scan message folders, designate trusted contacts and automatically delete old spam messages.

Availability: Free and pro version, priced at $19.95 for a one-year subscription, available at

Invincea Browser Protection

What it does: Browser Protection launches a virtual browser that runs completely detached from the Windows operating system. It watches for suspicious programs being launched in the browser. Upon detecting an attack, it takes steps to shut down, then relaunch another virtual browser in a known clean state.

How it works: If you click on a Web link pointing to an infected site, the virtual browser will detect the infection as the attack code tries to take control. It will prompt you to terminate the browser session, or it will automatically restore in a short period of time. This cuts off the installation of malicious code, protecting your PC.

What you gain: Tech systems integration company CACI has been testing this for about a year with promising results, says Zal Azmi, senior vice president of cybersecurity solutions. “By itself this technology is incredible,” says Azmi. “Right now it’s at an infancy stage. But the virtual browser could be a big asset to the novice.”

Availability: Invincea founder Anup Ghosh anticipates having a consumer version ready by early 2011. The company is currently deploying Browser Protection to corporations and government agencies, including the Department of De-fense.

Copyright 2010 USA TODAY

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