Protecting yourself can be a multi-layered exercise. It's not about running an anti-virus program anymore (although that still helps), it's about having the common sense not to divulge personal information that may be used maliciously.
Here are some ways to stay safe while online:
- Keep your (real copy!) of your antivirus program patched up and updated regularly
- Perform regular system scans (auto-scan daily if you keep your machine on overnight)
- Use a good Personal Firewall to complement your Antivirus program (here's a good set of reviews)
- If you use Microsoft as your operating system, keep it updated regularly.
- If you use Mac as your operating system, keep it updated regularly.
- Avoid opening files emailed from people you don't know. (they may be phishing for victims)
- Avoid opening files from people you DO know (they may be victims themselves, so run your antivirus program to scan the email attachment before you open it)
- If you're operating a Wireless Network, ensure that you only authorize those machines that you know. (Use WEP or WPA over your connection. Here's how)
- When using an IM program, ensure that you do not divulge personal information to anyone you dont' know properly.
- When blogging, try to stay anonymous as best as you can. Anyone with half-a brain can find out who you are by simply following your posts and understanding your habits.
- Finally, stay away from suspicious websites! You can be the next cyber victim by being redirected to a webpage that promises you fame & fortune!
Even with these safeguards in place, you may still be prone to becoming victims of other scams by cyber-criminals, but it'll certainly make it more difficult for them to steal anything from you.