We've rounded up 10 simple tips that can ensure you stay safe from the biggest security nightmares on the web.

Hackers make a healthy living out of exploiting known security vulnerabilities in software and they rely heavily on the fact that many users just haven't bothered to patch the flaw. For many users, they fear patching the flaw will be too complicated but in a number of cases it's in fact very simple.

We've rounded up 10 simple tips that can ensure you stay safe from the biggest security nightmares on the web.

Fix 1: Patch over the software bull's-eye

Have you turned off automatic updates for Windows and other programs on the rationale that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it?' Then consider this: your programs may be very, very broken, and you don't know it.

The days of big splashy viruses that announce themselves to PC users are over. The modern cyber criminal prefers to invisibly take control of your PC, and unpatched software gives them the perfect opportunity to do so.

Today, a hijacked web page – the modern digital crooks' attack of choice - will launch a bevy of probes against your PC in search of just one unpatched vulnerability that a probe can exploit. If it finds one, better hope your antivirus program catches the ensuing attack. Otherwise you likely won't even notice anything amiss as it infects your system.

Luckily, you can completely block the majority of web-based exploits by keeping all your programs, not just the operating system or your browsers, up-to-date. Attack sites ferret out holes in seemingly innocuous applications such as QuickTime and WinZip as well as in Windows and Internet Explorer.

So turn on automatic update features for any software that offers the service, it's your quickest and easiest option for getting patches.

Fix 2: Find the other holes

If every program used easy automatic updates and we were all smart enough to use them, the thriving malware business would take a serious hit. Until then, a free and easy security app from Secunia can help save the day.

The Secunia Personal Software Inspector, available as a free download, scans your installed software to let you know which out-of-date programs might be making your PC unsafe, but it doesn't stop there. For each old program it finds, it offers quick and easy action buttons such as one labeled Download Solution, which retrieves the latest software patch without you even having to open a browser.

The program also gives you links to the software vendor's site as well as Secunia's full report about the vulnerability on your system. You can choose to block future warnings about a particular program (but you should, of course, be careful before doing so). Secunia PSI isn't perfect, and doesn't always make it easy to update unsafe program components.

But for most apps it provides a quick and very important fix.

NEXT PAGE: Let the latest browsers fight for you

  1. Tips to ensure your PC is a lot safer
  2. Let the latest browsers fight for you
  3. Get the jump on fast-moving malware
  4. Develop an antiphishing habit
  5. More quick fixes

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