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Follow these tips to look out for yourself on the internet

You are exposed to the risk of being infected by a virus any time you receive and open email and when you are surfing the net or downloading and opening files. In order to ensure that you can surf the net safely and receive email without needing to worry about your PC facing any nasty problems with or attacks from viruses, we've compiled some good tips on how you can enhance your security when using the Internet:

Use your common sense and be careful whenever you are using the Internet, as well as when sending and receiving email.

Change your password often, at least every three months. In fact, Microsoft recommends you to change your password as often as every month so as to prevent unauthorised persons from getting access to your Internet account and your mail messages on your Internet Service Provider's (ISP) server.

Use numbers, letters and other characters in your password and keep it secret. The more combinations there are, the more options you have. This will also make it harder for unauthorised persons to find out your password - remember to keep it top secret!

Use a firewall. A firewall is a security system that acts as a protective boundary between a network or individual computer and the outside world, by shielding your system when you're online. Windows XP Service Pack 2 comes with an in-built firewall, so you can use the Internet without having to worry about making your network or data vulnerable.

Do not open attachments from people you do not know and be careful about opening attachments in general, as they can contain dangerous viruses. Even when you receive an attachment from someone you do know, you should be careful opening it if you aren't sure about what the file contains. Many viruses are spread through being automatically forwarded to all the contacts in a person's address book, which means that you can receive email with files infected by viruses even from people you know.

Make sure you log out from your Internet account. Logging out closes down your connection and prevents harmful programs or unauthorised users from accessing your Internet account.

Do not reply to junk mail, also known as spam, because if you do there is the risk of your email system becoming overloaded with mail messages, which can block the system.

Always use antivirus software. This minimises the risk of you having any virus problems. Make sure that you update your antivirus software regularly so that it can detect even the newest viruses.

Specify a security level for your web browser. Always follow the security information which comes with your web browser and specify a security level. In Internet Explorer you can specify the following security settings: Low, Medium-low, Medium or High. If you are running Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2, make sure you have the in-built firewall switched on.

When you are shopping on the Internet you should only deal with web sites which are supported by SSL technology (Secure Sockets Layer). Microsoft Internet Explorer has an integrated system for SSL and other security services which guarantee the security of your transactions over the Internet. An SSL connection encrypts information transferred between your web browser and the seller's e-commerce site. Web sites with a secure connection usually have an address starting with https://, instead of just http://.

Would you like to find out more about different types of viruses, how they can affect you and how to protect yourself against them? Go to the Microsoft Security website to find out more.

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What next?

Our security guide contains lots of practical information about dealing with security threats online. You can download or order it free of charge.

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