Protect Your Computer

September 20, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Computer viruses are still rampant. In Consumer Reports' latest survey, one in seven Americans had serious problems with viruses, costing almost three billion in estimated damages.There are dangerous hazards lurking online to infiltrate your computer. But help is on the way! Consumer Reports tested 10 internet security software programs you have to pay for - like MacAfee and Norton from Symantec - as well as software you can download free.

Dean Gallea, Consumer Reports, says "We had an outside lab create some variations of known viruses, which we keep on a disc in a safe here in the lab. We ran them on a virtual machine, which is a virtual computer which is completely physically and electrically separated from any other computer or network."

Those viruses were used to test the software to see if it would detect them. This program uses a pig squeal to alert you.

"To test the anti-spam programs, we ran a 'bad e-mail' test to see how well the programs could detect real spam that we collected and a 'good e-mail' test to see how often the software actually removes e-mail you wanted to keep," says Gallea.

MacAfee and Bitdefender both came out on top in Consumer Reports' tests. They sell for $50 for a year of protection.

Gallea says, "If you just need basic protection and you can be sure that everybody practices careful computing at home, then freeware can be a good option."

One way to protect your computer is to turn it off when you aren't using it for long periods, or at least disconnect it from the internet. That reduces the chance that a malicious computer can access your operating system.

Consumer Reports tested three free programs that you can download: Avira's Antivirus software, Microsoft Windows Defender Anti-Badware program, and Spamfighter's anti-spam software. All are easy to use.

For the best ways to stay safe online visit www.consumerreports.org.

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