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Protect your PC with these Top Free Software Programs

Trent Steele

This is a dangerous world for computer users.

Every hour, we hear of new threats designed to swipe your data, cripple your network, steal your identity and in general - wreck havoc!

Fortunately you can arm yourself to battle these menaces with several top software programs. And the best part is that these applications are free. So strap on your seatbelt and let's get started!

The first weapon in your arsenal should be anti-virus protection.

Many of the popular and expensive programs tend to slow down PC performance and require an annual paid subscription. My impression is that they work no better than their "freeware" cousins.

A good recommendation/alternative is AVG Free Edition from Grisoft. This program may not feature every single bell and whistle offered by some of the more commercially available apps, but it does provide rock-solid protection with all the tools needed to keep your system free of viruses, worms and Trojans.

Next in line: the firewall. A firewall is essential in preventing others from breaking into your machine. These hackers will steal your data, destroy your system or attempt to convert your computer into a "spam zombie" (remotely using your computer to send spam email) so using an effective firewall is a must.

Owners of Windows XP (Home or Professional Edition) may be familiar with its built-in firewall, however it isn't particularly effective. While there are numerous offerings in this category, the Zone Alarm Free Firewall is a sure bet for quick, cool security.

Now that we have anti-virus and firewall protection, let's address a topic I hear more and more frequently: what to do with all of those pesky passwords?

Luckily there is a stellar new program, CyberScrub KeyChain designed specifically to address this perplexing problem.

Distributed free, KeyChain stores not only your user names and passwords, but all of your addresses and credit card details. All passwords and sensitive data are stored under a single master pass phrase, eliminating the need to recall scores of unique access combinations.

You simply highlight and click a password protected website from a small browser toolbar and KeyChain fills in and submits your log in details. All data is protected with strong encryption for your safety -- and it makes online shopping a snap!

Of course no discussion of computer protection would be complete without discussing the scrounge of spyware.

Every bit as insidious as a computer virus, spyware seems to multiply exponentially with new forms of malware limited only by the creative schemes of the evil geniuses that produce them.

Spyware can easily take control of your machine, opening and closing your CD bay, serving objectionable browser ads, hijacking your homepage, logging your keystrokes to steal your passwords and more.

So if you don't have protection against this menace, take action now. Lavasoft offers a very good free program, Ad-Aware SE Personal. There's also the extremely exciting commercial tool, Spyware IT (it's not free, but it's great!).

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it will provide the essentials to protect your PC and data. So don't delay - your computer needs you!

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Bill Adler is a freelance writer based in Georgia. He speicalizes in articles and papers relating to computer security. Visit his site at www.billadler.com

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