What would you do if you received a message that started like this?
In a somewhat strange experiment, you have found yourself BCCâ€™d on this e-mail as the people whose technical and professional opinion I value the most. If that doesnâ€™t feel right to you, perhaps Outlook auto-complete ended up selecting the wrong person from the GAL or my Personal Address Book! ;-)
If your spam filters hadn’t already picked it out you might stop reading right there, except that this was the start of a message from one of my colleagues, who was experimenting with an alternative method of gathering information – crowdsourcing. The theory is good – after all, why spend hours reading lots of highly subjective reviews of software, probably biased by the vendors public relations efforts, when you can ask some trusted colleagues to spend ten minutes telling you what they think (in this case, which anti-virus/anti-spam/personal firewall products they use and why they use them?). For those who are unconvinced by this method of research and say that those ten minutes are valuable and that you could be doing something worthwhile instead, think about this… we’re talking about people who trust one-another’s advice here – one day that favour will be returned.
In this case, my colleague returned the favour by sharing the information – and allowing me to post it here! What follows is the Garry Martin guide to selecting PC security software:
Most of you swear by AVG Free and those that donâ€™t, use â€œcommercialâ€ products instead (such as those from Symantec, McAfee or Microsoft etc.) that were either free, or that they have paid very little for under various special offer programmes. Only two of you appear to have paid retail prices for a product. Whilst there was some anecdotal evidence of issues with different programs, no one strongly warned me away from a particular product or manufacturer.
Again, most of you use the free Windows Defender (http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx) and those that donâ€™t, use the anti-spyware capability of their â€œcommercialâ€ suite products (Symantec, McAfee etc.). Some of you supplement this real-time scanning with the occasional run of Ad-Aware 2007 Free or the freeware Spybot â€“ Search and Destroy just to be sure. Many of you have found things that Windows Defender has let through using this method.
Most of you are happy with the Windows Firewall built in to Windows XP and Windows Vista. Those of you that use something different do so generally because it is part of your â€œcommercialâ€ suite. Many of you mentioned that you were happy anyway as you were also behind the hardware firewall of your ADSL router.
Only one of you uses web content filtering. This use is primarily to protect the prying eyes of little ones, and the product used is CyberPatrol.
One notable mention from me is that I also use the freeware CCleaner to clear my tracking cookies on every boot and through a batch file when required. CCleaner allows you to tag cookies you want to keep, so is very effective in protecting your privacy. Iâ€™m sure it has hundreds of other features, but this is the only one I use it for and it works very well.
So in summary, my personal â€œcrowdsourcingâ€ experiment worked, and worked very well. I didnâ€™t need to research this myself, and hopefully in the process have put together some useful information for all of you. Result. Oh, and hopefully my PC is now at least as secure as your PC is!
[I was one of the mugs who paid retail prices for a product… although in fairness it was for my wife’s business…]