Before you head online, ensure that you’ve got some basic protection in place. If your PC didn’t come with an antivirus package, load up Avast’s program from the cover disc. Register the software so it can be used beyond the 60-day trial period and unlock it using the key Avast emails you.
Next, ensure that you have an active firewall in place. You can use XP’s built-in firewall – head to Control Panel, Security Center to check on its status – or you can use a third-party product. Alter the settings in Windows Firewall under the Exceptions tab. Add or remove programs to allow them access or to block them.
We’re now ready to head online and customise our browser to make it super-safe. IE’s browser settings can be found in Tools, Internet Options. Select the Security tab and icons for various security zones will appear. Click on the Internet zone and drag the slider to adjust the setting from Medium to High security.
It’s a good idea to set up a white list of sites – those that you specify as safe to visit – and add them to the Trusted Sites zone. IE will apply lower security checks to such websites. Designate addresses you trust as Trusted Sites by clicking on the Sites button and entering the relevant site addresses.
One site to add to the list is Windows Update, as it requires ActiveX controls that are denied by default. Go to Tools, Windows Update and copy the URL. Paste this URL into the top field of the Trusted Sites window, deselect Require server verification, then click Add, ok. Repeat for the second Windows Update URL.
Because ActiveX applets sound alarm bells with security software, you’ll also need to add these URLs to the Trusted Sites list: http://*.update.microsoft.com, https://*.update.microsoft.com and http://download.windowsupdate.com. In the bottom corner of your Trusted Sites you should now see a green tick.