The Internet can be a great tool to use in just about any situation, but it is not without danger. If you do not take the proper measures, it is very easy to end up with viruses, trojan horses, and other nasty programs on your computer that can cripple your ability to use it and even steal personal information. You can prevent this from happening by following some simple steps.
The first step is simple. Do not converse with people over e-mail or social networking sites that you do not personally know. Never give these people any sort of personal information either. Avoid falling for e-mails which seem too good to be true; those that promise large sums of money in return for sending a package overseas. These are potential scams, and your identity can be compromised.
Staying on the topic of e-mail, never open any attachment if you are unsure why you received it. This is how most viruses are spread. Even if a friend sent you the e-mail, if you were not expecting an attachment, be very careful as their computer could be under attack by a virus. The virus could be using their computer as a bot, sending the virus to other people on their e-mail contact list without your friend's knowledge.
There are also some steps you can take that makes general internet browsing safer as well. Make sure you have a current and highly rated anti-virus software suite installed on your computer. Make sure it is set to update itself daily as well. It is also a good idea to scan your computer for viruses every couple of weeks, even if you think your computer is working normally. The best viruses run behind the scenes are can be very hard to detect without doing a scan.
While anti-virus software will be able to detect the majority of malicious programs, it will not be foolproof, and you should still be careful when it comes to which websites you visit. It is advisable to select secure passwords that are not easily guessed. Select secure, but different passwords for each profile and account, especially financial accounts. This can prevent a hacker from compromising all your accounts using a single password. Also, never share your password with another person for any reason. If you have difficulties remembering different passwords, there are free software programs available that can help you.
Think Before you Click
It is key to be mindful of what you download as well. Clicking pop up ads and links can often lead to bogus websites which download spyware and other tracking software on your computer. Many of these programs are very good at hiding themselves so you might not even know you are being spied on. Avoid downloading "free" pirated software and movies, which can be embedded with harmful viruses and keyloggers that can capture your personal data and send it to another computer.
Now that you are armed with this information, you are well on your way to enjoying a safe online experience.