Don't leave your PC exposed and vulnerable, protect it instead with these 15 free products that will save you from malicious software and eavesdroppers.
Browsing Privacy and Security
Looking for multipurpose tools for protecting your privacy and security? The following three can help you surf anonymously, avoid trouble at wireless hotspots, and receive alerts about certain sites that may host malware designed to invade your privacy.
A surprising amount of information about you can be gathered as you surf the web - including the operating system you use, the sites you've visited recently, your geographic location, and possibly your company (based on your IP address).
To keep these pieces of information private, try Tor, a free program that protects your anonymity as you surf. Tor takes all of your internet communications, including instant messaging and other internet applications, and sends them around a large network of 'onion' routers that are Tor servers, making it impossible for sites or people to invade your privacy.
The Tor download includes other software that you need for maintaining your privacy notably Privoxy, a proxy program. The programs work well together; and because the software self-configures, they are simple to use. Tor runs in your system tray. To become anonymous, right-click the icon and choose Start. From that point on, you'll be anonymous. To stop surfing anonymously, right-click again and choose Stop. You can even change your Tor identity for maximum cloaking.
Some of the most nefarious online dangers arise when you're away from your home or office: Wi-Fi hacking and snooping. In a hotspot at a public location, a bad guy can set up a sniffer to snoop on all the data sent by everyone nearby. The snoop can see all of the information you send and receive over the Internet, including your user names and passwords.
Hotspot Shield sets up a virtual private network (VPN) for you and encrypts all of your data so that it can't be read. It works in much the same way as the VPNs that companies use for their remote employees.
Hotspot Shield is quite simple to install, set up, and use, with one caveat: during the installation process, you must make sure not to let the Dealio toolbar be installed. It's adware that has nothing to do with how the program works, so choosing not to install it won't have any adverse effects. When you first launch the program, your default browser will launch and display an ad. But you can close that window and continue to surf safely.
McAfee Site Advisor for Firefox
One of the best ways to protect your privacy is to avoid getting infected by malware. These days, most people get infected by downloading infected software or by visiting a website that installs malware without their knowledge. So you'd like to know whether a site you visit is likely to infect you directly or to harbor malware.
With so many thousands of websites, though, how can you know which ones are safe and which ones aren't? McAfee SiteAdvisor does a great job of letting you know. Perform a search in Google or Yahoo, and in each of the search results you'll see an icon that rates the safety of the site. A red X warns you that it's a dangerous sites; a green check means that it's safe; and a yellow exclamation mark means that it's questionable.
Hover your mouse directly over the icon, and a pop-up will appear, informing you of what might be dangerous about the site. It details whether the site has dangerous downloads, whether the site sends spam to you if you register on it, and whether the site includes links to other sites that are known to be dangerous. To get even more information, click More Info on the pop-up, and you'll receive a detailed list of the dangerous downloads, as well as what malware or adware infects the site.
Best of all, Site Advisor works when you browse sites, too. The software displays a small icon at the bottom of the screen as you surf. The icon warns you when you hit a dangerous site.
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