Page last updated at 18:06 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

How to protect yourself online

Warning web page
If you have seen this picture (on the right) pop up on your computer screen, this page is for you.

You will now be aware that the BBC's technology TV programme, Click, has discovered that your computer has been infected by malicious software.

This software was originally designed by hackers to control computers remotely, and to carry out tasks, including sending spam e-mails, without your knowledge.

We would like to reassure you that we have not accessed any of your personal details, or damaged your computer, although this may have happened prior to the BBC acquiring the software.

We are alerting you to the risks from hackers, as your system is clearly not secure.

How did BBC Click gain access?

The TV programme acquired a piece of software which enables the user to control thousands of home PCs around the world. This network of machines is known as a botnet.

Your machine became infected because it was not protected against malicious attacks. These can take place in a variety of ways - including via e-mails or downloads. Infections can even take place when you visit a compromised website.

We destroyed this particular botnet when we sent the desktop background message to your PC. But your computer is still not secure.

Below is a step-by-step guide detailing some simple steps that will help you scan your PC and protect it from future attack.


Step 1
1. Click the Start button
2. Then click Settings
3. Then click Control Panel
This guide is for Windows XP – other versions of Windows may vary slightly.

Step 2
Double-click the icon which is illustrated in the magnified image above.
The layout on your machine might be different – just look for the shield icon.

Step 3
In this window you can see what security measures are switched ON or OFF. Ideally you need all of them to be switched ON. The inset screen shows the Security Center in Windows Vista.

Step 4
1. Under Managed security settings(1) click Windows Firewall.
A firewall can warn you if a computer program is trying to run or connect to the internet. It will also give you the chance to deny that program permission, if you did not ask it to do anything.

Step 5
2. In the window that pops up, the best setting to select is On (recommended).
3. Then click OK to switch on the firewall.

Step 6
Automatic Updates
1. Under Managed security settings¹ click Automatic Updates.
Microsoft regularly updates your Windows operating system to fix bugs and vulnerabilities which let infections in. It is very important to allow these updates to happen automatically.

Step 7
Automatic Updates
2. In the window that pops up, choose Automatic (recommended), and specify when and how often you want Windows to check for updates. If you are unsure, choose every day and pick a time.
3. Click Apply.
4. Click OK.
Step 8
Virus Protection
Anti-virus software can scan your computer and check for dangerous programs that infect your machine. This is software you will need to get from a third party - some versions are free and others paid-for. Microsoft has advice under Virus Protection on just some of the brands available.
Step 9
When all protection measures are active, the bars in the Security Center will turn green.

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You can see the results of this investigation in a future Click programme.


If you have any queries, please use the form below to contact us. Write your comment and click "Send". Remember to include an e-mail address.

This help information and the original screen message have been sent/supplied to you by the BBC Click technology programme. See for more details.

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Disclaimer: Please note that, while all your comments and questions will be read, we cannot guarantee an individual reply to all of them.

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