With broadband, you’re always connected to the Internet. While that’s great if you want to fire up your web browser or email quickly and check something, it can also be dangerous. If a dodgy program gets onto your computer, it will be able to phone home all the time, whether you’re actually using the Internet or not. And if you don’t keep your computer up-to-date, bugs in Windows could end up allowing viruses to hit your PC. For this reason, it is important to take steps to protect yourself.
At this point, many people will tell you to get a personal firewall. You really, really shouldn’t listen to these people, though, as they don’t know that they’re talking about. Personal firewalls are worse than useless – they don’t really work, but they give you a false sense of security. While they pop up lots of scary-sounding, very technical alerts, the main reason they do it is to make you think they’re doing something useful and pay lots of money for the ‘pro’ version.
It’s much more important, on the other hand, to have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software, especially if you plan to download and install a lot of programs or open attachments that you get in your email. You can often get anti-virus software with anti-spyware capabilities built in, which is an ideal solution for keeping your computer running at a decent speed and keeping your information secure.
Another vital thing to make sure of is that your computer has all the latest updates for Windows. The best thing to do is to use Windows XP and turn on automatic updates – that way patches will be installed for you as soon as they’re available, without you having to remember to do anything about it. You shouldn’t turn this function off unless you really know what you’re doing.