The golden rules of safe net surfing

Following the publication of the latest Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, a software security expert gives his top tips for keeping your computer safe.

According to the latest Microsoft Security Intelligence Report published earlier this week, Software Activation Key Generators (or Keygens), are the single biggest threat to computer security at the moment. A favorite tool of people who use copied or pirated software, Keygens generate a license or key code that will activate and authenticate a duplicated application. However Microsoft has discovered that more and more of these seemingly harmless programs are being used to hide and deliver malware to users' computers.

Therefore the easiest way to protect yourself is to not use them. But what about other common virus and malware threats such as Blacoles -- that use infected webpages to send malicious software -- and vulnerabilities in plug-ins such as Adobe Flash Player and Java?

Christopher Boyd, senior threat researcher at GFI Software gives his advice and tips for safe surfing and computer use:

- You should always follow some golden rules: keeping your operating system and antivirus definitions updated will go a long way to keeping them safe. There are also a variety of browser extensions such as AdBlock Plus, NoScript and Ghostery which will prevent advertisers from tracking you and also reduce the possibility of a malicious script / pop-up executing inside browser windows.

- Owners of mobile devices should set installed applications to update automatically, and check the settings options to see if the operating system also needs updating.

- If you're unsure of bit.ly links on a Twitter post, you can add a "+" at the end of the bit.ly URL to see the stats page for the link -- which will reveal the full URL and potentially help you avoid an obviously spammy link.

- Online surveys are a popular scam, usually as a form of bait to convince you to fill in offers and sign up to expensive ringtone services. Whatever they're offering in return for filling out these surveys is most likely an empty promise. On a related note, beware of fake applications that spam contacts on both Facebook and Tumblr -- a key giveaway is that they'll ask you to fill in surveys to "unlock" something.

- Rogue links are still a popular scam tactic in IM and P2P chat programs -- most commonly, messages asking if you've seen a video or heard what "someone is saying about you." If in doubt, always try to confirm the sender actually did send you that clickable link.

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