A. The amount of malicious software on the Web has increased greatly recently. Here are some guidelines to help protect yourself:

Practice Safe Browsing. Avoid unfamiliar or untrusted Web sites, especially Web sites that advertise "too good to be true" deals. Don't install unfamiliar third-party toolbars. I recommend you use only the MSN toolbar (http://toolbar.msn.com/ ) or the Google toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com ). You can increase your browsing security by taking these four steps:

  1. Set the Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) security level to High.
  2. Add Web sites you consider safe to Trusted Sites.
  3. Use plain text to read the email messages you receive.
  4. Block pop-up windows in your browser.

See http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/online/browsing_safety.mspx for directions about how to configure the above steps. For more tips on safe surfing, visit http://www.intranetjournal.com/spyware/prevention.html .

Apply only approved security updates. Always follow the appropriate method to update your machine, and use fixes only from http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com . Ensure that your machine is running the latest patches.

Check before you click it! Exercise caution when you receive Instant Messaging (IM) file transfers or links from both known and unknown sources. A malicious user can use your Buddy/Contact lists so that it looks like someone you know is sending you a link to a file. Before you click any links always verify with the sender that he or she did in fact send you the link.

Implement antivirus protection. Always run antivirus products with up-to-date virus definition files. You can find a list of antivirus suppliers at http://www.microsoft.com/security/partners/antivirus.asp . You can also manually run the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool . You should also use antispyware software. Microsoft has an antispyware solution available here.