CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - We all get those pop ups on our computer asking us to update our security software.
A lot of times we ignore them, don't want to pay for one, or just let them expire because we keep pushing off doing it.
We're making a big mistake.
We all know you should only shop at sites you trust, but Consumer Reports' Dean Gallea cautions it's also essential to install security software to protect your computer from spyware, viruses, and spam.
Consumer Reports tested security programs costing between 50 and 90 dollars. But Dean found free security software that's on par with the best.
To fight viruses: AntiVir from Free-dash-A-V-dot-com.
To prevent spyware: Windows Defender from Microsoft.com.
And to stop spam: Spamfighter Standard from Spamfighter.com.
"Never click on links in e-mails that go to banks or other sites that have your personal information."
Instead, type the company's Web address into your browser.
And for more protection, Consumer Reports recommends downloading free anti-phishing software, such as the McAfee Site Advisor, which warns when you go to a dangerous site.
Failing to keep your computer safe from online threats can shorten its life and lead to the theft or corruption of data, including sensitive personal information.
Yet our 2009 State of the Net Survey shows that 35 percent of U.S. households don't use software to guard against inadvertently downloading "badware," including programs that spy on your online activity, and 18 percent don't use a program to block potentially destructive online viruses.
If you've been avoiding security software because of its cost, our latest tests bring good news: There are fine, free programs to protect against viruses, badware, and unwanted e-mail spam.
Of the seven free software programs we tested this year, the best (from Avira, Microsoft, and Spamfighter) are the same no-cost programs we recommended last year, though all three performed notably better than their 2008 versions did.
They were on par with the best pay suites we tested. Even the less effective among them (Alwil Avast and AVG antivirus, and Lavasoft Ad-Aware and Safer Networking Spybot antibadware) proved no worse than the lowest-scoring pay suites.
We evaluate free and pay software with actual threats we capture on the Web and some that we modify to represent threats too new to have been discovered. The best programs this year detected 80 percent or more of the modified threats and updated their databases within a day or two to detect all the actual threats.
The worst program detected no more than 70 percent of the modified viruses and detected few of the actual threats within our test period.