Go into the control panel to find the security settings, says Jennifer Leach, a consumer education specialist with the Federal Trade Commission.
The higher you set your security, the more you are going to screen out, dangerous and harmless. According to Leach, medium to medium-high is fine for most people.
"If you're extremely cautious and you want to set it high, your friends might start telling you you're not getting their e-mails or you might see Web pages aren't loading. I think if you set them pretty low, a lot of stuff's going to creep through," she says.
3. Up the 'anti' with softwareNext, up the anti -- antivirus and antispyware. These can be packaged separately or together. Spyware is software installed surreptitiously by outsiders on your computer that stealthily collects information as you navigate the Internet. Only some spyware is actually malicious; the spyware that marketers use is sometimes called adware. Viruses are pervasive and pernicious. More than 90 percent of all viral attacks go after the consumer, according to David Miner, senior director of Financial Services Industry Solutions at Symantec. "One out of every 233 e-mails that comes in is going to carry some kind of malicious code. With odds like that stacked against you, you can't afford to go out without protection."
Immediately download or activate antivirus and antispyware software, he advises.
"Often the way computers are sold these days, it comes bundled with software with a free 30- or 90-day trial. If you don't already have other antivirus software, you should click it on -- you can shop during the free trial period, but you should make sure that you have something running before you start surfing the Web," says Dan Salsburg, assistant director in the Division of Marketing Practices at OnGuard Online.
"If your computer doesn't come with anything, you can try free shareware while you are deciding. Look to something like Zone Alarm, Ad-Aware, or Spybot Search & Destroy," suggests Miner.
4. Run scans to stay currentUnlike fashion, keeping up with computer security trends is easy. Just set automatic updates and let them run.
"Having the best security system in the world doesn't do you any good unless you keep it current," Miner says.
From the time the computer is boxed until you bring it home and plug it in, a lot can change: Either new threats arise or security flaws are detected in the software, so it is important to get the updates immediately.
"New attacks are being created daily," warns Miner. Set your protection updates to run regularly: daily is best. Then run your full system scans regularly against viruses and spyware.
5. Take wireless precautionsEven if you're a giving person, you can't afford to share your wireless connection with the neighbors. Letting people piggyback on your connection sucks up bandwidth, slowing you down. Worse: They could potentially see everything on your computer.