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Protect your PC in the web's worst neighborhoods

Alex Castle | Feb. 13, 2014
Shady download sites. Fake error warnings. Phishing, so much phishing. Avoid these dangers with a good security suite and an abundance of caution.

Thanks to sophisticated spam filtering on popular webmail service like Gmail, email isn't quite the wasteland it once was. Still, it's one of the easiest ways to get infected with a virus or to have your identity stolen. Just follow these two rules, and you'll be fine—doubly so if you have a security suite installed, as most premium options protect against email-based risks.

- Email rule #1: Don't open attachments that you weren't expecting.
If you get an email from someone you don't know that comes with any sort of attachment—even something that sounds totally normal like a JPG or PDF—don't open it. Simple as that. If the email is from someone you do know, but you weren't expecting to receive a file from them, don't open it. Send them a text message or something and ask if they meant to send it to you. One of the most common ways viruses propagate themselves is by taking over your address book and sending a copy of themselves to all your friends.

- Email rule #2: Don't log-in to sites you visit via email.
You've probably heard of phishing by now, but just to refresh your memory, it's the name for the class of email scams that work by tricking you into going to a fake version of a popular website. Once you're on the fake website, you're prompted to log in. When you enter your account name and password, that precious data goes straight to identity thieves.

The simple way to avoid getting phished is to avoid sites that require logging in through an email link. If you get an email from Amazon or eBay that says you need to make some change to your account, just visit the site like you always would—type it into your browser's address bar, click on a browser bookmark, or search for it in Google—and take care of the problem there.

But wait, there's more
These basic steps should keep you safe in the deep, dark corners of the web.  Keeping your PC safe and secure is simple enough...but only if you know what to look for.


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