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PC security: Your essential software toolbox

Don't fall victim! With these tools, services and tips, you can protect yourself against malware, phishing and theft.

By Eric Geier, PC World
November 06, 2012 10:30 AM ET

PC World - Mobile malware is getting lots of attention these days, but you cant forget about your PCs securityafter all, you probably still use it to pay bills, shop online, and store sensitive documents. You should fully protect yourself to lessen the chance of cybercriminals infiltrating your computer and your online accounts, capturing your personal information, invading your privacy, and stealing your money and identity.

The future of malware

You need to guard against viruses, of course, but not all antivirus programs catch all threats, and some do better than others. You have to watch for many other types of threats, too: Malware invasions, hacking attacks, and cases of identify theft can originate from email, search engine results, websites, and social networks such as Facebook. They can also come in the form of links or advertisements for phishing and scam sites. But with some education on the topic, and the right tools, you can identify such scams and avoid falling victim.

If your children use your computer, you must also protect against inappropriate content such as violent games and adult sites, and you should monitor communication on social networks. Although the best approach is to keep a close eye on your kids while they use the computer, you can employ tools and services to filter content and monitor their Web usage when youre not around.

Protecting your data from computer thieves and from people who tap in to your Wi-Fi signal is also important. Encrypting your computer is the only way to ensure that a thief cannot recover your files, passwords, and other data. And unless you password-protect and encrypt your wireless network, anyone nearby can connect to it, monitor your Internet usage, and possibly access your computers and files.

Here are the security threats you should watch for, and the tools you can use to protect against them.

Viruses and other malware

Viruses, spyware, and other types of malware are still prevalent, and cybercriminals are constantly finding new ways to infect computers. Although adult sites and illegal file-sharing sites have a reputation for harboring malware, you dont have to browse the shady parts of the Web to become infected.

Installing a good antivirus or Internet security program should be your first step. However, not all are created equal. While no single antivirus product can protect against all of the millions of malware variants, some packages detect (and successfully remove) more threats than others do. For strong PC security, choose one of the top performers from our 2012 antivirus product-line reviews, such as Bitdefender Internet Security, Norton Internet Security, or G Data Internet Security. And in the future, be sure to check back for our more up-to-date reviews.

Although an antivirus package is your primary weapon for fighting malware, you might wish to add other tools to your arsenal for extra security.

OpenDNS provides content filtering that blocks many malware-infested sites and phishing scams. You can enable this online service on select computers, or on your router to protect all connected devices. The free OpenDNS FamilyShield automatically blocks malware, phishing sites, adult content, and proxy sites that try to bypass the filtering, and it requires only a simple setting change on your PCs or router. The OpenDNS Home and Premium DNS offerings filter malware and phishing sites, and let you make a free or paid account to customize the filtering and other features.

Originally published on www.pcworld.com. Click here to read the original story.

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