How to Stay Safe Online

Never Surf the Internet Without Protection

Girl using laptopIf your computer is connected to the Internet with absolutely no protection, studies show that within a few hours you will be infected with some sort of spyware, adware or virus. And you may well have many of these unwanted infections!

By taking a few simple precautions you can set up a new computer, or an existing PC, without worrying about all the potential threats that exist when you surf the Internet, play online games and send or receive emails.

The three most important things to do before you go online are:

  • Install either free or commercial anti virus software.
  • Use a software firewall if you using Windows XP.
  • Invest in an ADSL2+ Router with a built in hardware firewall.

Once online you should start to build your defences against spyware and adware, and there are many free programs that you can use to remove this junk. As you spend time online spyware and adware can build up in your Windows Registry and Windows Operating Files and can slow your PC down. So a good routine is to run these programs often and keep them regularly updated.

You should also make sure that your anti virus program and your software firewall(Windows XP only) are regularly updated.

Fortunately, most of these programs automatically check for updates, or can be set to check for them.

All these defences are necessary because when you connect your computer to the Internet there will be remote computers or worms scanning large blocks of IP addresses looking for computers with security holes. If one of these scans finds your unprotected PC, it will be able to infect or control your computer. And there are many thousands of computers that are scanning at any one time.

Most of the operating systems available today contain a built-in firewall that you should immediately turn on. For example both Windows Vista and Windows 7 have a robust two-way firewall already built in and this should be enabled by default.

However a few older Operating Systems have poor firewalls (or none at all). These should generally be disabled and a free software firewall, such as Zone Alarm, should be installed. If you plan to use a free software firewall you should try and download the software and copy it onto a CD using another computer (e.g. a friends or an existing PC you might already own) so that you can install it before you even connect your new computer to the Internet.

Staying Safe Online - The Key Points

1. Use a personal firewall to stop hackers accessing information on your computer while you are online.

2. Ensure your anti-virus software is up to date. New strains of malicious computer viruses are being created every day.

3. Install anti Spyware and Adware software.

4. Buy an ADSL2+ Router with its built in Firewall.

5. On at least a weekly basis update your anti-virus and spyware products or set this happen automatically.

6. Make sure updates to your Operating System are installed automatically.

7. Be aware of unsolicited emails - they are often scams.

8. Monitor your computer and stay alert to threats.

9. Take time to educate yourself and your family about the risks of using the Internet.

10. Encourage all your friends to follow the steps outlined in this article. All of you will then stand a far better chance of being safe when surfing the Internet, playing online games or sending and receiving email.

The case for an ADSL2+ Router

A wireless ADSL2+ Router provides continuous, un-tethered access to your internal network (e.g. networked desktops and laptops) and the Internet. It protects your network from eavesdroppers and people who try to steal your precious bandwidth.

By using an ADSL2+ Router, and setting it up properly, your computer does not have an IP address on the Internet. It's address would only be on the local home network (even if that LAN (Local Area Network) is nothing more than one Router and one computer). The WAN (the external Wide Area Network) port of the router is the only thing that has exposure to the world wide Internet.

So an ADSL2+ Router is a big help because your computer(s) is not accessible or even seen by anyone else trying to gain access to unprotected PC's. Buying an ADSL Router can therefore be an important part of your overall strategy to keep safe online.

QBS PC Help recommend two ADSL2+ Routers for personal use and both are available from Amazon.co.uk.

1. Linksys EA6700 Dual Band AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router with Gigabit Ethernet


2. NETGEAR DGN1000-100UKS N150 Mbps Wireless ADSL2+ Modem Router

The most important thing to do when you buy a Router is to change the Router Password (check your documentation). And make sure the password is long and complicated - a good guide is to use a mixture of letters, numbers and characters to get a 20-30 long password string making it harder to crack. Try our password generator tool to help build your own password.

Be Careful When making Online Purchases

Before buying anything online, make sure you can see the padlock logo in the browsers status bar at the bottom of your screen. This shows that you are have a secure connection and any information, such as credit card numbers, will be encrypted before they are transmitted via the internet.

Online stores that display the padlock logo during the checkout process should be perfectly safe and secure.

Beware of Email Scams

Also do not open unsolicited emails – they are usually scams A number of fraudsters are using email to get people to divulge their bank and credit card details. This method of fraud is called 'phishing'. The emails may appear to be from a reputable bank, but your bank would normally contact you in writing if they required you to update your details. Your bank may send you emails but they will not request any personal details.

And be very wary of unsolicited email attachments as they could contain viruses.

Of course, if emails and attachments originate from a friend, and you are expecting them, they should be OK to download and open.

A great piece of free software is Mail Washer which is can protect a single email address from a lot of worthless emails.

MailWasher is a spam detection and mail preview tool that allows you to check your mail on the server and delete any spam before you download it to your local computer. It can notify you when new mail arrives and automatically mark suspicious messages, so you can preview and delete them.

Download now and see how good this software really is: www.mailwasher.net

If you have more than one email account you will have to buy the Pro version of mailwasher.

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