PC security: Your essential software toolbox

Don't fall victim! With these tools, services and tips, you can protect yourself against malware, phishing and theft.

By , PC World |  Security

Enable automatic Windows Updates: This action ensures that Windows and other Microsoft products regularly receive the latest security patches. You can adjust Windows Update settings via the Control Panel. For best protection, choose to have Windows download and install updates automatically.

Keep non-Microsoft software up-to-date: Dont forget to update your other software, too. Some popular programs and components (such as Web browsers, PDF readers, Adobe Flash, Java, and QuickTime) are bigger targets than others, and you should be especially mindful to keep them up-to-date. You can open the programs or their settings to check for updates, but most will automatically notify you when an update is availableand when you receive such notifications, dont ignore or disable them.

Hacking and intrusions

Malware-caused PC problems arent the only thing you have to worry about. A determined cybercriminal can get inside your PC by directly hacking into it, and some malware can steal your data and passwords, sending the information back to home base.

This is where a firewall comes in handy: It serves as a gatekeeper, permitting safe traffic (such as your Web browsing) and blocking bad traffic (hacking attempts, malware data transfers, and the like).

Windows includes a firewall, named (appropriately enough) Windows Firewall. Its set by default to block malicious traffic from coming into your computer, but it isnt set to watch the data thats going out, so it will likely not detect any malware attempts to transmit your data to cyberattackers. Although you can enable the firewalls outgoing protection (in Windows Vista and later versions), that isnt easy for the average user to set up or configure.

For the ultimate in PC security, you should use a firewall that protects your machine from both incoming and outgoing malicious traffic by default. First, find out whether your antivirus utility or Internet security package has a firewall component, and whether it offers full protection. If it doesnt, consider a third-party firewall such as ZoneAlarm Firewall or Comodo Firewall Free.

Phishing and scam sites

One method that cybercriminals use to steal your passwords, money, or identity is commonly called phishing (a play on the word fishing). Attackers try to get you (the fish) to hand over your information or money. They do so by hooking you with an email message, IM, or some other form of communication (the bait) that looks as if it came from a legitimate source such as a bank or an online shopping site.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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