The main things to do in order to keep your computer secure are:
1) Keep your software updated, new security flaws in windows are found all the time, new viruses and worms exploit these flaws on poorly maintained computers to spread. Microsoft update
2) Have an up to date and good virus scanner (please see below for links and please visit the independent reviews)
3) Have a good secure firewall and keep it updated (see below for information)
4) Choose a good password for your computer, not anything in the dictionary or someones name as these are easily crackable and would leave your computer wide open Please see here for some help on choosing a password
A forum post about how to secure your system (discusses some peer guardian, some anti virus stuff and more)
Thread about securing xp Also has information about antiviruses and has some firewall comparisons and ways to keep your computer safe.
If you are running any p2p program (especially kazaa) or download and use cracks then having a good antivirus program running and kept up to date is very important and even if u do not do any of the activities mentioned a virus checker is still a very useful item of software to have.
What are viruses, worms and trojans
General guide toviruses.
Information on viruses that have been discovered from symantec
WHAT IS THE BEST ANTIVIRUS
There is no single 'best' antivirus product available they all have pros and cons. (ie thoroughness / resource usage / speed of checking)
Judging by many, many previous votes on this topic the most popular in order are:
(NB all links point to homepages, for 'free' illegal copies search the verified hashes section)
1) Norton Antivirus This is the most popular and is definitely always among the front runners in tests of virus detection and removal. It is, however, considered by some to be a bit of a resource hog.
2) AVG This is close behind in popularity probably because it is free and in reviews of % detection it is usually ever so slightly behind Norton. No need for an illegal copy unless u want the pro version.
Lagging quite a way behind in popularity, though usually not in speed and thoroughness are
NOD32 A very impressive 5 year run of 100% detection of 'wild' viruses (from virus bulletin) and apparently low resource usage.
Kaspersky Lite / Pro
Trend micro PC cillin
Free Anti Virus Toolkit, on-demand anti-virus scanner Reviews
Mcafee Virus scanner
Free AV (free)
Avast free and non free versions
Fire AV free & non free antivirus packages (Note free version will find but not remove viruses, which sucks)
EZ Antivirus low resource using virus scanner, for a fairly low price.
ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE REVIEWS
If u prefer hard facts to popularity stats then the following independent reviewers have all conducted numerous tests of the above software and present their results and recommendations online:
1) The Virus bulletin seen by some as the definitive independent virus checker
2) Claymania presents an easy to view comparison of many of the top virus checkers
3) AV test
4) Even more
WHAT TO DO IF U GET A VIRUS
Each antivirus programme has its own specific guide as to what u should do in the event that u detect a virus and the program will inevitably guide u through the steps. If a virus gets past your scanner or the scanner cannot remove the virus here then u should consult the manual/help for your software or the website of the manufacturer. A very basic general guide can be found here.
Symantec provide tools to rid yourself of some of the common virii found on the web here
TEST YOUR ANTIVIRUS IS WORKING
EICAR antivirus test file This file will tell u if your antivirus software is working
ONLINE VIRUS SCANS (Most if not all will require the download of a few files, but not a full antivirus program)
Panda Active Scan Scans your computer without u having to install a virus scanner
House Call Another online virus scanner
GFI trojan scanner An online scanner for detecting trojan infection.
BitDefender Free Online Virus Scan
Symantec Security Scan & Virus Detection
RAV AntiVirus Online Virus Scan!
Danish Antivirus scan
WANT TO RID THE FASTTRACK NETWORK OF VIRUSES?
Paul started a topic on a sort of project to lower the amount of viruses on the fasttrack network and lists some of the infected files.
WHAT IS A FIREWALL
A firewall protects your network from unwanted Internet traffic. The primary functions of a firewall are to let good traffic pass through while ?bad? traffic gets blocked. The most important part of a firewall is its access control features that distinguish between good and bad traffic.
When installed, a firewall exists between your computer(s) and the Internet. The firewall lets you request web pages, download files, chat, etc. while making sure other people on the internet can not access services on your computer like file or print sharing. Some firewalls are pieces of software that run on your computer. Other firewalls are built into hardware and protect your whole network from attacks.
Everyone connected to the Internet should be running some sort of firewall. Programs can be downloaded on the Internet that can scan huge ranges of IP address for vulnerabilities like file sharing services. These programs are easy to download and run. Almost no network knowledge is needed to use these programs to exploit or harm your computer. Any kind of firewall will keep you safe from these types of attacks. Read rest of this short article
More info on what a firewall is
THE BEST FIREWALL
Most of the following companies offer free and pro versions, usually the free versions are either limited in terms of effectiveness or have fairly poor customisability. The pro versions can usually be found with a quick search of the verifieds section
Sygate, home of the highest rated firewall at the moment recommended)
ZoneAlarm free and pro firewalls Pro version is good, but isn't free
Kerio Personal Firewall
Norton Personal Firewall
Tiny Personal Firewall
Agnitum Personal firewall
Free online scan Tests your firewall and set up for security holes.
Shields Up free online scan of your ports (tests your firewall)
Download a port scanner a program you download and run which tests your firewall setup for vulnerabilities.
Sygate Stealthscan Tests how well your firewall is hiding your ports
Sygate Trojanscan Tests your computer for trojans
Another online port scanner from broadband reports
Another trojan scanner
Online security 'audit', basically tests firewall, port and browser settings
List of Manual trojan checks you can do