Your computer connects to the Internet and is immediately exposed to a raft of data, some of it malicious. You need to prevent the malicious data accessing your computer, especially as some of this data can arrive completely unannounced. You must have at least 2 forms of protection - these days you need 3.
Firewalls stop data getting to or from somewhere and come in various forms.
Viruses are pieces of software that replicate by loading themselves onto un-protected computers and then sending out copies in the hope of infecting more machines.
Anti Virus software is readily available, both free and paid versions. Paid versions tend to be updated more often (you get what you pay for). AV Software.
Spyware attempt to collect information about you or your browsing habits. Some of this information is used to advertise things you might use, via links on pages you browse, or via pop-up windows. Other Spyware will attempt to collect sensitive information, passwords, bank details etc, to use for criminal purposes.
See our Spyware section for more detail.
Your information is the most precious thing on your computer. You can always re-load the operating system and other software, but you cannot re-load your data. If it isn't backed up you will lose it.
How many password do you have?
Do you remember all of these passwords or do you let your computer remember them? You should store them in a password manager, then you only need to remember one password and you can easily back them up. If you have to write them down, do not keep them near your computer.
The Internet is a great place to buy things, but how do you pay. Credit card is the most popular so you need to make sure that the details are only sent to the person or company from whom you are purchasing.
Your bank details should only be used to log in to your bank, no-one else needs them. Your bank will not ask you to supply those details via email.
Your name and address details should not be provided willy nilly. Most people do not need this information unless they are sending you something. Never give out your details such as date of birth, place of birth, maiden name etc.
Computers crash, hard disks fail, viruses erase information and you make mistakes. Backing up your data regularly should be part of your computing activities, just like checking mail.
Windows sometimes has a built-in Backup which does just what it says. There are also free and paid products that do an even better job.
Check out our more comprehensive guide: Backup