I had a discussion with my CIS 101 course yesterday regarding protecting their computers. Even though security is an illusion, it doesn't mean you can't protect yourself somewhat. Basically, your goal is not to be airtight and perfect - if someone is motivated enough to hack YOU, they probably will be able to. However, if they are just looking to hack SOMEONE, you want to present enough challenge that they move on to someone else.
One of the problems is that the Windows operating system includes no virus protection and only the latest versions came with a firewall (which is rather basic). Another problem is that many computers may come with anti-virus software installed, but only for a trial period. The problem is that you are protected against any viruses that were released up to your last patch date, but that is all. Any new viruses can slip through and infect you.
There are ways that you can upgrade this protection for free.
First of all, many of our local students don't realize that if they have Optimum or Comcast, they are entitled to free security software. Both of the high speed Internet service providers give out security suites. Optimum gives you CA's Internet Security Suite for free, while Comcast gives you the free McAfee suite.
For anti-virus software, there is a free tool called AVG anti-virus that I always recommend to students. You can get the AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition on their Web site:
In terms of a firewall, you can always upgrade from the Microsoft one. I used a free version of the ZoneAlarm software package for many years, until I got the free McAfee suite. You can download this from the following site:
Are any of these programs 100% foolproof? No. However, if you have nothing, this will make you a harder target, and really, that's all you can ask for. Remember, in a herd of animals, the predators go after the easiest targets. Don't be that easy target.