5 critical steps to protect your computer on the Internet

5 critical steps to protect your computer on the Internet

Spyware, viruses and worms ... Oh my God!

If you are connected to the Internet, you must make sure you configure your computer correctly if you want to avoid future problems.

With all viruses, spyware and other threats on the Internet today, no computer should be configured without adequate protection.

And that protection should be in place as soon as you can connect your new machine as possible.

The next five steps will make your computer a much harder target for threats. It will not yet be completely immune to the problems, but 99% of the time the threat will pass, looking for the easy mark.

1. Running a personal firewall

A personal firewall is software that basically makes your computer invisible to hackers, worms and other threats that can infect your computer through the Internet.

Setting up a firewall is the first thing you should do if you are going to connect to the Internet. Without a firewall, your computer could become infected in just one minute after connecting.

If you have a new computer with Windows XP Service Pack 2, there is a firewall built into Windows. It will be activated the first time you set up your computer.

If you are running an earlier version of Windows, even an earlier version of Windows XP, there is no firewall automatically configured for you. In this case there are two possibilities:

- Your computer comes preloaded with a firewall such as Norton Internet Security or McAfee Internet Security
- You do not have a firewall installed and you must download one as soon as possible.

If you do not have any personal firewall software installed, you must do so immediately.

You can download the free version of Zone Alarm from http://www.computer-help-squad.com/zonealarm

2. Activate Windows updates

Again, if you are running Windows XP Service Pack 2, this is already configured, but otherwise, you must activate Windows Updates. Microsoft publishes updates for security issues and other errors on Windows on a regular basis.

These updates will make your computer work better and often solve security problems that could compromise your information or privacy.

If you are running Windows XP Service Pack 2, you can verify that automatic updates are activated by clicking Start, then Control Panel and then double-clicking Security Center. The window that opens will tell you if automatic updates are activated, and allows you to activate them if they are not.

To enable automatic updates on earlier versions of Windows XP, click on the Start menu, click on Control Panel and then double-click on System. In the "Automatic updates" tab, click on the option to "Automatically download updates and install them at the time you specify".

To activate them in Windows 2000, click Start, click Control Panel and then double-click Automatic Updates. Again, click on the option to "automatically download the updates and install them at the time you specify".

Now, when Microsoft releases the updates, they will be downloaded automatically and Windows will tell you when they are ready to install.

3. Install and update antivirus software

You may have Norton, McAfee, PC-Cillin or another brand. No matter what program you have, you must update it when you connect to the Internet.

No matter how new your computer is: there will be new viruses and new updates for antivirus software, since it was loaded.

The exact process is different for each brand of antivirus program, but most of them will have an icon in the lower right corner of your desktop, next to time. The icon can be an image of a shield (McAfee), a stethoscope (Norton) or something else.

In most cases, if you point to the icon of your antivirus and click with the right mouse button, a pop-up menu will appear with an update option. It could simply be called an update or it could be something like Live Update or Download Latest Updates. If you click on the update option (with the left button this time), it will install the latest updates for you.

If you are not sure which icon is for your antivirus software, just point to each one for a few seconds and a small title will appear telling you what it is.

4. Install anti-spyware software

Spyware programs can cause many problems with your computer, not to mention that they can track your personal information and you never know where it is sent.

Some new computers may include antispyware software, but most of them still do not.

One of the reasons I like it is because it always runs in the background and will automatically detect a large amount of spyware before it reaches your computer.

Many of the other programs do not detect it until you run an analysis. This not only allows things to enter your computer, but you must also remember to run a scan.

You can download the free Microsoft Antispyware from http://www.computer-help-squad.com/antispyware

5. Set up a free email account

This last element is not as critical as the first four, but I recommend that you set up an email account with one of the free services such as Hotmail or Gmail.

Once you are on the Internet, you will find a lot of useful information that you want to require you to provide an email address. In some cases, these people will end up sending you a lot of spam.

If you use a free email account to subscribe to something you don't know for sure, you will not fill your main email with a lot of crap.

 If you participate in a contest or register for anything offline and do not know where your information could end, I suggest you use your free email address.

If things get worse, and your free email address is flooded with spam, you can always set up a new one and let the old one expire.

Some of the best free email services are www.hotmail.com, www.gmail.com and www.yahoomail.com.

If you have had your computer for a while and have never done any of these things, you should still follow these steps to configure it correctly.