You’re in luck. Call it the lazy man’s way to system security; if you install protection against the the three biggest threats to your on-line security–infections by viruses, worms and Trojans, malicious software (spyware, adware, browser hijackers) and crackers who wish to secretly access and control your PC–you’ll be protected from the worst of security problems. One caveat, however: if you go to questionable sites (you know the ones I mean!) and are in the habit of clicking on links in pop-ups and spam emails, you’re out of luck—nothing can help you because you’re inviting infection.
But, for those who generally try to avoid the bad stuff, these are the four bare security essentials: a NAT router; a good antivirus program; a good anti-malware program; and, a good software firewall. Simple, and highly effective for most users.
Before you ask, the answer is yes, you still need a software firewall, even if you already have a NAT router or hardware firewall. Most hardware firewalls are configured to keep bad traffic from getting in, but will let most traffic from your network out, so they don’t keep those sneaky tracking programs from phoning home. A software firewall will at least give you some warning when a program is trying to access the Internet and you can decide whether to allow it. Besides, it gives you an extra layer of protection, just in case.
I highly recommend you read and apply Nine Steps to System Security – 2008, but if you’re feeling a bit lazy today, the four essentials will get you by.