The Internet is as popular, if not more so, as the television nowadays with millions of people online every single hour of the day. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Internet in itself attracts would be hackers hell bent on disrupting what should be an enjoyable surfing experience. If it were not for these 'hackers' pc security would certainly not need to be so tight as it is today. And even with today's security the hacker is always one step ahead of the latest technology. It is important, therefore, that you do as much as you possible can to protect your system against any form of illegal intrusion.
For the purpose of PC security you need three basic pieces of equipment - be it software or hardware. The first is Anti Virus defences, the second is a firewall, and the third is an assurance that your pc is always kept up to date with the latest Windows Updates. A lapse on any one of these essential items leaves your PC open to possible attack.
Firewalls can come either in hardware or software form and their principle job is to stop dead any unauthorised access to your pc. Windows XP has its own built in firewall which, essentially, does a pretty good job at stopping unauthorised access. Unfortunately, the Windows XP firewall does have some short comings. For one it only stops incoming access, therefore, should you load a Virus/Trojan onto your machine via a floppy disk from a friend, the Virus/Trojan could still access your address book and send copies of itself to all your major contacts. Another disappointing aspect of the Windows XP firewall is that it is not the easiest of firewalls to configure, especially if you are a beginner.
Fortunately, you do not have to rely upon the Windows XP firewall. There are numerous other software and hardware firewalls out there that are more user friendly and, in many cases, far superior to the Windows XP firewall. I suppose the most popular is Zone Alarm, but other names like Norton, McAfee, Black Ice, Kerio, E-Trust and F-Secure spring to mind. If you want a firewall that is totally 'free' then you need look no further than the free version of Zone Alarm available at www.zonelabs.com
Anti Virus and Firewall applications go hand in hand with each other. Nowadays you really cannot do without the two being present on your machine. You only have to look at one of the anti virus manufacturer's websites to see the frightening array of Virus's and Trojans that constantly bombard our systems while connected to the Internet. Virus's, however, are not only transmitted via the web, they are also capable of infecting the pc via the swapping of files from one pc to another, either by floppy disk or CDs.
Again there are loads of anti virus applications out there. Names like Norton, Mcafee, Kaspersky, and AVG instantly spring to mind. But, again, it is pointless going to the trouble of installing anti virus software if it is not regularly updated. Fortunately most anti virus packages have some form of update scheduling incorporated in them, so you can at least set the application to update at a specific time each day.
Once again you don't have to actually pay money for anti virus software. AVG Anti Virus (www.grisoft.com) do a free version which, although not containing so many options as the paid for version, will protect your pc just as well.
You've spent a lot of cash purchasing your copy of Windows and, as such, you want to get the best out of it. Keeping it up to date is something that can be done quite easily. All it takes is a click on the update icon in Control panel and a quick selection of when you want the updates to be downloaded - Microsoft does the rest. The updates are downloaded discretely in the background so you can get on with anything else you have planned.
Of course Windows Updates don't simply improve the look or performance of your pc, they also remedy any problems that may have been found during routine checks by Microsoft on the Windows Operating system. Any vulnerabilities such as Trojans, Worms etc are also looked at and, if a specific 'fix' is needed, then Microsoft automatically add the fix to the update list, ensuring that your system is protected at all time.
If we are honest the constant barrage from our peers of 'update this, and don't do that' can drive any sane man or woman to the demon drink. Computing, and in particular, surfing the web is supposed to be enjoyable, not a hassle. The problem is it is other inconsiderate people that turn our supposed enjoyment into a hassle. Okay, we keep banging on about keeping our pc's secure but, at the end of the day, you wouldn't allow an unauthorised person access to your home, so why allow unauthorised Virus's/Trojans and hacker's access to your pc! Be smart use a firewall, keep your anti virus definitions up to date, and make sure that your operating system is updated via Windows Updates regularly.