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Whilst the internet brings great benefits to you in everyday life, it is also true that some people use the medium maliciously and everyone is at some risk.
Below are some basic tips to help you minimize the hazards of being online:
All the time your PC is connected to the internet it is at risk. Disconnecting your computer from the internet when you do not wish to use it lessens the possibility that someone may attack you.
A computer virus is a type of malicious software that can invade your computer and damage or destroy information.
Installing a reputable anti-virus product will help to prevent known viruses from entering your PC, both via exchange of data using removable media (floppy disk, CD or similar) or via email and web pages.
Anti-virus products need to be regularly updated via access to the vendors website, as new types of malicious code are constantly being created. Ideally this should be carried out weekly, as a minimum.
A firewall is designed to allow only certain types of traffic into or out of your computer. It makes it more difficult for an outsider to enter your PC and steal or alter your information. For home use, a small software firewall is usually sufficient.
These are easily available, fairly simple to use and modestly priced (and some are free to non-commercial users). They work by restricting internet access to particular programs or functions, and they will ask you about anything unusual, to allow you to take an appropriate decision.
Treat email with caution if you do not know the sender, or if the email seems odd in any way. Unless you know what an attachment is, do not click on it, particularly if it has an .exe ending.
No software is perfect, and sometimes a weakness in the software can be used by others for malicious purposes.
In order to correct this, most manufacturers of operating systems and major programs issue fixes or patches which will fix the error or stop the program error being exploited.
You should check for security patches once a month, but more frequently if there are press reports which highlight a particular risk to which you could be vulnerable.