Thursday, 23 March, 2017
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Protect your PC

If you use an Apple Mac, see Protect your Mac.  If you use a Linux or Unix-based computer, see Protect your Linux computer and skip to section 6 below (secure your wireless network).

1. Upgrade your operating system

The newest version of any operating system is generally the safest. 

  • Ideally you should run Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2.
  • Windows 2000 is good.
  • Windows 95, 98, ME or NT should be upgraded.

2. Get a firewall

A firewall protects you against bad hackers, some viruses and some spyware. It can also stop your computer being hijacked and used to infect other machines or send spam emails.

  • In Windows XP, switch on Windows Firewall.
  • If you use a broadband internet connection, consider getting a router that has a built-in firewall.
  • For older operating systems, get a commercial firewall from a reputable company.

For more information see Use a firewall.

3. Use anti-virus software

Anti-virus software continually scans your computer for viruses. It also checks incoming email and web sites for viruses. It is not included in your operating system so you will need to get and install a copy.

Anti-virus companies include Symantec, FireTrust and McAfee. Microsoft publishes a complete list of compatible software.

  • Make sure your anti-virus software is automatically updated to identify new threats as they emerge.
  • Keep your subscription current. An out-of-date virus scanner is no use at all.
  • Don’t open attachments in emails from people you don’t know.

For more information see Install anti-virus software.

4. Stay up-to-date

Because the bad guys discover new ways to attack computers on a regular basis you also need to update your computer’s operating system (the Windows software which makes it work). This helps stop worms attacking your computer but can also deliver other performance and security improvements.

  • Go to Microsoft's Windows Update site and install all the recommended patches.
  • In particular, install Windows XP Service Pack 2 if you don’t have it already.
  • Regularly visit to update Microsoft Office applications.
  • Keep anti-virus software and other applications up-to-date.

For more information see Get the latest Windows updates.

5. Prevent spyware

In most cases a firewall and anti-virus software will not prevent spyware. You need additional software to keep it at bay.

For more information see Stop spyware.

6. Secure your wireless network

If you have a Wi-Fi (wireless) network, check the instructions that came with it and do the following:

For more information see Secure wireless networks.

7. Filter out unwanted 'spam' email

There are a number of tactics which can reduce the volume of spam you receive.

  • Don’t click on anything in a spam email, even to “unsubscribe.”  If possible, don’t even open it.
  • Use a throwaway email address for trivial online registrations.
  • Consider using an email client with a built-in spam filter or buying an add-in spam filter program.
  • Don’t fall for online hoaxes, check suspicious claims on Hoaxbusters.

For more information see Stop unwanted email.

8. Backups

Make a regular backup of your important data, store it in a different location and check that it is actually backing up the right data by doing a trial restore from time to time.

For more information see Make regular backups.

9. Physical security

  • Security mark your computers and other valuables.
  • Keep a note of all the serial numbers.
  • Think about locks, window locks, alarms and so on to make your home safer.
  • Don’t leave discarded computer boxes outside your home – it’s an advert to burglars.
  • Use a security lock for laptops.
  • Keep laptops in a nondescript but padded bag.

For more information see Don't let thieves steal your computer.

Protect yourself, your family and your money

Online crime comes in many forms and the entire 'Protect yourself' section of this website covers the different threats in more detail.  However, key points are:

1. Avoid identity theft

  • Never give anyone your user ID, PIN or password, even if they appear to be a representative of a trusted firm.
  • Be particularly wary of emails that appear to come from banks, credit card or other trusted companies asking you to update your security information.
  • Always type the web address of trusted websites into the browser yourself. Don’t click on links in emails.
  • Don’t enter personal or financial information unless the web address starts with ‘https://’ and there is a small padlock in the frame of the web browser window (see Avoid fake websites).
  • Use strong passwords (see Use strong passwords).

2. Avoid fraud

3. Buy and sell online safely

  • If buying from an online auction, ask the seller questions, check feedback on the seller from other users and consider paying via a reputable escrow service if the value of the sale justifies it (see Use online auctions safely and Shop online safely).

Use a trusted means of payment that will give you some recourse in the event of fraud (see Make payments online safely).

4. Protect your family