10 Free Security Products You Can Download Now

Free Is a Good Price

The old adage that "you get what you pay for" doesn't always apply, particularly when it comes to much needed, highly demanded security products.

The bulk of free security products fall into the anti-virus bracket, but vendors are releasing other free downloads and services that include rootkit and Trojan scanners, firewalls and other network security tools.

Reasons for a free pricetag could range from raising brand awareness to embarking on a global campaign to prevent the spread of malware in areas without heavy security resources. Plus these products are often accessible, simple to install, and of course, easy on the wallet.

Here are a few security products that caught our attention.

Avast! Anti-Virus

Like many free anti-virus software products, AVAST provides strong protection against viruses and secures e-mails and chats. It also touts automatic scans and updates, fast speed and a light footprint, while only notifying (i.e. bugging) the user with occasional alerts.

AVAST has maintained that it focuses the majority of its resources into R&D and virus research, differentiating it from competitors -- which is also likely why they have managed to so often slip under the radar of public awareness. However, by 2010, this little known Czech Republic-based company had about 130 million registered users, and more than 100 professionals at its headquarters in Prague, as well as a team of distribution partners in all markets.

AVAST offers a portfolio security software for SMB to enterprise in more than 30 languages, and touts more than 130 million registered users.

The growing antivirus company says that it detects between 1.1 to 1.4 billion pieces of malware per year, a billion of which come from infected Web sites.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2011

Tried and true, AVG has one of the most widely used free products in the marketplace, offering protection against viruses and spyware.

In fact, AVG, which now claims more than 110 million users, has done the lions' share of its marketing via is free anti-virus product in order to develop brand awareness and foster a loyal user base. The latest version of its free anti-virus product has additional features such as AVG Social Networking Protection, AVG Protective Cloud Technology and AVG Smart Scanning.

The product is compatible with just about any Windows platform, including Windows 7, and is fast and easy to install. Plus subscribers have access to the company's free technical supports and the latest updates.

GFI MailSecurity

No doubt, Trojans are a huge threat. Once downloaded, Trojans can wreak havoc on a user's computer by gaining access to personal data and then transmitting credit card and Social Security numbers, as well as other critical information to a server controlled by hackers. Many can evade or disable anti-virus and other security software and often times those Trojans are delivered unobtrusively via a socially engineered e-mail.

Subsequently, GFI MailSecurity, contains a module that includes a Trojan and Executable scanner, designed to scour e-mails to determine whether the message contains infected attachments that could possible download Trojan horses and viruses.

Among other things, the scanner checks for executables that could access FTP protocols, make use of the ICQ UN database or Remote Access Services, or otherwise try to hide itself from the Windows Task Manager.

Kaspersky File Scanner

Kaspersky's File Scanner has the answers for those users who think they've downloaded a suspicious file or malware from a malicious Web application.

Users just have to indicate the file they want scanned, and the program is automatically uploaded from their computer to a dedicated server. The file in questions is then checked using Kaspersky Anti-Virus. However, only one file of up to 1 MB can be checked at any one time. If there are several potentially suspicious files, users can check them in succession, or create an archive file no larger than 1 MB and check that.

The product is updated every three hours to make sure that the latest viruses get caught.

Meanwhile, Kasperksy also is in the process of developing a new and improved version of the free Kaspersky Online Scanner, which protects users from a myriad of online threats.

Microsoft Security Essentials

Microsoft Security Essentials created quite a stir in the security community when it was released in 2008. However, the Microsoft brand that propelled its wide adoption has arguably been integral in underscoring the need for good computer security and fortifying computers around the globe for users who might otherwise go without.

The free Microsoft Security Essentials download, also known as MSE, provides real-time protection for PCs that guard against an array of threats including viruses, spyware and other malicious software.

The software giant bills the product as simple to install, easy to use, and always up to date with the latest anti-virus technology. Users can easily tell if they're virus free by the "green" alert, while "red" would indicate the presence of viruses or malware on their system.

Nsauditor Free Port Scanner

Yes, there are even free network security tools, the Nsauditor Free Port Scanner being one of them.

Specifically, the free product is a small and fast port scanner with an easy-to-use interface designed for the Win32 platform. The scanning tool allows users to scan ports on machines in a few seconds and scan on predefined port ranges.

The tool relies on TCP packets to determine available hosts and open ports, as well as the service associated with ports and other ways hackers can use the network as a vector to launch an attack.

Panda Cloud Antivirus

Acknowledged as the first free "in the cloud" security service, Panda Cloud Antivirus delivers instantaneous protection against real-world threats with next to no impact on computer performance. This minimal resource usage is a major benefit of Collective Intelligence,

Panda’s proprietary technology for automatically collecting and processing millions of malware samples in the cloud instead of locally on the user’s PC. The result is efficient, accurate malware protection that consumes only 15MB of RAM, compared with 60MB for traditional signature-based antivirus products. Panda’s innovative reverse signature analysis approach, which feeds information about goodware and malware characteristics to the Collective Intelligence database, ensures rapid scanning for the newest and most dangerous malware.

PC Pitstop

As the name suggests, PC Pitstop isn't just one product, but an aggregated one-stop shop for an array of free scanning and removal tools.

Included in its portfolio is PC Pitstop Exterminate, which includes a free spyware scan that identifies the latest spyware threats, as well as adware, keyloggers, Remote Access Trojans and browser hijackers. The tool features daily signature updates and a step-by-step wizard format that touts ease of use.

In addition, PC Pitstop also features a free privacy scan that displays personal information stored on a user's PC to help them determine how to better protect their personal data from hackers.

Sophos Anti-Rootkit

It's one thing to detect viruses. It's another entirely to dig down and weed out the nasty rootkits and Trojans. In fact, often rootkits can remain undetected by antivirus software, especially if they become embedded in the users' system before an anti-virus agent can be installed.

U.K.-based Sophos has a free tool that adds an extra layer of protection by helping users scan, detect and remove rootkits hidden in their computers.

The product is equipped to quietly rid a computer of rootkits, even ones previously embedded in a user's computer, without compromising system performance or bogging it down.

Altogether, Sophos Anti-Rootkit supports just about any Windows platform, including Vista and Windows 7, as well as Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008.

ZoneAlarm Firewall

As one of the most popular free firewalls, CheckPoint's ZoneAlarm firewall is a safe bet in the free firewall market.

Using evolving threat data from millions of users around the globe, the ZoneAlarm Firewall features inbound and outbound firewall protection, which detects and blocks behavior of unknown viruses and spyware, while intercepting malicious applications that pose as legitimate software.

New features include anti-phishing technology and site checks, as well as Identity Guard that provides credit scores and recovery services to secure a users' identity online. In addition, the firewall quietly and automatically runs in the background, rarely assaulting the user with alerts, and is compatible with established anti-virus programs such as AVG or Norton.

Altogether, ZoneAlarm, which is part of Check Point Software Technologies, claims more than 60 million registered users.