You can never be 100% safe online, though there are some simple measures you can take which will dramatically reduce your chances of being a victim of online viruses, fraud and scams.
Having antivirus software and an up-to-date operating system will go a long way in protecting you, but also making sure you never download any suspicious files or have an unprotected Wi-Fi network can also drastically help. Below is a list of measures you can implement to help protect yourself and your computer.
1. Make sure that Automatic Updates is turned on and your computer is updated automatically.
3. Make sure you have a firewall on your computer. Windows built-in firewall is fine, but if you can use a paid version, as this offers a lot more protection.
4. Make sure all your frequently used programs are updated with the latest versions. This is especially important for your web browser, PDF Reader, Java, Adobe Flash extensions, as well as Office programs.
5. Feel free to use OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office.
6. Use Foxit Reader instead of Adobe Reader. Foxit Reader is less vulnerable to viruses.
7. Use Google Chrome or Firefox browser instead of Internet Explorer. Since Internet Explorer is automatically installed on every new Windows PC, it is the number one target for for those looking to exploit it.
8. If you're still using Windows XP consider upgrading to Windows 7 or 8. Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft and will receive no fixes or security updates.
9. Use a limited account instead of your master administrator account in Windows for daily Internet surfing.
10. NEVER install unknown applications or programs online. For example, when you are offered to install an extension, or programs to be able to watch a movie clip. These programs will usually infect your PC with viruses and spyware.
11. Never install programs that promise to boost PC performance, or cleanup unnecessary files on your hard drive, etc. They are usually ineffective and in many cases contain viruses.
12. Be careful with unknown USB sticks you put into your computer. These can often be infected.
13. Make sure your wireless router at home has a password set. This prevents neighbours and unknown sources from gaining access to your network.
14. Never connect to a open (unsecured) wireless network. Or if you do do not log into your bank account or online shopping accounts.
15. Never click on suspicious links, even if it looks that the email came from someone you know.
16. Do not click on links that take you to important websites such as your bank account or PayPal, et cetera. These links are often fake and steal your sensitive data. Enter the address yourself, or access it through your Internet favourites.
17. Do not click on "strange" links on chat rooms or Facebook even when they come from your friends. Many viruses send themselves in the form of a notice to the infected contacts list so it looks like it comes from someone you know.
18. Never give out passwords and other sensitive information by email or even by phone. No reputable company should ever ask you for your password.
19. Be wary of email messages instructing you to sign into one or more of your accounts advising you it's essential to update your logging and security details. These will almost certainly be fake and only designed to steal your information.
20. Install Internet browser add-ons such as, Ad Block Plus and Ghostery. Ad Block Plus will not only block extremely annoying ads and but also prevents pop-ups which may lead you to malicious sites. Ghostery will block cookies, which are often used by websites to track your web browsing behaviour.
21. Make sure your email account password is different from the one you use for online shopping and banking, et cetera. If a hacker gains access to your email account, they may also easily be able to gain access to accounts with sensitive data.