P2P users also should take care to limit the directories they share. It is not uncommon for users who rush through the process for installing programs that run those services to end up sharing the contents of their entire hard drive.
6. Download and use anti-spyware software.
Browse the Internet long enough and your PC will inevitably be infested with some form of spyware or adware, programs that sneak their way onto your machine by exploiting programming tricks, software flaws, or by piggybacking on "free" software packages. Regardless of how it gets on your machine, spyware and adware can slow your computer to a crawl, sap your Internet connection and snoop on your Web browsing activities.
Two very handy programs for ridding your PC of these pests are free: Lavasoft's AdAware, and SpyBot Search & Destroy. It's a good idea to run them both periodically -- just not at the same time -- and it's generally safe to delete whatever they find.
7. Periodically back up your data. You never know what you've got until it's gone. Don't wait until disaster strikes to think about backing up all those photos, documents, e-mails and other valuable personal data. Check out our primer on backing up your data.
The following is a list of resources to help educate consumers, teachers, parents and their children about ways to ensure their privacy and security online.
* www.staysafeonline.info: A comprehensive cyber-security education site sponsored by the National Cyber Security Alliance, a group run by some of the nation's largest information technology and Internet companies.
* www.cybercitizenship.org: a nonprofit group that's developing a national curriculum on "cyberethics" for educators. See also www.netsmartz.org.
* Safe at Any Speed: The Federal Trade Commission sponsors the broadband safety initiative.
* Shields Up!: To find out how just how vulnerable your system is, check out this site created by home user security guru Steve Gibson. With your approval, the system will probe your computer for common holes and vulnerabilities.
-- Compiled by Brian Krebs.