I used to use a thumb drive to backup my budget software, and I also kept a copy of our tax returns on the same drive. While the files were password protected, I didn't encrypt them because the drive never left the house, and we don't exactly live in a high crime area.
Then one day my husband was looking for a drive to carry some files to the school where he teaches. As you probably guessed, he grabbed the drive with our financial info on it. And as you probably also guessed, someone stole his computer and the thumb drive right out of his classroom. As a result, I've had the great joy of spending many, many hours changing our account numbers, checking our credit reports, and setting up fraud alerts.
To help you keep from making the same sort of mistake I did, we've compiled a list of 51 open source apps that can help protect your identity. Some of these fit into traditional security categories, like anti-spam, anti-virus, and firewalls. Others, like browsers, e-mail, and PDF tools, we've included in this list because they include encryption or other security features that can help you protect yourself.
No one is likely to need all 51 of these apps, but the list should give you plenty of options for filling in any security gaps in your system.
The highly acclaimed "#1 open-source spam filter," SpamAssassin, uses a number of different features to identify spam, including header tests, body phrase tests, Bayesian filtering, blacklists and whitelists, and others. It can be used on its own, but it's also been incorporated into a number of other commercial and open-source applications. Operating System: OS Independent.
Humbly claiming to be "the absolute best SPAM fighting weapon that the world has ever known," ASSP is short for "Anti-Spam SMTP Proxy" Server. While it takes a little work to get it up and running at first, it doesn't require a lot of maintenance, and the site wiki includes extensive help on configuring the app so that it works for you. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Available as an Outlook add-on, as a Thunderbird extension, or as a stand-alone proxy, Spamato uses multiple filters to separate junk mail from the stuff you actually want to receive. Unlike some anti-spam tools, it also lets you see why a message gets classified as spam and adjust your settings as necessary. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
Nixory will quickly scan your system and remove any malicious cookies from Firefox. Unlike some similar apps, you can use it alongside other anti-virus or anti-spyware applications without first disabling those systems. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
One of the best-known open-source security projects, ClamAV provides e-mail virus and malware scanning for Unix-based systems. Its owners update its prodigious virus database several times each day to provide up-to-the minute protection from evolving threats. Operating System: Linux.
Based on the well-respected ClamAV engine, ClamWin integrates with Microsoft Outlook and Windows Explorer to scan files for viruses and other malware. You can set it up to automatically download the updated virus database, and you can schedule system scans. However, unlike many commercial products, it does not include a real-time scanner for files you receive by e-mail. You'll need to save files and right-click in order to scan them for viruses. Operating System: Windows.
As you might expect, this is another interface for ClamAV, this time for Linux only. Operating System: Linux.
8. Moon Secure
This app also uses the Clam AV engine (though developers claim to be working on one of their own), but offers a different interface and some different features. Operating System: Windows.
Currently protecting more than 500,000 computers, Amanda is one of the most popular (if not the most popular) open-source backup and recovery program. Importantly, it encrypts backup data both in transit and at rest. Several commercial vendors (notably, Zmanda) use Amanda to offer cloud backup services for users who prefer to store archived data off-site. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
10. Areca Backup
Designed to be both flexible and simple, Areca Backup makes it extremely easy to archive your files and work with those archived files (browse, merge, track versions, etc.). It also gives users the option to encrypt backup files with strong algorithms. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
While it's primarily aimed at enterprises and users with large networks, Bacula can also be used to backup a small home network or a single system. It's an excellent program (one of the most popular open source enterprise apps), but you need to be pretty tech-savvy to use it. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
An independent study cited on the Firefox site claims that Internet Explorer users are vulnerable to threats 98 percent of the time while Firefox users are only vulnerable 2 percent of the time. In addition to being secure, Firefox is fast and highly customizable. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X.
If you're really paranoid about privacy or have other reasons for wanting to browse the Internet anonymously, the Tor Bundle will install with your existing browser for ultimate protection. When its running, no one can tell what sites you are visiting, sites can't figure out your physical location, and you should be able to access sites that are blocked by governments or Web filtering software. You can also install it on a thumb drive for mobility. Operating System: Windows.
For Linux users, this Tor front-end lets you anonymously browse the Internet, send instant messages and e-mail, and more. Operating System: Linux.