How to be sure of safe surfing


No connection to the internet is completely safe, but the risks can be minimised by using a firewall and regularly updated antivirus software.

A firewall prevents hackers from accessing your computer, while antivirus software removes any unwanted programs picked up while surfing the Net.

The basic firewall offered by ZoneAlarm is free and rated very well in the tests conducted by Which Computer? The same tests found that Avast is the best free antivirus software.

Ceri Stanaway, senior researcher at Which?, the consumer organisation, says that computer users should consider a security suite that allows them to manage all their security software in one place.

“ZoneAlarm’s security suite is easy to use and scored well across the board in our performance tests,” she says. She adds that dial-up connections are not inherently safer. “Broadband is ‘always on’ so there is a greater window of opportunity for hackers. But with dial-up there is always the risk that an auto-dial bug could divert your ISP’s phone number to a premium-rate line, leaving you with a bill for potentially hundreds of pounds.”

Although it is difficult to keep children completely safe online, there are some simple rules that can minimise the risks. It helps to keep the computer in a communal area so that you can monitor the sites being viewed. Only ever allow your children to use moderated chat rooms and tell them never to give out personal details.

Also encourage your children to tell you if they ever feel uncomfortable, upset or threatened by anything they see online