Don’t double up on antivirus
A two-way firewall, good anti-spyware and an antivirus that’s kept up to date will help protect your PC. Two antivirus products installed on the same PC will, however, wrestle each other for supremacy, rather than look out for rogue software. Removing one to let the other do its job usually involves lots of coaxing and restarting the PC in Safe mode.
Ignore bank notifications
You cheerfully ignore phishing messages that arrive in your inbox from financial institutions other than your own on the basis that there’s no reason for them to be contacting you. Do the same with any messages that purport to be from your bank. Hovering your mouse over the originating email address may uncover the deception, but this can also be spoofed. If you’re not sure whether an email is legitimate, call the number on the back of your credit card and ask if they’ve been trying to get in touch. Banks never email.
Odd messages from your mates
Facebook, Twitter and your email inbox are increasingly being used to dupe you, and it’s the messages that appear to be from your friends that are the delivery mechanism. If a message or an action isn’t the sort of language your friend would use, assume it’s spam or their account has been compromised, and let them know.
Just can the spam
Don’t reply to spam, or even open it if possible – it confirms that your email address is in use and encourages more spam.
Don’t click that link
Don’t click on links in emails – cut and paste them into a site checker such as mywot.com and have their integrity checked.
Short web address danger
Shortened web links take up less space on a Twitter message, but don’t always take you where you expect. Create ‘safe’ short links using mcaf.ee, which verifies the page it goes to and flags up any changes between the link’s creation and the user clicking on it.
Practice online prudence
Safe browsing isn’t just to stop kids seeing things they shouldn’t; raising the security settings in your web browser can also prevent you from viewing images and other elements you wish you hadn’t, as well as potentially endangering your PC’s security. A browser’s Tools options let you blacklist and whitelist specific sites, and give any with dodgy images, for example, a wide berth.
Don’t leave details
Clear your browsing history and remember to log out of any email or social network accounts after using someone else’s PC.
Autocomplete is useful, but convenience has its down side, especially with keylogger programs able to harvest the data. Go to ?the Settings menu in your browser and ?switch off autocomplete.
User Account Control
For convenience and security, set UAC to tell you of actions that access the Registry, but not those you’ve initiated. Go to Control Panel, System and Security and, under Action Center, click Change User Account Settings and adjust the slider.
Back up and surrender
We know we bang on about backups, but we also know how annoying and time-consuming things become when you lose important files. Choose an external hard drive (see our group test on page 66) that autosyncs, can be encrypted and is small enough to fit in a pocket. Or why not try a web-only service such as iCloud or SkyDrive?
Secure that USB key
Backing up to a USB thumb drive that you lose within days is no way to look after your work or personal files. Email yourself a copy of important documents if you really can’t be bothered to back up properly. Just ensure that you use a service such as PKZIP or PGP to encrypt sensitive files.
Make better passwords
Most of us are guilty of using the same few passwords for everything. Use the brilliantly named Awesome Password Generator (tinyurl.com/bmd9tdf) and you’ll have neither need nor excuse.