How to Protect Yourself While Online
Firewalls will basically prevent certain software on your PC to connect online, as well as prevent other PC's to connect to yours. It's never 'bulletproof', but will work in most cases. ZoneAlarm is pretty friendly to new users, and should work just fine. It's also free for personal use so you don't have to spend money on it. If you don't like it, you can try searching Google for some other software, there's plenty of free ones out there and most of them do their job. Just make sure you download it from the official website, or websites like Tucows, because malicious software can also be distributed that way.
If you do happen to get some malicious code on your PC, it is vital to prevent them from doing damage in time. This is where antiviruses help. Personally, I use AVG, but again, it's up to you to choose. You can also check Norton or McAfee, those are also pretty popular.
If you prefer less hassle, you can pick up some of those bundled packs that already include both firewall and anti-virus. Some even contain other goodies.
Did your homepage ever change without your knowledge? Did all kinds of advertising popups appear on your desktop? Any new browser toolbars?
Spybot Search & Destroy will check your PC and registry for any unwanted software, and in most cases will succesfully remove them. There are other alternatives, but I always seem to go back to Spybot after trying them. Did I mention it's free?
If someone else besides you is using your computer, and you don't want them to see your browsing history, Spybot will succesfully clean it.
I recommend scanning your registry each time after you visit any porn sites; it will take a few minutes but if anything slipped through Spybot will find it.
Never use Internet Explorer!
This is important. It's known for years now that Firefox is a better and more secure browser, and there are dozens of reasons why you should use Firefox.
Even if you're not a webmaster, and know little about making websites, I highly recommend installing Web Developer Toolbar. It's a FF extension which will make it very very easy to block unwanted code, ads, popups etc.
I won't get into this topic much because we all know what spam is. If you really want to read more, check Wikipedia.
Some of the aforementioned software can also check your mailbox and delete any unwanted emails.
But there's no way you're 100% protected from email spam. Sooner or later you will get a mail, some may even look tempting at first but still, it's spam. If they tell you to "click for free porn", or "buy viagra, cialis, xanas, ..." just mark it as spam and delete it.
There is no real way to prevent spam, but there is one important thing you can (not) do: don't sign up for newsletters! Unless you really trust a website, don't sign up.
And don't forget - never trust porn websites.
Use common sense
Porn is rarely free. If those flashing banners on porn websites can convince you otherwise, think again.
Did you ever see those banners showing you're the 999.999th visitor? Do you really think you're 999.999th visitor on every second porn website?
Most porn websites will ask you to install their toolbar, their video player, or their downloader to access "free porn". Never, ever install those things. You can have all the software in the world but it won't help if you keep downloading and running those kind of programs. In most cases, you can easily spot them by their name: download.exe, player.exe or similar. But it can also be masked as some other type of software which looks tempting. If they promise free access to their porn pictures and videos but you have to install their toolbar or something - trust me, all you will get is a messed up PC and a big bill to repair it.
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