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January 6, 2013

What’s the best Internet security software for 2013?

NORMAN — Picking the right security software to protect your computer from the dangers of the Internet can be a challenging task. It’s a bit like shopping for a lawyer or doctor: you never really know if they’re any good until you win or lose your case in court, or learn that Dr. Really-Nice-Guy, when he stitched you back together, accidentally left his forceps behind.

When it comes to choosing computer software, you have to be careful whom you listen to. I’ve learned to combine my experience with the opinions of people who can give me accurate, unbiased research and opinions. There are hundreds of Internet websites that allegedly “review” software, but it seems they’ve never met a computer program they didn’t like; everything gets five stars, or whatever the top rating might be. I really have to wonder how much money is being paid behind the scenes in exchange for favorable “reviews.”

The basic security tools that you need for your Internet-connected device are a firewall and some sort of “antimalware” program. It used to be the best approach was using separate programs for different tasks. Antivirus software took care of viruses, antispyware programs took care of spyware, anti-adware took care of adware, and so forth.

These days, the lines have become so blurred between various Internet threats that it’s hard to tell the difference between spyware and a virus; they both mess up your computer. Suffice it to call all the various threats “malware” (malicious software) and use a good “antimalware” program that covers all the bases.

Many people insist on having antispam software, as well, to help with spam email. To me, antispam software is too unreliable; I prefer using the delete key, instead.

I’ve used many different Internet security products over the years, and have a list of preferred products. However, it is impossible for a guy like me to test every antimalware product that exists. I don’t have a $1 million testing laboratory or a team of technicians to do my bidding. There are millions of known malware threats on the Internet, with thousands more released every day. To test security software against so many enemies requires deep pockets and large resources, so I turn to trusted review sources. Online review sources that I’ve come to respect include Network World, eWeek and Consumer Reports.

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