The Internet has become an integral part of most of our lives, especially since the advent of social networking. But as we do more and more of our shopping and banking online, cyber crime has become a major source of identity theft and fraud, with more than half of American financial institutions rating it as their biggest problem, according to RSAR, the security division of information technology giant EMC²R. Ensure your online experience doesn't turn into a nightmare by being aware of and attending to PC security when browsing.
Software vendors and developers are constantly updating their software to counter new vulnerabilities exposed by malicious attacks. From your operating system to your Web browser and desktop programs with Web access, set these programs to automatically download and install updates as they are released. On Windows 7R, click Start> Control Panel > System and Security > Windows Update > Change Settings and ensure Install Updates Automatically (Recommended) is selected. You can also access this screen from Internet Explorer by clicking on Tools in the Menu Bar and clicking on Windows Update.
As a bare minimum, ensure you have a functioning firewall, antivirus software and spam filters on your email. Consider installing a full-featured Internet security suite, such as Avast!R Internet Security or Norton 360. These incorporate multiple types of malware prevention to protect network connections and Internet connections, and to incorporate firewalls, antispam and antiphishing email filters. They also include browser plug-ins that, once activated, will provide a visual warning in search engine results to help you avoid visiting Web sites known to contain malicious code.
Even the most up-to-date system and software and the most full-featured anti-malware suite won't protect you if you blindly click 'Allow' every time you see a warning. Your own awareness is your best defense against malicious attacks online. Here are some basic dos and don'ts to keep you safe online.