Online security tips for the web savvy

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Are you staying safe online?

It's Get Safe Online week and, if you're like us, you will tend to skip over lists of security tips because you consider yourself web savvy and have probably heard them all before.

But, as a heavy web user, you are quite possibly more at risk than the majority of people who can plead ignorance to what they should be doing.

TechRadar asked's Managing Director Tony Neate and Prevx's security guru Jacques Erasmus for their tips on how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

1. Don't expect to notice a difference if you are infected

"We are past the days of viruses that cripple your computer, so don't expect to necessarily notice a huge difference in performance with an infected computer," Jacques Erasmus states.

"Everything could be running smoothly with CPU and processes not registering anything abnormal, while every piece of personal information on your laptop, including bank details, could be being transmitted to cybercriminals."

Tony Neate agrees: "If they are good then they don't want you to know your computer is affected and they ARE good."

"The first thing that many of these criminals do when they get control of computer is protect it. They will actually put antivirus software on your machine to protect it from other people because they are protecting their investment.

"The last thing they want to do is tip you off that you have been compromised."

2. Use TWO antivirus programs

"I always make sure I am running at least two separate security software products which are compatible with one another," says Erasmus.

"The reason I do this is because spyware, viruses and Trojans have got a LOT smarter in the last year or so and are now far more intelligent, some are even created solely with the purpose of bypassing major antivirus products.

"I have seen pieces of malware which connect to a computer, register what AV software is installed on it, and then decide which pieces of malware can get round this particular protection.

"By having two pieces of security software installed you can be assured you are getting strength in depth and one should always be behaviour-based, stopping the threats that are trying to outpace the signature updates issued by the major AV vendors."

3. Keep your OS and applications up to date

"For people who want to turn off their antivirus and firewall my recommendation would be to at least make sure your apps and OS are patched," adds Erasmus.

"This will make the job of getting the malware onto your machine so much harder."

Neate tells TechRadar that this is increasingly prevalent in cybercrime. "It's not just about updating your OS and antivirus any more," he says. "It's applications that are the latest exploit for people to get into PCs."

Your web browser is the most obvious route in over the internet, including the popular plug-ins that you run to view media.

"Browser flaws are one way of targeting people, and a very effective way of doing so," adds Erasmus.

"These bugs account for a very large amount of the infections we see on machines today, and this is mainly because they were not updated. I would say make sure you keep your security software as up to date as possible and use complementary security software products and you should be safe.

"The possibility of cyber-attacks shouldn't stop people enjoying the Internet and using the tools they want, but caution should always be exercised because it is a largely unregulated space.

"A popular way at the moment for malware to get onto your system is via Adobe Acrobat, where PDF files, which are specially crafted to exploit a vulnerability in older versions of Acrobat, are infecting thousands a day, and it's purely because the third-party application has not been updated."

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.