There are threats lurking around every corner on the Internet, and malware attacks are still one of the fastest growing threats. What would you do if your computer—every photo, saved email, and file—were being held for ransom? Refusing to pay means the hacker clicks one button and everything is gone, but handing over the money is no guarantee the hacker will unlock your content.
Every day, countless users are caught in a hacker’s crosshairs. Perhaps their computers are infected with viruses, or they fall victim to a phishing scam. Maybe it’s just exposing their sensitive data without proper security in place.
You can mitigate the threat of viruses, privacy invasions, and stolen personal information with the right security tools. There are a lot of strong antivirus, anti-malware, and security programs to help you keep your sensitive information safe.
Antivirus, Anti-malware, and Anti-spyware
Good browsing habits are the key to keeping yourself safe online, such as never sharing passwords, only using trusted websites, and not opening unsolicited email attachments. But even if you’re using these best practices, malware is a constant threat. You can reduce your chances of an infection with a strong antivirus and anti-malware program like the ones listed below:
With its no-nonsense design and unobtrusive operation, Malwarebytes works discreetly to eliminate malware. It can also scan your registry and processes for more resilient threats. It’s compatible with default programs that come pre-installed, like Windows Defender.
While we recommend the paid version because it offers a few extra features like scheduled scanning, a free version does exist.
According to our lab tests, Avast has an excellent malware detection rate. It’s one of the most comprehensive, accurate antivirus solutions to date. It’s especially strong against spyware attacks and even offers some great bonus features, including:
- File cleaner
- Web browser protection
Here’s a portable anti-virus solution for users on the go. Emsisoft is only 700 MB and does not require installation. It can be run through a flash drive, making it ideal for lower-end or older machines.
Despite its size, its extensive feature set offers:
- Protection against malware, spyware, and adware
- Scanning for worms, rootkits, and keyloggers
- Email message threat detector
- Support for compressed directories
- Registry cleaning
Unlike other antispyware solutions, SpywareBlaster can prevent spyware from installing in the first place. This web browser plugin scans for malicious scripts and cookies that track your activity on any website you visit.
The System Snapshot functions like Windows’s built-in System Restore, letting you back up your machine’s current state in case of a major problem later. Also, Hosts Safe allows you to backup and encrypt host files, which are a common target for spyware.
Thanks to social media and the Internet of Things (IoT), companies collect information about their customers in order to make better business decisions and generate more revenue.
However, data collection also raises concerns about consumer privacy. If you want to keep your activity to yourself, consider these useful tools:
Tor is possibly the best-known tool for circumventing web filters and ensuring private online access. This specialized web browser encrypts your traffic to make it harder to track and identify your activity.
Many users will be familiar with the UI since it’s built from the Firefox browser, and because it does most of the work “behind the scenes,” Tor is incredibly easy to use. However, it’s complex and considerably slower than using a regular browser, so expect to use it sparingly.
Comodo Dragon and Iron are two additional browsers you should consider. They aren’t as private as something like Tor, but they do protect you from tracking cookies. Both browsers run a lot faster and are better for normal use.
This tool encrypts your communication with any website you visit. It works because the HTTPS protocol is more secure than standard HTTP, which is why payment pages always use HTTPS.
HTTPS Everywhere is automatically activated in the Tor browser, but you can install this browser extension on your regular web browser as well.
While HTTPS Everywhere works on the browser, Signal helps encrypt communication on your phone. This free app can make your phone calls and messages secure and private.
It’s directly integrated with WhatsApp to enable end-to-end encryption on all your messages as well.
Safe Pad encrypts your document using industrial-grade AES encryption, making it perfect for storing banking or credit card details. Users have the option to use one or two passwords, with the latter offering stronger protection.
Google is the most popular search engine right now, but it also collects your location data and internet activity. For the privacy-minded surfer, DuckDuckGo doesn’t track or collect personal information from you.
This browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Microsoft Edge lets its users control trackers used by websites. With its anti-tracking technology and smart blocking features, Ghostery can actually speed up your connection and protect your data.
Once upon a time, not many people outside of IT departments knew about VPNs, or virtual private networks. Now, they’re becoming far more common, even for casual internet users. There are benefits to using one, such as:
- Bypassing international restrictions on Internet access
- Streaming content on Netflix or Hulu in unsupported regions
- Making you anonymous online by disguising your location
- Letting you browse more safely on suspicious Wi-Fi hotspots
But which of the many options out there are trustworthy to use? Here are the ones we’ve tested and can recommend:
Want to hide your IP address and encrypt your traffic to ensure security and privacy on public Wi-Fi? Hotspot Shield is the tool for you. The program can be switched on and off on the fly. The free version offers limited data, so use it for your most sensitive internet activity.
CyberGhost is another really strong VPN. Installation requires setting up a virtual network adapter, but otherwise it’s easy to use. The free version is supported by ads and sometimes the servers take a while to respond during high traffic times, but it’s still good for occasional use.
This VPN’s excellent branding isn’t just for show. TunnelBear is compatible with up to 5 devices on a single account and can run on any web browser.
The free version is pretty limited, allotting only 500 MB a month, but higher plans offer unlimited data protection.
Choosing “password” as your password is a typical mistake as it’s routinely the most commonly used password in the world. A strong password with a variety of characters and a decent length is vital, and changing that password regularly is important. You should also use different passwords for different accounts so that a breach in one place doesn’t compromise your login credentials in another.
Password management doesn’t have to be time-consuming and password managers like the ones listed below can make security very convenient:
One of the most popular and oldest password managers out there, LastPass stores your passwords from multiple platforms in the cloud. It works with Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, and many other browsers.
It also includes:
- Two-factor authentication
- Automatic password capture
- Importing data from other browsers
This open-source solution is compatible with Windows, Linux, and MacOS. Unlike LastPass, KeePass stores the login information on the user’s machine in an encrypted file as opposed to in the cloud.
Its minimalistic feature set offers two-factor authentication and provides a password generator.
True Key sets itself apart with its wide variety of sign-in options. You can authenticate yourself using:
- Facial recognition
- Fingerprint scanning
- Windows Hello
- Two-factor authentication
True Key encrypts and stores your passwords locally, syncing data between multiple devices. The free version is limited to only 15 passwords, however.
Sometimes, one password isn’t enough. Two-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security to your accounts. In order to prove it’s really you, some sites double check your smartphone or another external device by sending a one-time-use code, protecting you even in the event of a stolen password.
Many password managers have this functionality built in, but a dedicated option might be more convenient for some users.
The iOS version of 1Password is free and includes a password manager. Users can store 6-digit temporary passwords for website logins and sync over Wi-Fi across multiple devices.
With its MacOS port, 1Password is the ideal manager for anyone invested in the Apple ecosystem.
Would you prefer an easy-to-use, simple interface for your authentication? Authy is user-friendly and lets you quickly copy and paste the temporary code for convenience. Its sync service connects your passwords to your online account.
Account Breach Detector
Data breaches of major companies and websites are disturbingly common and on the rise, putting many consumers at risk. How can you know whether you’ve been targeted? These free online tools can help:
Type in your email address and this website will tell you whether your personal information has been compromised in a major data breach, as well as give you tips on preventing damage from future breaches.
The site even gives insightful descriptions for every breach you were involved in and details into what type of information was stolen.
Password hacking resulted in billions of hacked accounts this past year. BreachAlarm lets you anonymously check whether your password has been posted online. The service notifies you by email whenever a future password hack affects you, too.
Most people dislike watching ads. While they are important for smaller businesses, you should install an ad blocker on your computer to protect yourself from riskier websites. These sites may be loaded with ads that infect your computer with malware.
Keep in mind that some websites rely on advertisement revenue to function. Consider donating to any site you visit frequently. Instead of blocking all ads, whitelist domains that you want to support. That way you can show your support while still enjoying a safe browsing experience on other websites with one of these tools:
Advertisements are not only distracting but also dangerous, as they can harbor ransomware while slowing down your computer and eating into your battery life. The uBlock browser extension gets rid of annoying ads on almost any website by blocking content from sources that are known to provide ads.
uBlock is compatible with Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge; it’s also more lightweight compared to its competitor, AdBlock.
Flashblock is a Firefox add-on that blocks Flash content. Flash not only slows down your computer but also poses a security threat. If you need Flash for your work, consider Flashcontrol, the Chrome alternative that gives the user the option to control Flash content.
NoScript and ScriptSafe are web browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome, respectively. They ensure that only trusted web sources can run plugins on your browser. Scripts, in general, can pose a security risk, so consider installing these.
It makes sense to be suspicious of links. Cybercriminals commonly hide malicious malware or phishing scams behind innocent-looking links, especially those shortened by Bit.ly. This free tool checks a link without having to click on it first.
Why shred files when you can use the Recycle Bin? Because of the way file storage is handled on hard drives, simply clearing the bin doesn’t remove the data completely.
Eraser forces a permanent removal by overwriting that sector on the drive multiple times. There’s an option to schedule shredding, too.
Backup ToolsBackup tools/SECURED BACKUP
It’s important to keep your data backed up. You never know when your computer will become infected with ransomware, or your hard drive will crash. EaseUS lets users backup their systems, disk, files, partitions, and even functions.
Cloud storage is the norm now. Whether you like Google, Apple, Microsoft, or Dropbox, you should backup your files on the cloud. This will protect you from hardware failures and makes it easy for you to transfer your files between your different devices. In the event that you lose important files, you can easily restore a previous version of it.
IDrive is a feature-rich backup tool. It offers everything you’d expect from a backup platform. Snapshot and versioning is one feature that we like. It allows users to view historical screenshots of their data so they can accurately restore the version they need. IDrive is supported on both PC and Mac.
Building a list of the best security tools is no easy task but increased security doesn’t always come in the form of a program. Some of the best options are included in the platforms we use on a daily basis.
Google’s Two-Factor Authentication
Gmail is the go-to email solution for many users around the world, and you should enable two-factor authentication if you have a Gmail account. There’s a lot of valuable information stored in your email, so protect it. This small step will keep your account safer, notify you of attempted logins, and provide you with a little peace of mind.
Transaction Monitoring from Your Bank
Online banking and tap payments are common these days so it’s easier than ever for fraudsters to scam your cards and accounts. Luckily, most major banks offer some from of transaction monitoring.
Every time you make a transaction, you will receive a push notification on your phone. This may seem basic at a glance, but it works. If you lose a card, you’ll know if it’s used for fraud because any transactions will pop up on your phone.
Building your credit takes years, so don’t let a thief undo all of that hard work. By regularly monitoring your credit report, you can detect strange activity like new accounts opened without your permission.
Removing fraudulent accounts from your credit history isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time and patience. However, early detection is important if you want to remove these things as quickly as possible.
Credit Karma is a great free option to look at your credit score if you don’t trust Equifax and don’t want to pay for Trans Union. AnnualCreditReport.com let’s you view your report once per year for free from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.
Many Options for All Types of Users
Internet security is a serious issue. Ransomware threats continue to spike, malware infection rates are on the rise, and phishing scams are as popular as ever. You have a lot to think about when browsing the web.
While you may not need every program on this list, you can use the ones that you like to improve your security. Choose the ones that appeal to you most and offer you the best option to keep your private information secure.
Still looking for more information on the best security tools? Check out our detailed list breaking down the 10 best antivirus programs.