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10 fixes for your worst PC security nightmares

Tips to ensure your PC is a lot safer

Most security attacks are targeted at a few weak points on your PC that aren't that hard to protect. Follow these simple tips, and you'll suddenly be a whole lot safer

Fix 7: Develop an antiphishing habit

The dastardly practice of phishing for personal information is still alive and well, and many fake sites can be hard to distinguish from the real ones. But a few simple practices can ensure you'll never be snagged by a phishing hook.

The best approach, and the most straightforward, is never to click a link in any email message to access your financial accounts. Instead, always type the URL or use a bookmark. That one habit will protect you from almost every phishing attack.

If you can't make that change, then at least use the latest version of Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Opera to browse the web. All have built-in features to block known phishing sites (and, as described in Fix 3 now also block known malware sites). Avoid Safari, which lacks any built-in antiphishing protection.

Finally, keep an eye out for the common phishing tactic of using URLs like 'http://adwords.google.com.d0l9i.cn/select/Login'. If you glance at the URL (an actual recent example listed by Phishtank.com), you might think the site's domain was Google.com. In fact, it's heading to d0l9i.cn, a site in China where operators are standing by to swipe your personal details.

Internet Explorer 8 will use an innovative feature called Domain Highlighting that will make spotting such trickery easy. But until it becomes available, watch URLs carefully.

Fix 8: Keep your own site safe

It's not a good time to run a website. The web may look like a digital wonderland, but behind the scenes it's a war zone. And the guns are trained on your site.

Crooks use automated tools to search sites for the most common vulnerabilities. If they find one, they blow the hole wide open to plant harmful code that will attack your loyal visitors.

To help keep your site safe, start with some quick, free scans that ferret out the most obvious problems. First, fill out a form at Qualys.com to request a free scan of one IP address.

Next, download the also-free Scrawlr tool from HP. After a quick install, use Scrawlr to scan your site for SQL injection vulnerabilities. A clean bill of health from both scans won't guarantee that your site is safe. For instance, neither will find problems with custom JavaScript code, another common type of attack. And while requesting or running either scan is easy, fixing a reported hole might involve a fair bit of work. But that job will still take far less work than repairing your site and your reputation after your site has been hijacked.

NEXT PAGE: More quick fixes

  1. Tips to ensure your PC is a lot safer
  2. Let the latest browsers fight for you
  3. Get the jump on fast-moving malware
  4. Develop an antiphishing habit
  5. More quick fixes

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