That brand new computer you just got for the holidays is now a prime target for hackers. These cyberspace bad guys use the Internet to infect your computer with destructive viruses or malicious spyware programs; programs that can let them hijack your computer or steal your personal information.
New PCs usually come with a trial anti-virus and anti-spyware subscription. "But it doesn't take long before the antivirus software subscription expires," says Bob Sullivan, Technology Correspondent for MSNBC. "So very quickly that safe computer can become an unsafe computer."
In fact, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 20 percent of home computers are infected by a virus or worm. Eight out of 10 home computers have hidden spyware programs on them.
Not all of this snooping software is dangerous -- some of it just launches pop up ads. But all of them can slow down your computer, and many of them do pose a real security threat.
To protect yourself you need to make buy a yearly subscription to a suite of software that will guard your machine. Thatll cost you around $50 - $70 a year. But without it, you are asking for trouble.
If you use AOL to get on the Web, either dial-up or broadband you can now get McAfees anti-virus service, VirusScan Online, for free. Just upgrade to AOL 9.0 Security Edition and then youll be able to download Virus Scan Online.
One more thing you need to do: Download those frequent security patches from Microsoft. "One of the best ways to do that, says MSNBCs Bob Sullivan, is to just sign up for the automatic update service for Windows, and that will take care of a lot of the problems you might have with Microsoft software."
When buying security software, get whats called a security suite which gives you an assortment of protection. Its more expensive than just antivirus software, but it does a whole lot more.
A good Internet security suite will help keep virus, worms and Trojan horses from infecting your machine. It will have a firewall to block hackers, and a spam filter to make it easier to manage all that unwanted e-mail.
Many suites have spyware protection to keep hackers or advertisers from sneaking unwanted programs on your machine (programs that monitor what you do), and pop-up blocking to eliminate annoying pop-up ads.
You may also get parental controls that let you limit what your kids can access via the web.
In its February issue, PCWorld Magzine (www.pcworld.com) rated three of the best-known security suites: from McAfee, Norton and Trend Mirco.
The editors at PCWorld were impressed with its solid protection and many useful features. With PC-cillin you also get free technical support.
For More Information:
PCWorld Rates Internet Security Suites -- www.pcworld.com.