security tips

Lots of people ask me how to stay safe on the internet. Here are my seven top tips:
  1. Use a good antivirus package and keep it up to date. It doesn't have to be expensive - it's better to use an up-to-date free package than an out-of-date expensive one. I use AVG which is free of charge for personal use. It is available from free.avg.com.
  2. NEVER reply to emails asking for your email or username and password, especially by clicking on a link within them. If you get an email asking you to log in, open a browser window and type the address (e.g. paypal.com) yourself.
  3. Before you enter your credit card details to make a purchase always check that padlock symbol appears in the browser, at the bottom or next to the address bar. But also check that the address in the address bar is what you would expect (e.g. paypal.com).
  4. Where possible, avoid opening spam emails and never open any attachments that you don't trust. And ignore emails warning you of "the next big virus" - they're just more spam. If you get lots of spam use a spam filter. I like SpamFighter, from www.spamfighter.com - it's free for personal use. But make sure that your spam filter isn't blocking emails you want to receive - check your Spam box regularly.
  5. If you use Windows, set your computer to receive automatic updates from Microsoft. Press the "Start" button and select "Control Panel". Then go to "Automatic Updates" (Windows 2000), "Security Center" (Windows XP) or "System and Maintenance" (Windows Vista). Then follow the instructions to turn on automatic updates.
  6. Use your common sense - don't do anything on the internet you wouldn't do in the real world. That means not publishing personal information on social networking sites (like Facebook), not sending large sums of money to people you don't know, not believing that you've won a lottery you never entered, or that a mystery millionaire needs your help. Ask yourself: "Would I do this in response to an advert in the local paper?" If the answer is no, don't do it in response to an advert or post on the internet either!
  7. Always remember - if it seems too good to be true, it probably is...
© 2009 Richard Stubbs