Simple steps you can take to protect your computer from being hijacked by hackers:
Make sure your Windows computer remains up to date on security patches from Microsoft. Open Internet Explorer, visit http://update.microsoft.com , and let it scan your PC for missing updates. Install any security patches it says you need. Windows users also can configure their PCs to automatically download patches as Microsoft makes new ones available.
Use antivirus and firewall software. These are essential lines of defense for any Windows user. Several excellent free products are available, including Spybot Search & Destroy ( www.safer-networking.org ), Ad-Aware ( www.lavasoft.de ) and Microsoft AntiSpyware ( www.microsoft.com/downloads ).
Be extremely cautious about clicking on links or file attachments that arrive via e-mail or instant message. E-mail and IM networks are the most popular ways to spread viruses and worms, and many will appear to have been sent from someone you know. If someone sends you a brief message urging to you click on a link, consider sending a reply message or calling the sender to verify its authenticity.
Be careful what you download. Take a minute or two to research software you download before you install it; you may get more than you bargained for. Also, avoid downloading programs from "peer-to-peer" (P2P) file-sharing networks popular with song swappers; a large percentage of these programs harbor viruses, spyware or other unwanted pests.
Browse the Web with an alternate browser. Much of today's spyware is foisted upon users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. Consider surfing the Net with a browser that is not so cozy with the underlying operating system, such as Firefox or Opera.