We have not yet discovered the full potential of the Internet. It has changed in a very short space of time from being a static page to an Interactive Community. You can do your shopping, research a project, chat with friends, watch a movie, all without getting up from your chair. The Internet is evolving into something that will make our lives better. But as the Internet becomes more Interactive, the potential for fraud becomes greater.
We store information on our computers, after all that is part of the reason why we bought it in the first place. it is that information that is so valuable to hackers. Even if you take precautions, there will still be something left over, either an email, something in the recycle bin or something hidden deep in a cache file.
Whilst the Internet is a serious worry when it comes security, you are also faced with the physical loss of your PC through theft. You are facing a two pronged attack and need to protect yourself on both fronts.
Make a back up, better yet make two backups. It is possible to buy an external drive equivalent in size to your hard drive at a reasonable cost. At least once a week you copy over your complete hard drive, so if your computer crashes or is stolen, you have a backup. Having two portable drives and alternating between them means you keep one elsewhere (your office for example).
Once you have made a backup, you can encryptt your hard drive using Truecrypt. Truecrypt is a very powerful program that can encrypt your whole drive or crate a vault in which you can store valuable information. It is open source and best of all free. This will protect your personal information from both online theft and physical theft of the machine.
Remember to always make a back up before making changes to your drive.
Your next step is to place a barrier between you and all the nasties out there. There are some very good free programs out there, often better than their paid commercial cousins.
You need to layer your security, at the very least you need an anti-virus program, a firewall and an intrusion detection program.
It is possible to secure your PC with free software. Free does not mean cheap. When making a decision I always research the product on the Internet first.
I use Avast, and as I am online all day have set it to auto-update which does several times a day. When you launch a program, it will check it first to see it has not been compromised.
Another good Anti Virus is Grisoft's AVG. It is as good as Avast, and some will prefer it.
The two that I recommend are Online Armour, which I use and Commando. Both prompt u when u run a program for the first time. This is an important safety feature as u avoid rouge programs starting without you permission
This is where it starts getting complicated. I use the commercial version of a-Square for protection against malware, trojans and other threats. There is a free version which whilst it does not scan in real-time gives good protection as long as u run a scan regularly. i also use Adaware and Spybot S&D to remove scumware.
I also use Panda's root kit to hunt and remove rootkits.
Security is a very serious matter if you use windows. Don’t cut corners, your machine will be compromised. But if becomes to much of pain, change to UBUNTU, a South African distribution developed by Mark Shuttleworth's company Canonical. It is considered by meant to be the best distro. In fact when windows complain that Linux is eroding their business, they always target Ubuntu. try it you will not regret it!