"A VPN (Virtual Private Network) based in Germany, providing a basic, attractive, and user-friendly design. It uses 128-bit AES encryption on all connections to ensure a high level of anonymity, and uses data compression to make connections faster.
The free service allows 1 GB a month, which is enough for normal surfing. You must register in order to use this service."
What's it for? - Anonymity services safely transmit information with little risk of local interception, making them ideal for surfing on open Wi-Fi networks or in hotels while traveling.
"Avast has the most features of all free antivirus programs, including full real-time capabilities (web, e-mail, IM, P2P, network, script, and behavior shields), boot-time scanning, a site ratings plugin, and a light sandbox.
It has high detection rates of malware and is light on resources. But the automatic sandbox may confuse average users (by default a pop up asks you whether an application should be sandboxed or not)."
High Quality Alternatives:
Microsoft Security Essentials: "A great choice for average users because of minimal user interaction (automatically updates and removes threats). Detection rates are very good (particularly for rootkits). More impressively, MSE has few false positives and good removal of existing malware." Chosen for Gizmo's 9 great freeware.
Panda Cloud Antivirus: "Panda is also an excellent choice for average users with a simple interface and minimal user interaction (automatically updates and removes threats). Detection rates are very high (but detection of real-world threats is slightly lower than the competition). A behavioral blocker and web protection help increase your security."
What's it for? - Provides an essential layer of protection from a multitude of virus, trojan, worm, spyware, adware, and rootkit infections. Our top picks have reasonably good detection rates for all forms of malware. Use one (and only one) antivirus program for real-time protection.
"Within the virtual sandbox provided by Sandboxie, your browsing (or other activities that you sandbox) are totally isolated from the vital portions of your PC. Any virus, trojan, worm, spyware or adware threats that 'infected' your PC while browsing will be eliminated.
It can cause problems on some PCs, so backup before installing.
Related: Alternatively, you can isolate your browser and other Internet facing applications with GeSWall. It provides excellent security and is a worthy alternative to Sandboxie."
What's it for? - Browser protection utilities like Sandboxie and GeSWall can greatly increase your defenses against drive-by downloads and other vulnerabilities. Instead of only reacting to malware, they proactively protect your computer.
A former commercial product, Private Firewall is now unrestricted freeware. It is a proactive multi-layer security solution, offering behaviour blocking technology alongside standard firewall protection. Using Behavioral-based Monitoring, it features zero-hour virus, spyware, and malware protection, process and application security, and registry protection, just to name a few. It is definitely a feature-packed firewall/HIPS solution.
"In addition to the usual file, registry and application modules, Malware Defender also provides network protection should you choose to enable it, including a connections monitor." If you use a simple firewall (such as the built-in windows firewall), then a HIPS program can be a potent second layer of defense. Read the article for additional lite HIPS options.
"It is a pleasure to use. For a start, it is the most comprehensive of the free programs. It has filtering and monitoring for web surfing, social networks, email, instant messaging, and contacts. It also handles multiple user accounts which is good for one PC with many users but does increase the work to set up."
"Applications that specialize in the detection and removal of rootkits."
Quickly rates sites and links, uses an automatic warning or blocking screen to help you avoid accidentally interacting with potentially bad websites, and provides informative ratings and user comments without censoring the visibility of sites. Read the article for a plethora of ways to improve your online safety.
"Secunia scans for insecure software and helps you quickly update risky products like browsers, PDF readers, Sun Java, office software, email software, media players, instant messengers, download managers, P2P clients, etc.
Faster than Secunia's PSI, SUMo is perhaps the best software update monitor for expert users. It adds portable software and isn't restricted to any one download site. However, it doesn't provide direct download links. Warning: download the "Lite" or ZIP/7z versions to avoid the controversial RK and OpenCandy."
Related: We also have tips to follow in our system updates snippet.
What's it for? - Lets you massively check for new software versions, so you can update old software to get the latest features or security fixes. Both of our top picks scan for portable apps too (either automatically or after you set them to scan a custom folder).
"I tried to install sweetpacks toolbar and Spybot put up a warning. Spybot's full scan will also check for rootkit malware."
Related: We also have steps to follow in our check for infections snippet.
What's it for? - As anti-virus programs don't detect 100% of threats, anti-malware scanning is still a must. On-demand scanners/removers provide a second opinion and can find unique threats.
"Applications that specialize in the detection and removal of Trojans."