Running a PC without security software installed is like leaving a bank’s vault door wide open: You’re basically begging bad guys to swoop in and steal your valuables.
Sticky-fingered hackers would love nothing more than to get their hands on your customer data. Unfortunately, security software for businesses tends to cost an arm and a leg. Whereas home users have scores of free security solutions from which to choose, these programs are typically licensed for noncommercial use only.
The Intuit Small Business Blog sifted through countless end-user license agreements to find three free security solutions — two for Windows-based PCs and one for Android smartphones — that entrepreneurs may use to beef up digital security for their small businesses.
- Microsoft Security Essentials — A solid antivirus program is the cornerstone of a secure computer. Microsoft allows small businesses to install its Security Essentials software on up to 10 computers at no cost. The program integrates well with the built-in Windows Firewall (as it should) and provides both on-demand and real-time protection to stop intruders at the proverbial door. PCMag.com warns that the Windows XP version is less efficient than the Windows 7/Vista versions. On the plus side, the software is user-friendly and unobtrusive.
- Comodo Internet Security — If you don’t want to go with Microsoft’s protective combo, Comodo offers a free Windows security suite that bundles its basic antivirus and firewall solutions together, and it’s licensed for business use. (The components can also be installed separately.) Comodo requires users to make more manual security decisions than Microsoft does, but the software also includes more advanced features, including protection against DNS attacks, website scanning for the Google Chrome browser, and a sandbox mode to test potentially malicious programs in a virtual setting that won’t harm your computer.
- Lookout Mobile Security — Malware targeting Android smartphones is appearing in increasing numbers, McAfee reports [PDF]. Google recently began scanning Android Market apps for malicious code, but it still couldn’t hurt to install additional protection on a work phone. The free version of Lookout Mobile Security scans downloaded apps, checks your phone for malware on a daily or weekly basis, backs up your contacts to Lookout’s servers, and even helps you find your phone (using GPS) if you misplace it.
A few words of caution: If you store extremely sensitive data on your work computers — such as credit card or social security numbers — consult with a security expert to determine your specific needs. The programs above are not foolproof, and testing (from PC World and various independent labs) shows that top-shelf premium security software generally blocks malware more effectively than free programs do. Also, most free software doesn’t include technical support, so if something breaks, you’re on your own.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the Comments field below! And for even more free business software solutions, check out Free Small-Business Software for Shoestring Budgets and Free Email Solutions for Small Businesses.