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Best Free Internet Security Suite

In a Hurry?
Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide
 
Introduction
This website, and others, have long advocated the use of layered protection to secure a Windows PC in the knowledge that a standard antivirus is often not enough. Vendors are also pushing this approach and most now offer an internet security suite as their leading product. In addition to the normal antivirus, internet security suites include a firewall and other security components. The exact make-up varies between products so be sure to check the information pages before deciding which best suits your own needs. As ever, there are freeware products that are just as good as the commercial programs.
 
Please note that security product reviews range from being a useful resource to complete nonsense so do not use these solely to choose a security suite, or worse still, change the one you have already*. Beware too of media reviews that are biased towards the commercial products advertised on the same site. You need to consider for instance why the discrepancy between these independent results and these from a media publication for the same product? :)
 
*The incorrect removal of an existing security program can adversely affect later installations of new products and/or possibly the operation of your Windows system. Always use the dedicated tool for this purpose provided by the vendor and never a third party program wound up to its most aggressive setting. Doing so invites a recipe for disaster as does the use of so called registry cleaners or other types of clean/tweak tool which almost always contain a registry component.
 
 
Discussion
 

Comodo Internet Security settings windowComodo Internet Security is a very comprehensive solution and as such is IMO not suitable for inexperienced users despite the extra automation included in the latest release. For experienced users however, or those prepared to research this program fully, it is an excellent option. Included in the technology mix is an auto sandbox that isolates untrusted programs from the rest of your computer. Don't be put off by historical reports about its detection capabilities. The latest test results demonstrate just how far Comodo has developed in recent months and the reason it now holds top spot here.

 
Be sure to check out the options in the first install window. Some, like Comodo's DNS service and behavior analysis, you might want, but the search engine change to Yahoo!, you might not. :)
 
Be aware also that unless you check the “customize installer” option and de-select what you don't need, you'll end up with their GeekBuddy service and Comodo Dragon browser. You can also at this point choose the level of alerts presented by the program via the “Configurations Options” tab.
 
Once you have installed and updated the signature definitions, you can begin to configure the settings. The window above is just one of many and illustrates why I don't believe this program to be suitable for the inexperienced. 
 
Comodo help guide page.        Chiron's highly comprehensive setup guide.
 
 

ZoneAlarm main windowZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall is a good choice because it does a very good job in an uncomplicated way. It has all the basic features you would expect for a security suite, including the famous firewall. ZoneAlarm uses the Kaspersky SDK engine. Test results are not class leading but for users following safe surfing practices, protection is more than adequate. 

 

ZoneAlarm firewall text

Application control is clear and precise and there is just enough HIPS protection to be useful without being too obtrusive. 

 
 
 
 
 
A few notes to help maximize the protection potential for ZoneAlarm, depending of course on what your personal requirements might be.
 
The install is via a web installer (a small executable that connects to the internet when launched to download and install the main program components).
 
  • Choose “Custom” install to avoid the unnecessary add-ons/system changes
  • Choose the full package option
  • Choose to set application control to “max”
  • Wait for the download to complete – around 180MB
  • Internet connection will drop out during installation of firewall driver
  • After install ZA will automatically scan your boot sector and memory
 
Settings:
 
  • Antivirus – Settings – Riskware Categories – enable “other riskware scanning”.
  • Firewall – Basic Firewall – Settings – set both to High.
  • Advanced settings – enable ARP protection and Hosts file lock.
 
After the initial update, the normal automatic sequence thereafter is every twenty four hours, but you can choose to update manually at any time for optimum protection if you wish.
 
Once you restart your computer, or maybe before depending on the circumstances, you will begin receiving alerts for system processes. The firewall alerts will begin straight away.
 
As with all security software, you cannot expect optimum protection unless you are prepared to familiarize yourself with the program components, how they work, and how to respond to alerts. The ZoneAlarm PDF userguide link is here on their support page.
 
 

Outpost Security Suite windowOutpost Security Suite Free uses its own antivirus engine but as far as I am aware, still licenses the detection signatures from VirusBuster. This won't achieve top ranking detection but as with Comodo, the focus of the suite is on prevention. The program has not been updated for two years, as illustrated by the GUI, but is still a capable product.

 
After installation, Outpost starts in Auto-Learn mode so you will need to disable this via the program settings if this is not how you wish it to behave. You will also need to register the program but this is free and the key will be sent to your email.
 
Be aware that the Outpost download redirects to cnet which uses a wrapped installer. You can avoid this by using the Softpedia download link instead.
 
 
 
 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

Best Free Antivirus
What Else Have You Just Downloaded?
What Is A False Positive Antivirus Detection?

 
Quick Selection Guide

Comodo Internet Security
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very comprehensive mix of components.
Settings not easy to understand. Custom install necessary to avoid unwanted components.
6.0
85MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
Windows Vista/7/8
ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Straightforward to install and use. Does a good job without trying to do too much.
Only updates once every twenty four hours so additional manual updates are necessary to achieve optimum protection. Take care to avoid unnecessary components during install.
11.0.000.054
180MB (via web installer)
32 and 64 bit versions available
Free for private use only
Windows XP / Vista / Vista64 / 7 / 7 x64 / 8 x32 (2G RAM) / 8 x64 (4G RAM)
Outpost Security Suite Free
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Good all round protection with excellent HIPS component.
Signature definitions from VirusBuster and not top grade. Program not updated for some time.
http://free.agnitum.com/
7.1.1.3431.520.1248
95MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Free for private use only
Windows XP / Vista / XP X64 / Vista64 / 7 / 7 x64

 
Editor

This category is maintained by volunteer editor MidnightCowboy. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or suggestions they might have by clicking here.

 
Tags

free, antivirus, internet, security, suite, firewall

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Comments

by groucho on 15. August 2013 - 11:26  (110126)

ZoneAlarm is well-known spyware. It installed several potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) on my PC, such as PUP.Optional.Softonic, PUP.Optional.OpenCandy and PUP.Optional.Tarma.A in addition to hijacking my browsers' home pages and search engines. I had to use Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware to remove the malware. Stay away from ZoneAlarm.

by MidnightCowboy on 15. August 2013 - 11:57  (110128)

This is not correct. Softonic uses a wrapped installer, as does cnet. You can only come into contact with these if you download from Softonic and cnet instead of clean sites such as Softpedia and MajorGeeks. The same applies to OpenCandy which is now contained in a lot of software, but all of these are avoidable. ZoneAlarm is no different to a lot of other programs that try to add toolbars and/or change your homepage.

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/controversial-advertising-progra...
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/cnet-downloadcom-wrapped-install...
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/what-else-have-you-just-download...

MC - Site Manager.

by EvaM on 16. April 2013 - 8:16  (107135)

Following your recommendation, I'll give Zone Alarm a try. Just from the installation process, I'm a bit irritated, however, as it does not look very professional. The program installed in German, which is my native and system language, and a considerable part of the installer looks like someone used Google translate to come up with a raw approximation of German, or if they had let someone who once took a few months of German have a go with a dictionary. There were parts that I had to mentally re-translate badly into English in order to figure out what the text was supposed to tell me. Even better, lines of texts were just breaking off in the middle; probably, two lines of text sufficed for English, but as German usually takes more space, the installer design just cut them off in the middle. Somewhat annoying if you're trying to avoid installing additional bloatware.

I can't seem to locate language-specific installers, otherwise I might just switch to English. I'd be a lot more comfortable with that than with a garbled version of German.

I wish people would realise that if they do provide a translation to other languages than that of their company, they should have it done by people who are actually competent. And if they don't have the infrastructure to maintain professional translation, just *don't translate* to the language in question. Google Translate does *not* work as an adequate professional-level tool if you translate into a language you don't know.

by MidnightCowboy on 16. April 2013 - 8:33  (107136)

This type of experience is always frustrating EvaM and thank you for highlighting it.

Forging contacts with folks at Check Point is never easy but I am trying and if successful I'll raise this issue and report back either here or in a forum thread that will be linked to from here. MC - Site Manager.

by cinnamon toast ... on 16. April 2013 - 5:38  (107128)

im surprised online armor is not mentioned but its ok. what i wanted to say here is that comodo simply ruined everything when they changed there interface to be more windows 8 fancy feeling. all the hidden settings, the buried components, and the flashy appeal. i was so disgusted and angry when i first seen it i even wrote them a letter about it. it was never answered!! IF ITS NOT BROKE, THEN DONT FIX IT..!!! the old style interface was incredible. no flash, and drama. just simple effective security that said beat this!!! now look at them. ive heard so many others complain also...some mr cool sitting in there research department thought up this failure of a design. where do they get these people? how much do they get paid? sorry but im angry at comodo, and i guess it shows.

by MidnightCowboy on 16. April 2013 - 6:00  (107130)

As far as I'm aware, Online Armor do not provide a free solution containing an antivurus.

http://www.online-armor.com/products.php

Please provide a link if this is lurking somewhere else.

Also, whilst we appreciate your personal feelings about Comodo, you will need to start a thread in our forum if you wish to discuss this further. Other articles on this site at one point attracted a deluge of pro and anti Comodo comments which also belonged in the forum. If this begins to be repeated here, the comments will simply be deleted.

MC - Site Manager.

by Jaspion on 16. April 2013 - 5:50  (107129)

I got an initial bad impression as well. The interface is very different from what it used to be. I also complained about it, and believe me, we're not the only ones. But another thing to say is: I also believe Comodo is listening to users. There have been suggestion of a choice between simple and advanced interfaces and many other suggestions to enhance the UI experience. Let's hope they can improve upon what they've done so far.

However, having said that, after the initial bad impression of the interface, and after having used the program for some time, I really have come to like it. It is definitely not as bad as the first impression would have it seem. Aside from some extra tray controls and extended summary that v5 had, the new interface is quite good. You can use the Widget to get immediate access to many functions, and if you don't like the Widget, you can do that with the main screen, and even configure those buttons to take you quickly to the most important tasks for you, which is quite interesting.

by Chiron on 14. April 2013 - 17:49  (107090)

It's probably worth noting that Comodo Internet Security also automatically checks all running processes against its cloud whitelist and blacklist.

Also, unknown applications will automatically be uploaded and analyzed with Comodo's online behavioral blocker and, if found to be suspicious, will be quarantined.

It may also be worth mentioning the built-in virtual Kiosk, which I believe is currently easy enough for most users. Sandboxed browsers can very easily be opened through the widget.

by majoMo on 14. April 2013 - 20:17  (107094)

'Virtual Kiosk' feature comes with "Comodo Internet Security" free version?

by Jaspion on 14. April 2013 - 20:35  (107097)

Like I say in my first comment, CIS is a 'freemium' product, that is, it is not a crippled or watered-down version of the paid product. It is exactly the same as the paid version. The perks of the paid version are not in the program itself. The free version does come with the Virtual Kiosk (there's more detail in another post by me below).

by MidnightCowboy on 15. April 2013 - 1:53  (107100)

Virtual Kiosk requires Comodo Dragon and Microsoft Silverlight to be installed for it to operate to full potential which has already put off a lot of folks.

Even so, and at the risk of sounding like a parrot, no one including me is denying the potential of CIS as a product. That said, all of these comments are coming from the perspective of knowledgeable users. On the other hand, people like me see users at the sharp end who are not knowledgeable or have no wish to become so where a myriad of security settings are concerned. The same group also spend one or two browsing sessions with Sandboxie and then give up on that for the same reasons. My experience shows that only a very small percentage of such people are prepared to invest the time necessary to set up and manage a program such as this or CIS. Ultimately their single aim is to switch on their PC and use it with as little effort as possible, including that required to install and configure security software. For them, by far the best solution is Windows firewall plus and MSE and a few one off tweaks that require little configuration such as switching to a more secure DNS service and adopting a couple of browser extensions. In the knowledge however that many things Microsoft are not viewed in the greatest light, the general tendency is to install third party apps instead, hence ZoneAlrm still remains the best option. MC - Site Manager.

by Jaspion on 15. April 2013 - 2:25  (107103)

I don't want to sound like a parrot either, but I think some points are still worth making or reiterating:

In the article, you recommend some tweaks that are easy to do for ZoneAlarm. There are equally easy tweaks for Comodo (the user can choose between three preset configuration settings http://help.comodo.com/topic-72-1-451-4871-comodo-preset-configurations....), but you haven't mentioned them. And Comodo comes preconfigured in a way that is sufficient for most users -- they simply won't have to configure it.

Both applications come with components that may or may not be wanted and are optional.

Comodo Dragon and Microsoft Silverlight are not required to use the Virtual Kiosk. You can use it with any browser, and Silverlight mostly adds eye candy.

by Chiron on 15. April 2013 - 2:24  (107102)

Just a quick correction.

Only the tablet mode of the Comodo Kiosk requires Comodo Dragon and Silverlight be installed. For the classic mode of the Comodo Virtual Kiosk neither are required to be installed.

by Jaspion on 14. April 2013 - 7:16  (107065)

I'd choose Comodo Internet Security as my top pick. Even though ZoneAlarm is a good product as well, I bring up the following points:

1) CIS is safer than ZA.
CIS has a very strong HIPS component. Maybe ZA has a better AV component, but then it doesn't update many times a day, and this can be a problem when you have a dangerous virus in the wild that requires quick updates. Of course you can do it manually, but for the average user, they won't even hear about it until it's too late.

Comodo has a default deny policy that partially sandboxes any unknown program thus allowing most programs to function in this way and at the same time blocking virtually any potential threat. This more than compensates for the (slightly) weaker AV (Comodo AV is on par with Avast or AVG in my opinion). Many viruses go undetected for days even when we talk about Kaspersky or ESET or Avira, or any other AV company. The safest way to deal with unknown threats is to consider them 'guilty until proven innocent', and Comodo does that automatically.

CIS is a 'freemium' product, that is, it is not a watered-down or crippled version of their full product.

2) CIS is much lighter than ZA.
CIS can run even on a very low-end system. I know this from firsthand experience. It uses very little RAM and very little resources in general. ZA on the other hand uses RAM like it's a first-person shooter.

3) CIS is not hard to use.
Maybe this is just my opinion, but with Chiron's guide for example, anyone can configure CIS to their liking with a lot of useful guidance (the Comodo community is very active and generally helpful in their Forum). There's also a very helpful help here: http://help.comodo.com/topic-72-1-451-4685-introduction-to-comodo-intern... And if the user doesn't want to read through all of those guides unless necessary, there are preset configurations http://help.comodo.com/topic-72-1-451-4871-comodo-preset-configurations.... that can be activated to easily turn up all the protection systems.

[Edit] Details about commercial version removed

by MidnightCowboy on 14. April 2013 - 7:30  (107066)

@ Jaspion, why did you not disclose your association with Comodo so this is plain for all to see as you did in your contact to me? :) MC - Site Manager.

by Jaspion on 14. April 2013 - 7:35  (107067)

Just to sum up the message, really =) Here it is:

I am Brazilian and I have become the Brazilian Portuguese translator for CIS exactly because I think CIS is such an incredible product, and I wanted my whole family and friends to be able to use it (and in effect my whole country now will be able to use it, and maybe even other Portuguese-speaking countries since I'm the only one translating to Portuguese). I have no business ties with Comodo in any way, all my work is entirely voluntary. And so is the time I'm spending to write this message. I know you do this as a volunteer as well, and out of a wish to share knowledge and help others. I can relate to that and admire your effort. So here's my contribution for your consideration, hopefully we'll be able to help others with a solid safety recommendation.

All the best,
Jaspion

by MidnightCowboy on 14. April 2013 - 9:11  (107070)

The focus of Gizmo's Freeware is towards our majority userbase who possess average or below average skills. For them, especially where security programs are concerned, being able to understand and manage a program is the major consideration and should rank above what the software might be capable of after spending hours going through the documentation. Admittedly you can argue all day about how the various tests arrive at a "protection" score, but the useablity rating here for Comodo (bottom) says it all, and why ZoneAlarm is the better option. MC - Site Manager.

http://www.av-test.org/en/tests/home-user/windows-8/janfeb-2013/

by Jaspion on 14. April 2013 - 9:49  (107071)

I simply don't find Comodo hard to use at all. I used ZoneAlarm briefly, and I might even consider testing it again just to be more precise and reiterate or even correct if necessary what I'm going to say: Comodo generates less popups than ZoneAlarm. I find Comodo easier to use than ZoneAlarm (or at least as easy to use), I think Comodo can easily be an install-and-forget program for those that do not want to tweak it.

The usability test you linked is not about user interface or ease of use, but about false alarms. I don't get too many of those to be honest, as Comodo's whitelist is very large. Those false alarms are because of Comodo's default deny policy of blocking anything unknown. This is much safer than simply blacklisting with the AV engine. When people use their computer for online shopping, online banking, important work, etc etc, I think the main aspect to be regarded when choosing a security package is the security itself! Usability comes second, which doesn't mean it's not important, but again Comodo Internet Security is not hard to use at all in my honest opinion.

by rhiannon on 14. April 2013 - 20:21  (107095)

It's good that you've found a program that works for you and is easy for you to use.
If there's one thing I've learned over the years it's the fact that what's easy for one person may be extremely difficult for others.
That includes folks who are new to computing as well as those who have advanced skills and experience.
What's simple for one may be too complex for others. I'll offer up my own experience here - I know many people who like and use Photoshop. Put me in front of Photoshop and I haven't the foggiest idea where to start using it. Furthermore, my attempts have left me perplexed and annoyed.
I won't put any time or energy into learning Photoshop when there are other programs where I can get things done fairly easily. I'm thinking other people are like me - they want something that works for them without much of a learning curve, and since we all work in different ways there isn't one program (in any given area) that fits all. I'm just sayin'.

by Jaspion on 14. April 2013 - 20:31  (107096)

That's what I think too. I don't think most users find CIS hard to use. The article states that there are too many configurations hence it's difficult to use. To me that's not true since it comes preconfigured in a way that is safe and requires no further tweaking by the user -- unless the user wishes to do that, in which case it offers great flexibility.

by MidnightCowboy on 14. April 2013 - 10:19  (107072)

IMO useability is about everything, especially false alarms. If a program presents information users are unsure how to deal with their only option is to make a guess after Googling for similar results, or just guess anyway.

Also, using a live Linux image is by far the best option for online banking as it bypasses related Windows vulnerabilities. There are even specific distributions for this. MC - Site Manager.

http://www.spi.dod.mil/lipose.htm

by Jaspion on 14. April 2013 - 18:02  (107092)

I agree, false alarms do diminish usability. But security is about compromise. And at the end of the day, what do you want to compromise? Safety or usability?

And there's another thing to be considered: Comodo's default deny that blocks anything absent from the whitelist will generate false alerts in some cases, yes, but it will also greatly reduce the number of false alerts in many other cases. Because if an application is whitelisted, it won't generate any popups or alerts (unless the user specifically configures CIS to do that), whereas ZA may generate alerts for safe applications (I remember this from the last time I used ZA, so I'm not 100% sure of how this applies to the current version).

Comodo Internet Security also features the Virtual Kiosk, which is a completely sandboxed desktop environment where you can do online banking, shopping, even install and test programs, and all modifications will be made inside the Kiosk only, leaving the system intact.