Now or never

The WINDOWS team reveals ten security moves you should make right now and six you should never take...

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  December 14, 2007

Install WinPatrol 2007 on your PC

WinPatrol 2007 is essentially a spyware and malware watchdog. The app keeps a close eye on those key Windows system spots that malware is most likely to change, such as start-up apps, scheduled tasks services, cookies and hidden apps.

The app includes two new logs: one imitates the HijackThis log style, whereas the other is a CSV-exportable format. There are also some tweaks for Windows Vista users and the usual bug fixes. The best part is that WinPatrol doesn't slow your PC and is highly customisable. You can set the interval between checkups for example; the default is every three minutes. If something new tries to install itself on your PC, the app notifies you and asks whether you want it. This tool won't cure serious infections, but it will save you from annoying adware and malicious sites that hijack your home page.

Install a firewall on your machine

If you're not using a fully-fledged security suite (and you should be), then at least install a firewall on your PC. A firewall monitors connections made to and from your PC to filter out threats, while allowing secure data to pass through. While XP and Vista do come with a firewall, we suggest buying a boxed version from the likes of Eset or McAfee, as these are much more comprehensive. If you don't have cash to spare you can always go the freeware route. We recommend using PC Tools Firewall Plus 3.0 or Zone Alarm Firewall, both of which are available download.com.

Use anti-spyware software

Spyware programs are small apps that can hide on your machine and collect information without your permission and your knowledge.

These virtual peeping toms can be easily and inadvertently installed, either by downloading innocent looking software programs such as P2P applications, through ActiveX controls hidden within the source code of participating websites, or via even pop-up ads while you surf the internet.

In addition to performing a detailed check of your browser history, spyware apps install a wide assortment of DLLs and other executables files on your home or office machine.

These sometimes send a continuous data stream to the parent marketing company out from your PC. Even worse, these apps can add trojan horses to your PC, which can leave a backdoor open for hackers to enter your PC.

This is why it's imperative that you install an effective anti-spyware app on your machine right this minute. We recommend using Ad-Aware SE Personal edition, available for free from www.lavasoft.com.

Ad-Aware scans your system - including removable drives - for the most common types of advertising spyware and safely removes the offending software. The utility detects small ad programs from firms such as Adware, Aureate/Radiate, OnFlow, Comet-Cursor, Cydoor and much more.

Backup your data regularly

If your machine gets infected with a virus or trojan and you're welcomed by the much-hated blue screen of death, you could also lose all your data, including your beloved vacation pictures, financial documents, movies, massive research projects and more.

So to avoid crying your eyes out and spending hundreds of your hard-earned dollars resurrecting your dead drive, purchase an external drive and use Windows XP's or Vista's in-built backup app so you can button bash in peace. (For more information on how to back up your files in Windows Vista, check out our ‘Mirror Image' feature online at www.itp.net.)

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