Internet Safety: 7 Steps to Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet

The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet – FREE EditionSubscribe to The Ask Leo! Newsletter and get the 88-page Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet – FREE Edition digital download as a gift. Based in part on this article, the Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet – FREE Edition will help you identify the most important steps you can take to keep your computer and yourself safe as you navigate today’s digital landscape.

Viruses and spyware and worms … oh my!

The very concept of “internet safety” is almost an oxymoron these days.

It seems not a day goes by that we don’t hear some new kind of threat aimed at wreaking havoc across machines connected to the internet.

Here are some things you can (and should) do to stay safe.

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1. Use a firewall

A firewall is a piece of software or hardware that sits between your computer and the internet and only allows certain types of data to cross. For example, a firewall may allow checking email and browsing the web, but disallow things like Windows file sharing.

If you’re connected to the internet through a router, you already have a type of hardware firewall that prevents random networking-based external threats from reaching your computers. Most recent versions of Windows include a software firewall that is on by default.

2. Scan for malware

Sometimes, most commonly via email attachments, malware is able to cross the firewall and end up on your computer anyway.

A malware scanner will locate and remove them from your hard disk. A real-time scanner will notice them as they arrive, even before they hit the disk, but at the cost of slowing down your machine a little, and occasionally even interfering with other operations.

Important: Because new malware is being created every day, it is critical to keep your anti-malware definitions up-to-date. Be sure to enable the scanning software’s automatic-update feature and have it do so every day.

3. Stay up-to-date

I’d wager that over half of all virus infections don’t have to happen. Software vulnerabilities that malware exploits usually already have fixes available by the time the virus reaches a computer.

The problem? The user simply failed to install the latest updates that would have prevented the infection in the first place.

The solution is simple: enable automatic updates in both Windows and applications.

4. Educate yourself

To be blunt, all of the protection in the world won’t save you from yourself.

  • Don’t open attachments you aren’t positive are OK; attachments are one of the most common ways that malware spreads.
  • Don’t fall for phishing scams. Be skeptical. Phishing is a common way that online accounts are hacked into and can lead to more serious issues like identity theft.
  • Don’t click on links in email you aren’t positive are safe.
  • Don’t install “free” software without checking it out first. Many “free” packages are so because they come loaded with spyware, adware, and worse.

When visiting a website, did you get a pop-up asking if it’s OK to install some software that you’re not sure of because you’ve never heard of it? Don’t say OK.

Not sure about some security warning you’ve been given? Don’t ignore it.  Research it before doing anything.

And of course, choose secure passwords and don’t share them with anyone.

5. Secure your home network and your mobile connection

If you’re traveling and using internet hotspots, free WiFi, hotel-provided internet, or internet cafes, you must take extra precautions.

Make sure your web email access – or, for that matter, any sensitive website access – is only via secure (https) connections, or that your regular mail program is configured to use only encrypted connections. Don’t let people “shoulder surf” and steal your password by watching you type it in a public place.

Make sure your home WiFi has WPA2-security enabled if anyone can walk within range, and you’ve changed your router’s administrative password.

6. Don’t forget the physical

An old computer adage is that “if it’s not physically secure, it’s not secure.”

All of the precautions I’ve listed above are pointless if other people can get at your computer. A thief can easily get at all the unencrypted data on your computer if they can physically get to it. Even log-in passwords can be easily bypassed if someone has access to your computer.

The most common scenario is a laptop being lost or stolen during travel, but I’ve also received many reports from people who’ve been burned because a family member, friend, significant other, or roommate accessed their computer without their knowledge.

7. Back up

I know that backing up doesn’t feel like a “security” measure, but ultimately, it can be one of the most powerful ways to recover if you ever encounter a security-related issue.

The damage done by almost any kind of malware can be quickly reversed if you have a recent backup to restore to.

Having a back-up copy of your data (all your data) can help you recover after computer is lost or stolen (not to mention when a hard disk dies).

Backing up your email and contacts can be a critical way to restore your world should your online account ever be compromised.

Backups truly are the silver bullet of the computing world: a proper and recent backup can help save you from just about any disaster, including security issues.

Overwhelming? It might seem so, but…

Internet SecurityThis might all seem overwhelming, but please believe me when I say it’s not nearly as overwhelming as an actual security problem if and when it happens to you.

The good news is that the majority of the things you need to do to stay safe on the internet are things you set up once and let happen automatically thereafter, or new habits you form based on the important things that you learn about keeping things secure.

While we might want it to be otherwise, the practical reality of the internet and computing today is that we each must take responsibility for our own security online.

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145 comments on “Internet Safety: 7 Steps to Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet”

  1. Hi Leo, Steve here from the acres, and I have a question concerning spy ware and such. I found with a spy ware scanner about 101 spy ware things most were update things and such from Microsoft and other software that seems to be important. It ( the spy catcher ) gave no other info on weather it would hurt or hinder the performance of my machine or such. How do I find out other than the obvious of finding out weather to take them out or not? thanks for the help if possible, {email address removed}

  2. Hi Steve,

    You didn’t mention which tool you were running – if it happens to be spybot (the one I run), it does a very nice job of providing additional information about each item it’s flagged. I assume some of the other tools may have something similar, but I can’t say for certain. Your question is definitely a common concern … sort of a “now what?” after you get those 101 flags :-).

    Most of what typically gets reported are tracking cookies. An *over* simplification (and my opinion) is that most tracking cookies are a) safe, and b) also quite safe to delete. Afterwards you may need to log into a site that normally remembers you, but that’s typically about as inconvenient as it gets. Ditto for things like media player, real player and so on. I regularly run spybot, scan the results, and if there’s nothing obvious to me, I go ahead and have the tool cleanup / delete everything it finds. Again, this is with the caveat that I’m using spybot search & destroy, and am comfortable with what it’s found.

    Leo

  3. Dear Leo,

    I used two spy scanner & trojan remover. But both can’t remove some of the trojans e.g. win32:Trojan-gen.{VC}. They even could not be quarantined!
    Eliza

  4. Don’t forget about trying to stop the problems in the first place.
    i.e. security settings in internet options should be set up so only sites in your “trusted sites” list can download files and run script.
    I set the “Active Scripting” setting to prompt for all other “internet” sites so I can decide whether to allow the site to run potentially dodgy script. It has to be said that this is a bit irritating though as sometimes you get lots of messages.
    However, if you turn the scripting off completely a lot of sites don’t work.

    PS- I recommend Ad-Aware and Spybot.

  5. Here’s one that’s leaving me scratching my head. I have a winxp system that Norton 2004 says is infected with the Korgo.L virus, so I hop out and get the specific removal tool for it. I run it, but it says the system is not infected with the virus. So I run Norton again…yep, you have the virus it says. Can’t fix, can’t quaranteen, can’t delete. I see the file that is indicated, I have deleted it in safe mode with restore off but it keeps coming back. How do I get rid of the durn thing??

  6. This is a situation where I immediately visit other virus manufacturer’s websites and look for other tools or manual removal instructions. In this case I found a set up on Trend Micro’s site that seems promising: http://ask-leo.com/d-korgol

    Let me know of that helps.

    • I haven’t seen any commentary on Super Anti Spyware which seems to catch many more items than Windows Defender, although I run both.

  7. hi leo hope you can help me i had a free scan it showed 415 infections 2malignant proscess it totaled items scaned where 43506 signature 10684 this is my first computer i dont know what to do? it runs great please help do i have to order it i cant right now thank you pat

    • Pat, You will have that issue with anything that offers a ‘free scan’. The huge amount of ‘bad stuff’ it claims to have found is a scare tactic, so when you click to clean them up, you get routed to their purchase page, and many will pay for it, to get rid of all of that bad stuff, that doesn’t exist. (Some of it may be legit problems.)

      “CCleaner” (Piriform), “Spyware Blaster” and “SpybotSD”, (“SD”=Search and Destroy.) are all freeware programs, which each does a very good job of getting rid of the bad stuff, that is actually there.

      Don’t forget to set a restore point, through the Control Panel>System>System Protection, for just in case, until you get them tuned to your needs. Each has an “Exclude” option for things like your index (Search) folder and files.

  8. Anti virus or Anti Spyware? In either case I’d let (or get) the tool that actually cleans things up for you after they report what they’ve found. Most do.

  9. Hi Leo, My boss’ computer has a HUGE problem. Whenever we attempt to open explorer, my computer, or basically anything that was pre-installed we get the message “Explorer.exe has generated errors and will be closed by windows.” We have no idea and other forums are pretty stumped. Maybe it’s spyware, we don’t know. Any help would be appreciated!

    Collin

  10. I currently have Symantic & Norton for computer security. The files have grown so large they are causing “glitching” problems. I want to replace all the internet security’s I would need and also having control overy the updates required. IE: I do not use the parental control programs, yet Nortons automatically downloads large files for this function, so I do not need these updates.
    I need to know what programs I should be looking at.

    • 5 years ago I wouldn’t have touched any Norton software. Even if obtained free. But people say it’s been improved. To remove Norton/Symantec you have to run their free REMOVAL TOOL. Otherwise it will not be totally removed. If you want to run paid IS or AV software, I suggest trying Kaspersky. F-secure? Can’t vouch for McAfee. They may be good. Search the net for best software suggestions. If you have more than 1 computer look for IS, AV software that covers 3 computers. Free AV works fine. Have used it for 3 years. AVG currently. Avast and Panda cloud in the past. Again search the net for reviews. If you have deeper problems search for rootkit removal software to run. It scans outside the operating system. Then install malware removal software. I run Malwarebytes and Spybot search and destroy. Adaware used to be a favorite of mine. Then if you still have problems search for adwcleaner. Their site is in French which Is beyond me. But download that program and run it. It’ll find things nothing else will that I know of. You download it and run it. No install. It notifies you if you need to go to the site and update.
      Some Comodo software is good. I’ve tried most. Run cleaning essentials occasionally but the firewall and IS Is clunky, glitchy in my experience. But free. Thanks for your free ebook for internet security. Leo. And for distributing the newsletter. I’m a home user and it refreshes my mind, perplexes me, and sometimes provides a laugh. May you have many more happy years.

  11. Are music downloading prgrammes a really bd idea? WE seem to always have viruses on our computer after we’ve used it (MP3 downloading). Also Our firewall (ZoneAlarm) under prgramme control it has Access and Server columns, I don’t know which programmes to make trused and which to allow?

  12. Best setup:
    Router + Software Firewall + Antivirus + AdAware SE

    None of this is provided by Microsoft. Even the Software Firewall works, but try Norton or Zone Alarm.

    I recommend Norton across the board. They have saved me a few times; a virus comes out in the morning and they have an update specifically for it that afternoon!

    Router: Make sure it’s a router and not just a ‘switch’.

    Ad-Aware SE: Available at http://www.lavasoftusa.com

    I hate spyware!

  13. This is only my opinion. If you have fast internet (DSL or Cable Internet), you should/must have a router between your DSL/Cable modem and your computer. The router can be wired or wireless.

    A wired router is a small, inexpensive (Under $40) piece of hardware that provides a huge help protecting your computer – because they all have a built in firewall that requires no attention from you to maintain.

    As an added bonus, they also allow you to hook more than one PC/Laptop to your fast internet connection at the same time! And if you want to set it up, you can use it to create a home network that allows all your computers to share one printer easily.

    This is just one wired router that will work fine for you, there are many others: http://tomshardware.bizrate.com/nc/marketplace/search/search__prod_id–6646705,rf–tng011,sort–6.html

    One other note, Windows XP Service Pack 2 turns on the updated “Windows Firewall”. If you’ve installed “SP2” you probably have a firewall running. However I still strongly recommend a router with built in firewall.

    Hope this helps,
    Hugh

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  14. I’m not sure about software firewalls. I’d check the WIndows XP built-in firewall … I’d be surprized if that didn’t work. And certainly an external firewall such as a router will work.

  15. HI, I was just wondering if can help me find a few music download sites that do not carry viruses (trustworthy) when downloading music

  16. Hi ,
    i have a pc at home without internet connection. I use to browse internet from a nearby browsing center. It seems my system has been attacked by virus as i had copied a file(not exe but pdf file) in the browsing center in a floppy and store d in my system. now i am not able to see folder options in my tools menu of windows explorre . Also my system has become slow. Any idea y dthis happende

    Thanks
    Kiran

  17. Also remember you can block known spyware sites. Or other sites that have been known to install applications without your approval *cough* viewpoint *cough*. (Long story short – a process was installed and running that I never approved of. Leo’s site has excellent information viewpoint)

    My hosts file now has these following entries in order to hopefully prevent future unapproved installations:

    127.0.0.1 creativeby.viewpoint.com
    127.0.0.1 http://www.viewpoint.com
    127.0.0.1 http://www.one.org
    127.0.0.1 one.viewpoint.com
    127.0.0.1 track.vwpt.com

    Thanks Leo!

  18. Hi Leo,

    Great site.

    I have a new 200gig hard disc and i want to format it and then install windows xp. I have never formatted my pc and do not know the commands or what to do?. I have been told to format my new hard disc UNCONDITIONALLY. How do i do this?

    Thanks!

  19. I have 6 procsses in windows task manager how do i delete them without damgeing my system? isass.exe, svchost.exe, csrss.exe, taskmgi.exe, spools.exe, msmgs.exe,…..can anyone help? (running win xp pro)

    • As Leo says “don’t do it”. Look harder in task manager and you’ll see most if not all are MS windows functions. Are you joking?

  20. I would do what it takes to get Automatic Updates to work, or start visiting Windows Update on a very regular basis.

  21. Hi leo, just recently gave someone my ip address..can they find out where i live..they said they could help me fix a problem i was having…i also have computer phone service..can they get my phone number..How do i block it? Hellppppppp.

    Scared!!!

  22. I have stopped using Windows update since I learned that it’s verification process is spyware and lets the mothership, Microsoft know what software I choose to use and if I have a registered copy. I have read about this on several sites with a good reputation and am looking for a way to get updates without using their verification program. Any help you can offer with this problem?

  23. There are “Trojan horse” type programs, such as Back Orifice and Netbus, that could cause the behavior you are describing. Both BO and Netbus are Windows 95/98 applications designed to allow other people to access your machine (generally for malicious purposes) over the Internet.

    In order for anyone to use BO on your machine, you have to install the server side of the application. This is normally done by getting you to download an application or by sending the server EXE to you in an e-mail message and hoping you execute it. This is why it is called a Trojan horse — you have to consciously or unconsciously run the EXE to install the server — it does not propagate itself like a virus (see How Computer Viruses Work for a description of Trojans and viruses). Once you execute the server EXE, the server is installed and will start running automatically every time you turn on your computer.

    With the server installed, an evil-doer can run the BO client program and control your computer remotely, running programs, erasing files… Obviously, this is not a good thing. It is easy to detect Back Orifice either manually or with software.

  24. I have McAfee Internet Security Suite 2007 on my computer and results, cookies are spyware: clean, no viruses, spam (Outlook Express 6 has a feature from the program that I use to mark mail as spam and has its own SpamKiller under the Inbox when it starts up with a +/- button to show/hide SpamKiller (Ex: [SPAM]=AdventureQuest= New User Confirmation; normal e-mail ex: =AdventureQuest= New User Confirmation.)

  25. it’s very important to be educated to know where is the trusted sites to view and where is the suspecious sites is located, so my advice is to give a good education to internet users about the sites that they should trusted, and may be in the future to make an web site that recommend the good sites to the users. thank you

  26. Which antivirus product is most compatible with
    Vista-loaded new computers? I have used Norton Antivirus on my previous computers, but have heard terrible things about NAV 2007 making Vista computers run very slowly. The computer is an EMachine, with Vista Home Premium version.

    Anyone have advice? I am still on dial-up internet, using AOL and wonder how much protection AOL provides for incoming viruses. Also, how good is the Firewall and Windows Defender stuff built into Vista Home Premium operating system?

    Thanks!

  27. —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    “Most” compatible I couldn’t tell you. I’m sure that many run well on Windows
    Vista. I happen to use the latest version of CA’s eTrust AntiVirus on my Vista
    machine and it works well: http://ask-leo.com/d-etrust

    Leo

    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–
    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)

    iD8DBQFGtz6kCMEe9B/8oqERAofDAJoChFUj9zrSoxvGbFxkVCuDVmIN0gCeJxCs
    HKC5r3sOKjDRyBXbDHH7bWQ=
    =Wncz
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  28. I downloaded CCleaner just now and ran it but it wants to delete things I use…I don’t understand how to keep from deleting the whole list…there are things that need deleting but not the whole list..HELP..how do I keep from deleting everything it wants to delete?

  29. I’m afraid ccleaner does not let you choose which items within a selection to delete…
    You either delete the index.dat files or you don’t.
    You either delete the temporary Internet files or you don’t.
    etc.
    Sorry…

    • IP number is normally changed every time you switch the router off .A new IP is allocated when it is switched back on. IP numbers are limited so they are reallocated to someone else when not in use.

      • This is not something you can count on. Some ISPs and/or routers will retain the IP address associated with your line or device for a period of time so that they can re-assign the same one. Not all do this, but certainly some do.

  30. To Judy Kirkham et al.
    In addition to the great tips here at ASK LEO, I would strongly recommend you visit http://www.bleepingcomputer.com which is a site of 1000s of experts and newbies dedicated to helping one another with the day to day problems we all face. I am 66, and have learned almost all I now know from this friendly site. Cheers

  31. I am new to Leo’s site. Very cool. Extremely helpful. Just wanted to recommend using download.com when downloading freeware programs. Their site is totally clean of spyware, malware etc. I am currectly using Super Anti Spyware and Avira AntiVir. Both are free and perform outstandingly. They scan quickly too. Check them out. Best regards, D.W.

  32. Dear Leo
    I have the warning dangerous spyware image on my
    desktop and it won’t go away I’v got norton and spybot and neither has helped to delete this warning from my desktop. I’ve gone to my control panel and tried to change the settings and I can’t the arrows that allow you to change the settings are all frozen. Can you please tell me
    what I can do to get my beautiful desktop of the beach back. I got it from trying to download a movie toolbar and ended up with inbox.com which I cannot uninstall. Please help me.
    thank you
    Beverly Kemp

    Sounds like you are still infected with spyware of some sort. Sounds very similar to: How did you clean up your friend’s infected machine?

    – Leo
    24-Feb-2009
  33. To shameem (January 3, 2009):
    The software you link to is not free, it’s a limited trial. KeePass does the same thing, but is really free and open source.

  34. hi everyone i am new to leo’s site i just wanted to recommend a site that yall try if you ever need complete internet security go to http://www.kaspersky.com i use kaspersky myself and it’s the best i have never once had a virus or anything so give it a try 🙂

  35. I know you’re not the only person to spell the plural of virus as virii, but do you know of any authority for it.
    I’m afraid I find it mildly irritating.

  36. i recently installed symantec antivirus on my computer but it is refusing update and even run a scan.I tried to repair it but it tells me there is interruption before the completion of the installation.

  37. hi sir
    i am suffering from virus that change jpeg and mp3 file into yan chit tal file and all files with above extensions are infected,.
    after using antivirus it is not removed and all imager are converted into a girl image with love writtn when i see them in thumbnail view and my computer icon has been changd into two keys icon.
    please advice me

    thanks.

    I’d send you here: How do I remove a virus?

    Leo
    12-Sep-2009

  38. how do you do that when your using the college libraies computer or it don’t even let you get to your e-mail account

  39. My daughter installed Firefox on my laptop and was then unble to access certain facebook applications. How useful is Firefox if the pc is already protected by AVG free version and Spybot? How many javascript settings would have to be changed and is it wise to have more than one anti-virus system running at the same time. I have been using AVG for some years and would be sorry to let it go. Thankyou.

  40. Trying to download new intrnet security and it keeps saying that the old one still there but it’s not on uninstall list

  41. Leo, just went to your store and found the FREE PDF file, Internet Safety – Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet, about this very subject. I must tell you, this is an awesome PDF file!!! I have already downloaded it and plan on passing this file to everyone that I repair or build a PC for, which means family and friends. I also, plan on using my ‘copy’ as a training tool, for others.

    Thank you for caring about your readers. This is a wonderful tool for everyone, newbie and expert alike. No matter how knowledgeable you are about computing, you simply need to have material available as a reminder or refresher or for educating.

    Thanks for your kind words! You’ll be pleased to know that there’s an updated version, which will remain free, in the works.

    Internet Safety – Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet is available here for free.

    Leo
    05-May-2010

  42. There are many free antispyware programs you can use such as Spybot, Malwarebytes, Adaware, and even the new Microsoft one.

    href=http://www.onlinecomputertips.com/tutorials/spyware.html>Spyware cleaning tutorial

    href=http://www.onlinecomputertips.com/spyware/malwarebytes.html>Malwarebytes Anti Malware

    href=http://http://www.onlinecomputertips.com/spyware/sec_essentials.html>Microsoft Security Essentials

  43. 9/Jun/2010 16:46

    You wrote “viri” as the plural for virus. The correct plural is “viruses”.

    Sincerely,

    Barry Karas

    PS Perhaps “viri” is okay in the UK and Australia?

  44. Hi, I visited this website first time today and found it really interesting. How much elaborated your articles are. I really liked them. I will keep on visiting on your website and will let others know about it, if you keep the same quality. Keep it up man! Gud luck!

    Thanks for such a knowledgable resource.

  45. Thank you, Leo, for this very helpful reminder — to watch ourselves. All your tips and good advice will come to naught if we forget or ignore them.

  46. Norton & that type of protection do not protect my yahoo email, only windows mail, at least that is what I understood them to tell me. How do I protect email if not windows mail?

  47. How do I stop the live-time virus scanning of the McAfee program my AOL contract provides? It slows my machine down too much. I would like to have more control over when anti-virus program runs.

  48. Hello,
    I was told at work yesterday from a friend that I have a virus.I have a Mac.He said cookie came up.He is well protected,so anything he gets thats got a virus won’t open.I’m new on the computers how do I fix this?
    Thank you
    Sandi Arie

  49. When using your computer off-line, disable your internet connection if it still has an IP address. This is more than just closing the browser.

  50. Hi Leo , First of Leo i really enjoy reading your news letter , i dont understand most of the info thats not your fault as you will see by my question i am an Novice .Here goes i have a HP laptop i turned it on the other Day all the lights came on i could hear the fan start up but nothing on the monitor (not lit up ) and then the fan and lights shut off, Ithink the lap top is about 10 Years Old ,maby it’s had it what do you think ,Thanks Leo .

  51. @George
    Could be a number of things. 10 years is an old computer. It may have just given up the ghost. You’d have to bring it into a technician to see what the problem is. If the computer is unrepairable, it’s still probable that your data is recoverable from the hard drive. You may want to have them recover that data for you.

  52. I was somewhat aware that setting up a standard account on my desktop for a friend was not a wise idea. They don’t pay much attention to sites they visit and their passwords are so Easy!! Since on my desktop/his standard acct.? His G-Mail got hacked and so did his Live acct. I surely hope this does Not affect My Admin. acct. or jeapordize me!! I immediately ran all scans, went to my Admin. side, removed his email address’s (as I had already gotten the person that hacked his email) several gibberish emails; meaning “foreign” talk. You could tell this person was Not from the USA. So? Not advisable to Even set up a standard acct. on your computer for Anyone!!

  53. Leo,~~Three Harsh Software Programs Indicate I Have No Immediate Threats , Am Free Of Malware + Worms Etc Microsoft Windows Indicate That My Problem Is SERIOUS & Indicate >ati2dvag -display driver stopped working or not responding!~I Believe Them , As You Would BUT Despite My Attempts To Locate The Required Updates As Soon As I Attempt To Download a Legacy Driver Microsoft Windows Warn Me To Not Do So ???~~I Am At a Loss To Overcome This Series Of Blue Screens + Black Screens & Start Up Difficulties !~~~This Issue Is Unlike Anything I Have Read~!!~~Can You Address The Issue Re display driver version>8.221-06012421-030152c-ATI ~Regards To You , DDDes

  54. What is “As251f” . These files (folders) show up sometimes out of nowhere. They show up on my work server. Is it dangerous, spyware?

  55. awesome content on networking and very easy explanation dear thank u so much for sharing this with us and teaching us in a great manner thanks once again

  56. I agree. Thanks for the tips. The first thing that everyone should use is technology to monitor what kids are up to on the web. For example, I use a free app called Qustodio to monitor who my girl talks to on Facebook as the app allows me to watch the profile pictures of accounts she interacts with. My way of ensuring that she stays safe. Just Google for it.

  57. These are great tips. I try to be smart when surfing the net and not open attachments and so on, but I have to be honest and say that I feel much safer because I have an antivirus to protect me in case I blow it (I use Unthreat Antivirus). So I agree, you have to use common sense but it’s also nice to have programs to back you up if you make a mistake.

  58. Nice and educating article!
    However, wanted to know, are Porn Sites and X-Rated Chat Rooms safe on Internet? This is a very big question and most of them indulge in the same!

    • Porn sites and similar sites normally are pretty safe.
      They need to make money so they do the best to stay “clean”.
      It’s just sites you think are trusted that are infected. “Christian” sites are good example.
      It’s very odd if you get a virus alert related to a pornsite.

  59. @Nav
    Porn sites and illegal download sites have a much higher probability of containing malware than other kinds of web sites. Of course, any website can host malware, but porn sites are very common sources of infection. A service like WOT can be a help as it is based on user ratings and can warn you when you are going to a site which they rate as unsafe or untrustworthy. It’s not perfect but is one more layer of protection. But even if you use WOT, it’s still safer not to click on links to questionable websites as you might go to a bad site which WOT hasn’t rated yet.
    Web Of Trust – Website Trust Ratings from Other Internet Users

  60. Thanks @ Mark! I have an Issue, when I check my Last 10 Login IP addresses within my Gmail Account, I find that my individual Login IP is being differed sometimes even though I login from the same system and same Internet Provider. The location of my IP is also different. Does that mean that my system or email ID is hacked?

  61. @Nav My laptop also got infected once with malicious software – all because of my fault. I had one of these pop-ups coming up saying that your computer is infected with viruses and click install for software update to remove it.
    Since I had recently installed an anti-virus software I automatically assumed it was a message from that software. Ohh but I was so wrong… and I realized it immediately after I clicked on the popup. But it was too late.
    I took remedial help immediately. But the technical guy said there is no option but to format your computer. He helped me with the backup so there was no data loss.
    But I learnt a great lesson that day. Sometimes even if you are aware and vigilant, some things may take you by surprise.
    So now, I am very careful with popups and I click only after reading and understanding it thoroughly.
    Thanks for these tips.I read some nice tips here also
    http://www.youngnerves.com/tag/how-to-prevent-malware/

  62. Everything above takes effort so what I am about to suggest is probably not for the lazy and careless.

    Read a bit on installing a Linux Dual Boot which is really easy nowadays or use a Live Linux Distro CD.

    In either case you get a START button, Firefox/Google chrome,Thunderbird.

    After that its the same as using Windows, just a lot safer. Google how many Linux Viruses or Trojans or Worms there are to why it is safer.

    With the Dual Boot, you get a menu at start up to select your Windows or Linux.

    If you don’t want to abandon MS Office or something else only on Windows just use Linux for e-mails and browsing.

    Live Linux CDs are really secure for Internet Banking as nothing can be written to the CD.

    Oh and as in the article BACKUP!!!
    Do this when you install a dual-boot linux just in case. In 15 years I’ve never lost a Windows yet but still you should BACKUP !!!

  63. Regarding your recommendation of AVG Free: I installed it and after it launched, a notification immediately appeared that there were only 29 days remaining before it stopped unless it was purchased. Maybe my concept of “free” is outdated!

    • It’s been about 2 years since I used AVG, but it sounds like you didn’t get the free version. When I did use AVG, I found that the download for the free was sometimes harder to find on their website.

      I once ended up with the pay version, which does expire if you don’t actually pay them. All I had to do was uninstall it. During the uninstall, it asked why and one of the options was that I didn’t want the paid version and would like to switch to the free version. It happily accepted my choice to do so and only uninstalled the paid components and then restarted AVG again.

      I no longer use AVG and go with Leo’s current recommendation: MS Security Essentials. I was finding AVG seemed to interfere with my computer use shortly after booting up.

      • Keep in mind too, that paying a small fee for something as important as virus protection might be a good idea. After all, we want the folks who work on the project to be able to go a good job and keep doing what they are doing. In order to do that they do need to be paid.

  64. I may have missed this in all of the responses, but the freeware version of Malwarebytes-Anti-Malware is, IMHO, a must have program. A full scan will take some time – obviously 100 GB of data will take longer than 15 GB, but you will be amazed at what has gotten past all of your Security programs. This is especially important after you have installed new software. CNET, once everybody’s friend, forces you – I really mean there is no choice – to accept all sorts of additions to your system that you never wanted. It’s not like the installations that let you click “decline” for an offered piece of software or those that allow you to uncheck a box. If you download from CNET and install, the cleanup is a lengthy process. It’s sad to see what was once my favorite site for opinions of reviewers having prostituted itself. You can still read the reviews, but DO NOT DOWNLOAD FROM CNET.

    • Win Patrol is also great. Recently, I installed some freeware that came bundled with foistware, and Scotty asked me one by one whether I wanted to install those programs and I simply said no.

  65. On my main computer I run Linux or Windows in a virtual environment.
    I keep everything updated anyway but don’t run a real time virus scanner because that darn thing consumes too much CPU time all of the time.
    Just run a scan before opdating the real system.

    As in the past I my computer crashed because of some 500 undesirables on it I’m a bit suspicious.

    • I would not recommend Avast with MSE (at least not with realtime scanning turned on in both – it’s OK to have both installed, I believe). Malwarebytes is fine and a good addition.

  66. Every other time I shut the computer down, it tells me to leave it running so it can install updates. Last night it was 168 updates ! This takes an hour or more to do. What the heck is going on ? And are these updates bringing some viruses along with them ?

  67. Hi Leo,
    I am trying to download an update to my Adobe Flash Player. I have the question “do you want to block the cookie 127.0.0.1.?” So I’m asking you if I block that cookie, will Flash Player work properly?
    Thanks
    Margo

    • I’d have to know what software is presenting that question. I’m surprised that 127.0.0.1 is being used, but I’d be tempted not to block it.

  68. if I’m working in a Wi-Fi cafe with both my Wireless Internet Connection and my Local Area connection disabled, can anyone hack my computer, or see what I’m doing, or anything else of that sort???

  69. hi leo , i am from pakistan sir i am fond of Games , i have a core2duo laptop , i installed a AVg antivirus on my kaptop , but it scan the files of games and delete them , the result came that the game dont run, so i uninstalled it , will it is safe or not for my kaptop

  70. Dear Leo,

    When i start my chrome or Mozilla or any of them to go browse other pages. In 1-2 minutes, i get a notification that my Google is stopped working and antivirus has just stopped an attack by uk based website. I have Norton antivirus, i have recently installed after this problem occurred Microsoft essential security program, i used scan.exe to check. But still i get this problem that net stops in 2-3 minutes.

    Is my PC getting attacked by someone – whats the solution.

    Regards,
    Rachana

  71. I think if one simply gets a backup and recovery software, things become more convenient. I use Rollback Rx. If there are prblems that i feel have to do with the programs and software I simply rollback. Ofcourse this approach only workd if you’re willing to sacrifice unsaved data accrued over te last week or so. Which means that that data wasn’t very important. If you take these precautions you will be alright, won’t you. I realize that 90% dont do this but still thought that mentioning such an apprroach will enliven one dimensional collumns.

    • That’s a great suggestion – and really the only thing that works. If you use incrementals you can actually (fairly easily) do nightly backups and never lose anything. I also do a lot of my daily work in a Dropbox folder – so I am backed up to the minute on those.

      Here’s an article on what Leo does! http://askleo.com/how_do_i_backup_my_computer/

  72. Maybe a stupid question but cannot find the answer anywhere. I run Windows XP on my desktop but mostly do all my surfing on my ipad with the wi if that is connected to my desktop. As long as I just use my ipad, and set up a wireless printer, am I safe when support ends for XP ? Thanks

    • “Am I safe” is not a yes/no answer. If Windows XP is connected to a network and used for anything at all, it could be vulnerable. I now have several articles on XP’s end of life – I’d recommend you search for them here and give them a read.

    • “it is asking security” – no idea what that means. I need detailed steps and complete error messages to have a chance of helping.

  73. My daughter was playing on my laptop and the message came up that there was a virus threat so I asked the AVG to remove it. Now when I open a new page this address comes up on another page – what is happening here, please help.
    {url removed}

    Thanks, Carrie

  74. I like Unchecky to prevent the installation of unwanted programs that are — sneakily — downloaded with the program that you wanted to install. Unchecky is still available only in a beta version, but I’ve used it for months now with no problem. and it is updated often.

  75. I can’t believe all this babble about such a simple solution ~ now called oldfashion by techies trying to own your data/life. No way would a sensible reader waste time reading half this nonsense. Computers can be made totally independant of the web ~ get over it. The smart phone for web is way smarter. The pc is either for gaming or writing ~ writing is in no way internet dependant ~ JUST GET OVER IT ~ sell pcs without web and stop demanding we justify this to those web freaks who want manic web dependancy so they can ‘control the world’. It’s not New or Expensive or since clearly still badly needed not even Oldfashion. Only corp bullies would claim such nonsense. How dumb are they? We paid $2000 for word processors ‘offline’ and they were worth it. So don’t babble about cheap/expensive (tho all know they cost nothing to make). WHY NO INTERNT: Pcs are made to self destruct, their data is fragile under the best circumstances, corp are desperate to sell your own data to you, and THEN there are hackers. The ONLY problem here if getting big bro and the dumber than dumb out of our way.

  76. is there anymore steps to keeping my info safe from people on the internet???and you have some good steps!! i am really interested in some ways to keep my computer from getting a viruis. it has happened before and is there any possible way to keep it from coming back???????????????????????????????????????? thanks for all your help

  77. Hi Leo,

    I spent the better part of the afternoon with techs on the Avast forum trying to get rid of a virus–jumping through hoop after hoop doing things I didn’t quite understand and then was given instructions to do something that could ‘break a computer’ if used on the wrong type of computer. I’m pretty sure these guys knew what they were doing, and I was very grateful for their help.

    BUT, enough is enough. Decided to try restoring a system image backup of my computer I made 5 days ago, using AOMEI Backupper. It worked, again–this is the 3rd or 4th time I’ve needed to fix a problem and the restore function has not failed yet. Sweeeeeeet fix. So quick and easy compared to what I was going through before I went this route.

    Leo is right! Backup, backup, backup.

    thanks again, Leo.

  78. I just let someone claiming to be from the Geek Squad access to my computer. They told me that my email was being hacked & that my banking info was compromised along with pics I had posted on my phone. they wanted to “show” me where the hacking was coming from. I didn’t give them money or personal info. They wanted to sell me security for the PC. They even told me that if I change my passwords, that the hacker can still get them. I called my bank, best buy, (didn’t even know where the geek squad was from, but I had heard of them). Don’t know what else to do to protect the info….
    I feel like such an idiot, I should have known better. I also uninstalled the software that they installed, looked like a large red diamond, cant remember the name of the app.

    • If you let them access your computer, they could have installed malware capable of doing anything to your computer. Uninstalling that program wouldn’t necessarily remove the malware they installed. I would run several antimalware scans including Malwarebytes, AdwCleaner and at least a couple of antivirus programs. The oly way to be sure you’ve gotten rid of the malware is to reinstall Windows and all of your programs from scratch. See these articles for more detailed instructions:
      https://askleo.com/how_do_i_remove_malware/
      http://ask-leo.com/what_security_software_do_you_recommend.html

      • Those PUPs can be detected by Malwarebytes most of the time. The free version needs to check the file manually.

        Most AV programs do not look for PUPs that I have seen.

      • Mark,
        As noted above, if you have a recent image created before the malware was installed, you can be back in business in maybe 30-60 minutes.

        • If you have an image backup, you can be quickly back in business, but if you did anything sensitive like log on to a site with your password, they may have recorded your login information. If you have used your computer since the remote access, I’d suggest changing the password and checking the recovery information to any sites you may have accessed after that. I’d apply the advice in this article to any websites I logged into after the remote access:
          https://askleo.com/email_hacked_7_things_you_need_to_do_now/

  79. I try to log in and this comes out: This site can’t provide a secure connection
    outlook.live.com didn’t accept your login certificate, or one may not have been provided.
    Try contacting the system admin. What to do to fix the problem?

  80. Okay this question will probably be stupid…i was searching on internet and couldnt find the answer. Since english is not my native language would you mind explaing me what is internet carrier bill? Is that like all the websites you accessed you ISP has or?

  81. Leo,

    You priority is wrong. Backups should be point number one.

    Malware may happen, data loss eventually WILL happen.

  82. Good article, Leo. But number three (“Stay up-to-date”) has been bothering me for a few years. Historically, I used to have automatic updates set for all of my Windows computers. My opinion on that changed around the time of Windows 10. Microsoft decided to push Windows 10 onto its Windows 7 and 8 users without their knowledge or consent. People with automatic updating enabled were waking up one morning to a whole new operating system they didn’t want. In my opinion it was a flagrant violation of privacy, and a disrespectful way to treat customers. Ever since that era (which started just a few years ago) I have always set my Windows Updates to “check for updates, but allow me to decide whether or not to download and install them.” But even that isn’t 100% safe. Microsoft hides upgrades and installation packages for things like Windows 10 and OneDrive inside of innocuously named patches called KBxxxxxxx. The average user has no idea what that patch will do to their system. Even if they click on the “more info” option the description is vague. In my opinion Microsoft has become the virus. Trusting automatic updates is no longer the prudent choice it used to be.

    • Sadly the average user can also not know if a specific update is inconsequential, or absolutely required to maintain security. I vote in favor of the later, and thus my recommendation doesn’t change: automatic updates should be enabled.

      But I totally agree Microsoft makes this position harder and harder to defend over time.

  83. Oh, how times have changed. Well, not really. But at least many parents today grew up with computers and at least have a little more common sense.

    According to {URL removed} in the early 90’s, the Michelangelo virus was the first computer virus that I remember gaining national media attention. My parents were so spooked, that they unplugged the computer (we had no modem at the time, so the entire computer), put it in a box, sealed the box with tape, and placed the whole thing in the attic for a month. They were under the (hilarious) impression that computer viruses were actual living viruses that somehow affected computers.

    Thankfully, by around 1998 or so, they had learned significantly more. Enough anyway, to assume that everyone on the internet who wasn’t a member of our immediate family was either a hacker or pedophile. Or both.

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