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Is your computer protected?

Always use protection! If you're on a PC and connected to the internet, you need to make sure you're safe from all those filthy viruses, trojans and bad cookies. None of these things will cost you a cent:

1. Download and Install Microsoft Updates automatically, as they're regularly security fixes.

2. Never use "Preview" in your Inbox of Outlook as it allows many viruses to auto-execute. Hence the nickname of lookOut for Microsoft's email program.

3. Delete anything that looks even slightly dodgy without opening or even previewing it, and NEVER open attachments in high-risk formats like .exe, .zip and even .doc (as they can contain viruses as macros) unless you know 100% what they are, you're expecting such an attachment from that particular person.

4. Use virus protection and update it regularly (ie, set it to auto-update daily). There are some good freeware ones available. I use Grisoft's AVG, available from www.grisoft.com or check through the list at Tucows - Anti-virus scanners.

5. Use a firewall. These can be hardware (eg, incorporated into a router or router/modem) or software. The latter is a bit of a hassle at first, as you need to teach it what can and can't access the internet. The idea being that if something from your computer wants to access the internet and you didn't ask it to, then it's probably a trojan trying to 'phone home'. Or something legitimately performing it's scheduled updates (hence the need to 'teach' your firewall that particular action from that program is OK). A list of those available is at Tucows - Firewalls.

6. Regularly spring-clean your computer of spyware. Even with virus protection and a firewall, you'll end up with spyware. Some are relatively harmless, 'cookies' that you didn't ask for that keep track of which sites you visit, and some are more malicious. Anyways, you can clean them up for free. I use both Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy. You can download them at Tucows - Spyware Cleaners.

7. Be careful about what freeware and shareware programs you use, as some contain spyware. Always check on google.com what people say about a program before you install it on your computer, eg "kazaa spyware" (with the quotation marks). Same goes for illegal versions of commercial software, especially ones that involve .exe cracks - be wary, you might be downloading more than you bargained for.

8. Use less virus-targetted software - eg Firefox internet browser and Open Office software - both are free!

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