Hey everybody, Ash's recent post about spyware made me think about safe Internet surfing. These days, it is far too easy for a malicious website (or banner, or message board post) to affect your computer. So, some quick suggestions to keep your computer safe while online. Anyone with good info feel free to chime in.
First, keep your computer up to date with security patches. Windows 2000 and XP work pretty well with Microsoft Update. Microsoft tends to release one batch of updates per month, often between the 10th to 18th.http://update.microsoft.com/microsoftupdate/v6/default.aspx?ln=en-us
Most Linux users will know this, but tools like AutoRPM and even Cpanel can be used to keep Linux and Linux servers updated with new versions of software/RPMs.
Second, I really have to suggest moving away from Internet Explorer if you can. I keep it on my computer, for testing the site, but also to access websites that require you to use IE (which is a stupid way to design something). My current browser is Firefox.http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/
Users, keep those security zones and trusted sites set to levels that make you seem paranoid!
Keep your Java up to date. Sun's Java program is used a lot on websites, often to provide functionality, but it can be used to do things that should not work. The latest version is your best bet, as Sun tries to keep those holes patched.http://java.sun.com/javase/downloads/index.jsp
Always keep an updated antivirus program on your computer. I use Norton, which seems to be pretty stable and does not give me problems. Also, use either a hardware or software firewall. Many wireless routers now come with firewall functionality as part of their functions. I believe that zone alarm is still free:http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/home.jsp
Use AdAware Personal or another spyware detector and check your computer often:http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/
As a catch-all, the US Cert site's tips for cyber security:http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/