Top Security Freeware
When it comes to online security and privacy, I’m a big advocate of both. The United States constitution guarantees us the right to privacy and free speech, and the Internet is a valuable resource for anyone wanting to voice their opinion and remain anonymous. I’m here to help you do just that.
You never know who is trying to track you or steal your information, and most of the time you won’t know it’s happening until it’s too late. The government, hackers, websites, and even your ISP seem to work around the clock to know everything about everybody these days. It’s up to you to protect yourself.
I’ve compiled the following list of free security/privacy software downloads and resources because I, along with millions of other users, consider them to be some of the best around. Every program on the list is free forever, easy to install and use, and spyware/malware/virus free. Most of the programs listed are from CNET, the trusted source for free downloads. I’ll be adding more periodically.
- Online Armor is one of the best free firewalls around. Comes with built-in protection against keyloggers. Has a lot of warning pop-ups in the beginning, but works very well. Compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7/Vista 32-bit/7 32-bit/64-bit.
- ZoneAlarm is another excellent firewall choice, and was awarded 5 stars from CNET editors. This firewall has fewer security warnings, but also seems a bit less customizable than Online Armor. There’s a paid version that offers more features, but the free version does the job very well. Compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7.
- Avira antivirus is hands down the best antivirus program I’ve ever used. It even beats McAfee in my opinion, which you have to pay for. Avira catches viruses and malware very quickly, and scans for a ton of varied threats. There’s also a paid version for this one, but I love the freeware! Compatible with Windows 7/XP 64-bit/32-bit/Vista 32-bit/64-bit.
- Iobit Security 360 works wonders for detecting and removing malware. It’s one of the only free anti-malware programs I’ve found that has an always-on protection feature. 360 offers both quick and full scans, and neither of them hog system resources. Compatible with Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/Server 2008/7.
- F-Secure Blacklight is a small, yet powerful rootkit scanner. Avira scans for rootkits too, but I like to be extra cautious. The F-Secure website doesn’t mention which versions of Windows it’s compatible with, but I use Vista and it works just fine.
- TrueCrypt is an essential program for people who like their privacy. TrueCrypt is an open-source encryption software that has won numerous awards for its usability and effectiveness. Encrypt your entire system or just a few sensitive files. TrueCrypt’s encryption is so strong, that the FBI admitted that it would take hundreds of years to crack a file encrypted with their software. A word to the wise though: Be sure to read the instructions carefully before using the program. Compatible with Windows Vista/7/XP.
- Glary Utilities is a comprehensive disk cleanup/privacy tool that boasts a vast amount of useful features. Glary removes surfing traces, cleans up useless files, helps manage start-up items, cleans the registry, and detects and removes spyware all with one click. It also has a file shredding feature, which makes whatever you shred unrecoverable. I can’t say enough good things about this program! Compatible with Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7.
- Iobit Advanced System Care is another all-in-one cleaning/security tool. Like Glary Utilities, Advanced System Care cleans up unnecessary files, repairs the registry, removes spyware, and diagnoses system problems with a click of the mouse. I use Advanced System Care to compliment Glary because it has a few features that Glary lacks, such as a forced uninstall option (to uninstall stubborn programs), an internet booster, and a system information tool, among others. Compatible with Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/Server 2008/7/NT.
- Tor is software that allows you to be anonymous online. It is open-sourced as well, and routs your online session through many different computers and relays, so that even your ISP can’t track you. Unlike the other software I’ve listed though, this one takes a little learning, but it’s worth it. Tor also disables many popular features of your web browser (flash, java), but if you want complete anonymity, Tor is it. You can even contribute to Tor and run a relay of your very own. Take a minute to browse through their website. Very interesting stuff. Compatible with Windows 98SE, ME, Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000, 2003 Server. Note: using TOR will slow your browsing speed in the beginning.
- Secunia is an automated software updater. It is crucial to try to keep all your software patched and up to date, so no vulnerabilities can be exploited by hackers. Secunia does just that, and is very easy to use. Compatible with Windows 2000/XP/Vista.
- Slim Drivers will automatically keep your hardware up to date, which is just as important as updating your software. Slim Drivers is a simple, effective tool that will fulfill all your hardware updating needs. Compatible with Windows Vista/XP/7.
- CCleaner is a must have for the privacy-minded individual. This program deletes all traces of your Internet activity, and overwrites the data, making in unrecoverable. This program also received 5 stars from CNET. Compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7.
- Hushmail is one of the only free email providers that offers its users access to encrypted email services. It also has strong virus and malware scanning capabilities, keeping you safe. Note: Hushmail has blocked access from the Tor network, so you have to access it without your proxy enabled.
- GuerillaMail is a temporary email address service. As soon as you visit the site, a temporary email address is assigned for you to use for up to an hour. No registration required. Just imagine, a world with less spam in your inbox…
- EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is an invaluable resource for learning about staying safe and anonymous online. EFF is committed to holding the government accountable for their actions when it comes to online privacy rights violations. If you’re new to the concept of online privacy, what your rights are, and how to stay safe, I recommend reading EFF’s Surveillance Self Defense guide immediately!
- GRC Shields Up has many different tools to test your system’s security. GRC also offers a lot of useful advice about security related issues, what they mean, and how to fix them.
- AuditMyPC has a useful IP checker tool (among others) that you can use once you have your proxy set up, to determine if it is working correctly and hiding your IP address.
- BrowserSpy is a website dedicated to letting you know just what your browser tells other websites about itself. There are many tests you can perform on your browser to make sure it’s secure.
- Decloak is a website with automated browser vulnerability testers, so you can see how anonymous you are online. I used this utility while using Tor recently, and Tor passed with flying colors.
Before I list the safest browsers around, take this one simple piece of advice. Do not use Internet Explorer. Ever. For any reason. Explorer is the most widely used browser on the planet, and therefore has the most security holes.
- Firefox is one of the safest, most customizable browsers on the Internet. Firefox has thousands of add-ons to not only make your online experience safe, but fun.
- Google Chrome is touted to be the most advanced browser available. Like Firefox, Chrome has a lot of add-ons that will keep you productive and safe. Unlike Firefox, however, there are some sites that aren’t compatible with Chrome yet, but if you don’t mind that minor annoyance, I think Chrome is the way to go.
- Comodo Dragon is based on the Google Chrome browser, but is more secure, as it doesn’t send information like crash reports and analytics back to the Google servers. Created by Comodo, one of the Internet’s leading security companies, Dragon is a safe bet. I use this browser often, and it seems to be faster than Chrome as well.
Security/Privacy Add-ons For Firefox
- Adblock Plus is a must-have privacy add-on for Firefox. Adblock Plus stops many different advertisers from tracking you, and blocks almost every ad imaginable, restoring fun and productivity to your browsing experience.
- Better Privacy is another add-on that will not only keep your browsing session more private, but also more secure. With the advent of the new flash “supercookie”, or LSO, advertisers and websites can now learn more about your online habits than ever. Better Privacy gets rid of these hard-to-delete invasions of privacy each time you close Firefox.
- Web of Trust will make sure you know that each and every website you visit is safe. Web of Trust is a website rating system, with a simple green, yellow, or red circle that lets you know if a website is legitimate, even before you visit it. Highly recommended.
- NoScript keeps your browser secure by disallowing Java and CSS attacks that can be devastating to your security and privacy. NoScript takes a little work to get used to, but once you’ve told it what you trust and what you don’t, you’ll never even notice it’s there. NoScript works by blocking Java and CSS on websites until you say it’s ok.
- LastPass keeps all your passwords safe, encrypted, and away from hackers who may otherwise be able to gain access to them if you have the “remember passwords” option enabled in your browser. LastPass can generate secure passwords for your convenience, and even encrypt and store secure notes. All you have to remember is your master password, and LastPass does the rest.
- Ghostery helps keep your browser safe, not only by blocking scripts, but by helping you learn more about the companies and websites that are trying to track you.
- Google Sharing is targeted specifically at stopping Google, the largest tracker in the world, from tracking your online sessions. Google Sharing keeps all your information safe from Google’s collection tactics, and therefore helps keep you more anonymous online.
Note: HTTPS Everywhere is also an excellent security add-on for Firefox. However since I assume you’re using the latest version (Firefox 4), HTTPS Everywhere has yet to develop a compatible add-on. When they do, I’ll add it here.
Security/Privacy Add-ons For Chrome/Comodo Dragon (should work with both browsers)
- ChromeBlock sets the most opt-out cookies of any privacy add-on, keeping your browsing session out of the eyes of advertisers. Very easy to install and use. Set and forget!
- KB SSL Enforcer is Chrome’s answer to Firefox’s HTTPS Everywhere. SSL Enforcer forces any website you visit to switch your connection to the secure SSL status, if it’s available. Many SSL switchers only do this for Facebook and Twitter, but KB SSL Enforcer is good all around the web for unbeatable security.
- LastPass, the number one password utility is also available for Chrome. Keep your passwords safe and encrypted, while all the time right there at your fingertips for easy usage.
- Web of Trust is also available as a Chrome add-on. With Web of Trust, you can be sure the next website you visit will be safe with their easy to use website rating system.
- Safer Chrome makes browsing more secure by detecting browsing vulnerabilities, such as websites that opt to send your password over a non-secure connection. Safer Chrome also attempt to connect via SSL at every website where the feature is available.
- Ghostery is also available for Chrome and Dragon. Ghostery keeps those pesky advertisers at bay, while at the same time increasing your privacy online.
- Bit Defender Quick Scan is a cloud-based malware scanner that you can use right from Chrome or Dragon browsers. Much faster than a traditional anti-virus scanner, Quick Scan will help put your mind at ease before logging on to a site that contains your sensitive information.