You’ve followed our guide to setting up essential protection for your PC and you’ve browsed our step-by-step guide to shopping safely online. Now it’s time to tighten up your security even more by following these tips for closing any last loopholes.
1. Increase your anti-virus protection
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free is designed to work with your existing security tool. It provides a helpful second opinion about potential malware infections. You need to remember to manually run the tool every week or so to scan and remove threats. If you want automatic scans and real-time protection, you can purchase the Pro version.
2. Vet your email
Most anti-spam tools only process emails that have been downloaded from your mail server. If you install POP Peeper you can check and preview your mail while it’s still on the server, deleting unwanted or suspicious messages without exposing them to your mail program.
3. Don’t click mail links
Never visit websites by clicking links in your email unless you’re 100% sure the link is safe. Remember, banks never ask you to click on a link to log into your account. And if you get an email with a subject line like, ‘You’ve won millions in a foreign lottery’, it’s a con. For more advice on avoiding email scams, visit the Action Fraud website.
4. Switch to plain text
Plain text emails are safer to read that those with pictures, links and formatting. You can put your computer at risk just by opening an email with dubious links. Your email program should block images and other unsafe elements by default, but you can go even further and get all your email as plain text. Windows Live Mail users should click the Menu button (next to the Home tab on the ribbon) and choose Options then Mail. Switch to the Read tab and tick Read all Messages in Plain Text, to do so.
5. Tighten browser security
Make sure you’re running Internet Explorer 9. Click the program’s cog icon (literally the icon that looks like a small cog) and choose About Internet Explorer to verify the version number. If it’s version 8, follow our guide to update to version 9 through Windows Update. Also, check your browser security and privacy settings. Again, click the cog icon and choose Internet Options, then check both Security and Privacy tabs. Make sure the slider is set to Medium or higher.
6. Check web sites before you visit
Some security packages, including Norton Internet Security, have a special toolbar for Internet Explorer that steers you clear of fraudulent sites or those containing malicious software. They work by providing ratings that appear in the toolbar , as well as alongside links in search engine results, and on social networking pages like Facebook and Twitter. The free Web of Trust (WOT) plug-in provides a similar service with its traffic-light safety ratings. Install it alongside your existing security toolbar for a second opinion about potentially unsafe sites.
7. Screen all downloads
Never open attachments or downloads directly – always save the file to your hard drive first. If your security package doesn’t automatically scan downloaded files for you – Norton does – open your Downloads folder, right-click the file and choose the option to scan with your security tool (or Malwarebytes, if you’ve got it installed).
8. Choose the right site
Only download programs from sites you trust – either the program’s own website or a reputable download site such as Downloadcrew. The WOT plug-in, or your browser’s security tool, will also help flag up download sites that could be unsafe. Shared (peer-to-peer) networks such as BitTorrent are a breeding ground for malicious software, and a lot of pirated games, videos and other files shared over these networks often contain malware . Our advice is to simply avoid all P2P networks.
9. Manage your passwords
If you find it tricky remembering all your online passwords and end up using the same one for multiple sites (which is obviously a bad idea), try out a password manager such as LastPass or Identity Safe (part of Norton Internet Security). You securely enter the login details for all your websites then you just need to remember the master password for the manager. It works across multiple browsers and computers and it will even generate secure, random passwords for you, if you run out of ideas.
10. Protect your children
Create separate user accounts for each of your kids by typing 'User Accounts' into the Start Menu search box and following the prompts (make sure you pick Standard User when prompted) and then set up parental controls for each child, to protect them – and your PC – from the internet and themselves.