aNewDomain.net—Malware is, unfortunately, here to stay. Trojans, rootkits, virii (I took Latin in High School. My teacher would track me down if I called them viruses) and hijackers have all made it into our technological spheres. There are a growing number of tools to cure these maladies, but is spending money the only way? There’s truth in you usually get what you pay for, but I’ve found that the free options are the best in this space.
Antivirus software is a notable exception to the statement I just made. While there are a number of free antivirus programs that perform adequately, there is nothing of the caliber of paid products. I constantly evaluate and test this software, and I’m still recommend Norton Antivirus and ESET NOD32. If you absolutely refuse to pay for antivirus software, my preferred free product is Microsoft Security Essentials. This is as much for the integration as it is for the effectiveness.
There are a wide number of anti-malware products. Most antivirus programs claim to be effective at preventing non-virus infections, but I haven’t found that to be true. I spent years creating a toolkit for preventing and removing infections on my computers. All of these programs are free, though you may receive more functionality with a paid version.
Combofix is the single most effective spyware removal tool I have found. The single downside is that it won’t run on Windows 8 yet. Don’t try and run it in compatibility mode, either! For Windows XP, Vista and 7, though, there is nothing more efficient at removing infections. I suggest running Combofix on a monthly basis to help keep things clean. You can even run it in Safe Mode if your system has a nasty infection. Download it from http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/download/combofix/
2. Spyware Blaster
Spyware Blaster is one of the few preventive malware applications available. Rather than an active, or always-on scanner engine, Spyware Blaster operates by “immunizing” your system against known infections. It’s not a perfect method, but it is quite effective. I suggest updating and immunizing every two to four weeks. You can download it from http://www.brightfort.com/sbdownload_free.html
3. Spybot Search and Destroy 2
Spybot Search and Destroy has long been a favorite in the IT community. Combining an immunization function and removal tools, Spybot is very effective at what it does. Paid versions add some handy features like scheduled functions and command line options, which I’ve used for scripting in the past. I recommend immunizing every two weeks and scanning every month. Download it from http://www.safer-networking.org/dl/
4. Super AntiSpyware
I’ve found that Super AntiSpyware is incredibly comprehensive, removing things that other programs just don’t find. This is especially true of the Full Scan, which can take quite a long time. The interface is user-friendly and the program is quite effective. Run this program every four weeks. Download it from http://www.superantispyware.com/
5. Spyware Terminator
Spyware Terminator is probably the least known of the products I’m mentioning. That’s too bad, because it’s one of the best. I’ve had numerous infections that go undetected with the other programs that Spyware Terminator finds. The quick scan isn’t so effective, but the full scan is incredibly thorough. The downside, though, is the time it takes. I’ve seen the scan take 12 hours or more on even a newer computer. If you think you have an infection that the other programs didn’t catch, give this one a try. Due to the time it takes, run a full scan every six to eight weeks. http://www.pcrx.com/spywareterminator/
6. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
This program has long been the standard by which others were judged. The free version has a capable quick scan and a very comprehensive full scan. While it doesn’t offer the same proactive protection as Spyware Blaster or Spybot, the paid version does offer active protection. I find it similar to Spyware Terminator, but much faster. It’s a great tool to have and everyone should use it, at least once a month. Download it at http://www.malwarebytes.org/lp/malware_lp_form/
There you have it. Six free anti-malware programs to keep your computer running and clean. Except for Combofix, they should run on Windows 8 without problems, and they definitely run on older versions of Windows. I generally run them all at the same time, which has never created a problem (other than the computer running very slowly.) Three of these programs are even part of the Ninite utility offerings I discussed a while ago.
The Internet is crawling with malware, be safe out there!