Microsoft's current Windows version apparently is unable to secure users out of the box, so the company is resorting to public-service announcements on its Web site to tell users how to secure new PC systems they might receive during the holidays. "With a few simple precautions, PCs can be better protected from computer viruses and other online hazards," the Microsoft Web site states. "Why should users take safety precautions with a new PC? Because they won't have a secured connection to the Internet unless the new PC has a firewall enabled, is up-to-date using Windows Update, and includes fully updated antivirus software."
   Enabling the firewall is just the first step. Users should then enable Windows XP's Automatic Updates feature and visit the Microsoft Windows Update Web site to download any recently released critical security updates, software upgrades, and new drivers. Microsoft also recommends that users invest in antivirus software. The company notes that although most new PCs ship with antivirus software, several companies, including BlackICE, McAfee Security, Symantec, Tiny Software, and Zone Labs, make XP-compatible antivirus packages.
   These temporary security measures are designed as a stopgap measure until XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) ships in the first half of 2004. XP SP2 includes a host of new security features and, perhaps more important, enables them by default, unlike the current XP version. "Because of an increase in the number of malicious attacks made by computer hackers, consumers have asked for more protection," Will Poole, senior vice president of the Windows Client business division, said. "While we are planning to turn the firewall on by default in the next service pack for Windows XP, we're taking steps to help educate our customers about the steps they can take today to help protect their PCs and their information."
   Microsoft's Web site lists three steps you can take to protect your new PC. Visit the "Protecting your PC" Web site for more information about improving your computer's security.