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I am running a new instillation of Windows 7 on my personal computer and would like some advice/recommendations on free anti-virus and firewall programs for a system where users will be engaging in risky activities. (Downloading of potentially unsafe files and navigation to websites where said files are acquired.)

  • I guess you first will have to figure your security needs (which this site is not suited for) – and then ask for the software meeting your requirements. The last lines of your question (starting with "Do I need browser security") are not what's answered here: SR recommends software meeting requirements given in the question – it's not about finding your requirements ;) Good luck anyhow – hopefully some Windows users find your question specific enough :) – Izzy Aug 16 '16 at 6:32
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    Your question currently reads as a) a request for Free Antivirus b) A lesson in browser security c) recommendations for browser & settings - a) needs a little more detail b) is much too broad & c) should be on SuperUser. – Steve Barnes Aug 16 '16 at 6:36
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    This request doesn't make sense to me: on one hand side you want to download contaminated material and on the other hand you want to have the browser block the download or the antivirus delete it. Maybe you decide for one of the alternatives only. – Thomas Weller Aug 16 '16 at 11:00
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    Edits have been made. Thank you for your feedback. (I've had a hard time finding places to ask my questions so your patience is appreciated.) Thomas Weller, for elaboration: It is a shared computer. Despite many a lecture from myself the other users changing their behavior cannot be relied upon. – Switchgear Aug 16 '16 at 11:01
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    Ensure that those users are kept/kicked off that computer. Software cannot protect against human stupidity. They should be informed that if they ever download one piece of malware, they will be kicked off permanently. If they don't know how to (I am assuming they have no mental issues), it's up to them to take the responsibility to acquire that knowledge. In that you (or others) can help them, not in handholding. – Jan Doggen Aug 16 '16 at 11:18
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Free Anti-Virus and Firewall Solution

If you're not happy with Windows Defender and Windows Firewall, there are a plethora of other free tools at your disposal. In my personal experience, the best source to find the latest scores of an application (Anti-Virus in this case) would be: AV-Comparatives.

Whilst there is no "end-all-be-all", I would recommend Comodo Internet Security (There is also Comodo Cloud Anti-Virus, I have no knowledge of this product). Whilst I will not go into details (nor do I have any real answers on how effective this is), you can look at the feature tab for the anti-virus engine.

To match this, you can then add Comodo Free Firewall, again you can review the features tab for more details on the tool sets provided.

Lastly, to finalize the "suite" there is also a "secure" line of browsers: Dragon Internet Browser, Comodo Ice-Dragon and Chromodo. There are all spin-offs of current browsers (Chrome, Firefox and Chromium) with Comodo's inbuild "SecureDNS" and other add-ons.

None of these, of course, will mitigate all possible issues when downloading files that, quite frequently, have malicious code. What you're asking for is more how to minimize the threats. For this, I could recommend the following add-ons for a web browser also:

  • AdBlock Plus
  • Disconnect Safe Search
  • HTTPS Everywhere
  • Web of Trust
  • SecBrowsing
  • Click & Clean
  • View Thru
  • KB SSL Enforcer

(Note none of these will directly improve security, a conscious effort from yourself to browser safer is still required - and these work for Google Chrome).

As for all your questions on Browser Security etc. this belongs on Super User.

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