Here’s a quick home network security recommendation that is mostly free…
Assuming you have a broadband connection to the internet provided by a cable or telecommunications company, your first line of defense probably should be a router. For ~$50 you can get a wireless router (which has ports for wired connections, too) that will deliver great performance for heavy home users and provide essential security which nowadays is defined as ‘WPA’ (as opposed to the older and much-less-secure WEP, which can easily be cracked by amateur hackers).
Now that your computer is safely behind a router that does network address translation and guards against un-authorized access, you want to secure the PC. In my humble opinion most home PC users do not need to cough up $50 per-year for a subscription to the most popular home antivirus systems. If I had a Windows PC at home, here is what I would do security-wise:
1. Keep the Windows operating system updated automatically via Windows Update, and be sure the Windows firewall is enabled.
2. Use the free FireFox web browser – it is more secure than Internet Explorer and works better. Don’t un-install Internet Explorer – just don’t use it, or only use it when absolutely necessary. (For web sites that are not FireFox compatible, you can download a simple plug-in that will let you open a web site in Internet Explorer with one click directly from a FireFox window.)
3. Download and install the free version of Avast! antivirus software. Avast is a favorite among the hardcore geeks, and in my experience it works just as well as the most popular commercial products out there. The activation process takes a little bit of work, but once that is done you can pretty much forget it.
4. Another one the nerds love: WinPatrol. Again, it’s FREE, and it does a good job of ferreting out all those annoying and unnecessary little programs that seem to sneak onto your PC and run automatically on startup.
The above solutions will keep a Windows PC reasonably secure at the right price: Free. However, that assumes that the users are sane and responsible. If you share your computer with kids, and said kids are, well, not entirely ‘secure’ themselves, then you may want to consider ‘kid-proofing’ software that will restrict their downloads, access to social networking sites, etc. But then you will have a miserable teenager to deal with, and for that issue you must seek help elsewhere… Good luck!