There are various ways you can help ‘beef up’ the security around your home computer or computers. Some are software based, others are simply patterns of thinking you need to get used to. I would recommend doing all of the below; one or two will simply minimise your chances of a security issue, but using all of them should reduce it to a negligable level.
Firstly, get the right software installed. Find yourself a reliable virus checker. Norton or McAfee are the obvious commercial choices, but I would also recommend AVG antivirus as a free virus checker. I’ve used this for several years and found it extremely good at catching any malicious programs before they have a chance to affect your PC.
Likewise, find a good spyware eliminator. SpyBot or Lavasoft’s AdAware are both free for domestic use, and both can root out any cookies or software snuck onto your PC.
A good firewall is likewise essential, as it helps to stop any possible threats reaching your computer in the first place, and limits the amount of information they can send should you have something slip through the net, as it were.
Once you’ve installed all these, use them. Run them on at least a weekly basis, ideally on a daily basis. Most of the above will allow automatic scheduling of tests; set these up to run when you’re not using the PC, or first thing when you boot it up if you don’t leave it running. Make sure the software is set up to automatically get the latest updates; running these programs with out of date files is as much use as not having them installed in the first place.
The second way to protect yourself and your computer involves no software, and you would expect it’d be already in place, but surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to be: use your common sense.
Don’t give your personal information out to any website or person you don’t trust. You wouldn’t hand someone your wallet in the street, why would you do it online? Don’t accept files from strangers. Go through your email with a fine toothcomb: If you weren’t expecting an email, and it’s offering you a great deal, treat it like a ticking timebomb. Most email providers nowadays offer a spam filter; get into the habit of using it.
The best security available for your PC is you; utilise this to the maximum.