Safety Tips

For basic security, all you need is a little quality time with your PC. Follow these steps to protect yourself and your PC from the majority of virus's and malicious spyware.

Keep Windows up to date

Since virus's and spyware almost exclusively affect Windows-based PCs, it's important that you keep your operating system up to date by installing updates and patches. Microsoft's automated system, Windows Update, makes this task easy.

Firewall: A crucial component in your security strategy

A firewall is a piece of hardware or software that hides your PC from the prying eyes of the Internet. All Internet-enabled PCs have something called an IP (Internet Protocol) address; a unique number that designates through which channels your PC is accessing the Internet. It is very easy for any other Internet user to discover your IP, but your firewall will restrict what they can do with it.

Anti-virus is non-negotiable

Another reality of modern computing: anti-virus software is absolutely, positively necessary. Using e-mail or the Internet without a good anti-virus program running is just too risky. Imagine accidentally clicking on one unwanted spam e-mail and having your computer continually restart itself every 30 seconds, making it impossible to connect to the Internet long enough to download a fix.

How "free" is that program?

Before downloading a free program, like a file-sharing client or media player, make sure it’s coming from a reputable source. Look for the word "ad-supported" or anything in the program's Terms of Use documentation that mentions data collection for marketing purposes. A quick Web search with the search terms "[product name] spyware" may help you determine if the program has any Spyware associations.

Don't download ripped movies, CDs, PC games, etc.

Pirated games, crack files, music, and movies can be easily packaged or archived with Spyware, viruses and worms. Downloading illicit files, particularly over peer-to-peer (P2P) networks like Kazaa, Limewire or Gnutella, is a risky business. In addition to jeopardizing the security of your computer, this practice is illegal and I strongly advise against it.

Stay Informed

Even with an anti-virus/firewall combination protecting your PC, there's no substitute for knowledge. Understanding spyware and learning about the latest and most dangerous threats is the key to staying protected. Spend some time surfing the Web and keep all your software patched and up to date.