safe.jpgThis week (12th to the 16th November) is Get Safe Online Week 2007 and Get Safe Online is sponsored by the government to offer independent, expert advice on how you can stay safe and secure when using the internet.

With online fraud and identity theft are on the rise, it is imperative that internet shoppers protect themselves from their PC upwards.

1. Use a firewall.

A firewall is a first line defence against hackers and virus attacks. It acts as a barrier between the public network and yourselves. Windows does have its own firewall (I would only recommend Windows XP and Vista, as the older versions of windows are now obsolete in security terms) Firewalls are not sufficient on their own to guarantee security, and should be regarded as only a part of your security considerations.

2. Install Anti Virus Software.

McAfee is a popular choice in the UK as it comes installed on most new computers. The subscriptions to commercial antivirus software can cost between £30 and £60 annually, depending on the level of service you require.

Anti virus software kept up to date will scan your computer and emails on a regular basis protecting and eliminating, spy ware, spam, viruses and identity theft.

Trend Micro offer a free ‘House call’ scan of your PC for viruses and the like as well as their paid for service.

3. Stop Spyware

Spyware are those annoying pop ups and sneaky downloads to your computer to track your activity. Spyware is used from tracking your activity from an advertising capacity (adware) to logging your key strokes to find out security information. Spyware is an internet pandemic, and you should scan for Spyware every time you switch on your computer, or if your computer seems a little slow. As Spyware can continuously transmit data on your activities, it can take up your processor usage and bandwidth.

Spyware doctor is a popular tool from PC Tools and costs £29.95. They do have an anti virus version also for around £39.95. Please note these are rough prices and are the price for 1 year only.

4. Stop Spam and Phishing Emails

Email delivery is a popular source of virus infection. Spam is usually from someone you do not know or with a title that is trying to sell you something. Phishing emails try to convince readers that they are a genuine site to gather your security details. There are many types of phishing emails, but as a rule, don’t open any suspicious mail. Making sure you have an email scanner with your mail box or anti-virus software is a must.

Remember, no one asks for a password or personal details in an email if they are from a reputable company as it is not secure.

5. Get the latest Window and software updates.

You need to keep your operating system up to date and healthy. Hackers like to continually find loop holes and bugs in popular software to exploit. Regular updates (which can be automated) are essential to protecting yourself from known problems. Software providers face a continuous battle against hackers and criminals so its best to subscribe to their updates and check their websites for any security issues.

6. Make regular backups

Protect from a data disaster by backing up your files and programs on a regular basis. If you have hardware failure or your hard drive is attacked by a virus you will have to re-install everything. Depending on the severity of the virus your data could be hard to retrieve.

7. Secure your wireless network

Wi-Fi networks need to be secured by to stop users free loading on your internet connection and also hackers can ‘listen in’ to any transmitted data. Most Wi-fi networks come with encryption and a special code to limit the user. Ask your network provider if your Wi-Fi connection is secure and just for you.

8. Browse the internet safely.

Use either Firefox or Internet Explorer to browse the internet if you are using a PC. Mac users have Opera as their regular browser. Be sensible on the internet. If you are searching and browsing for ‘cracked’ and free software or music downloads you will be subject to viruses and other nasties. The sites are usually not reputable, kept up to date or have an ounce of care about the security of its users.
You need to make sure any internet shopping you do the websites checkout is secured and they have an appropriate privacy policy (they won’t sell on your details) You can check by looking for the padlock icon at the bottom of your browser and https:// as the address prefix as soon as you come to go through the checkout process. If you have any doubts in the security of a checkout then do not proceed. If the checkout asks for any information that is not essential to process your order, be wary. There are plenty of secure shopping sites and marketplaces out their like eBay.

This article was written with the help of ‘Get Safe Online’ in support of the ‘Get Safe Online Awareness Week’ if you need more detailed information you can visit their website.

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