Using Internet Explorer Zones
Windows Vista and IE7 have a new feature called Protected Mode. This feature makes your system much more resilient to malicious attacks by limiting how a malicious web site can access your computer. Vista enables Protected Mode by default but there are some important points to remember. First of all, IE does not use Protected Mode for web sites that are in your Trusted Sites zone. Often, when a web site doesn't work properly we just make it a trusted site and everything works. But before adding that web site you should always think twice.
Do you really trust that site?
My 10-year-old son recently shared with me his way of judging a site's trustworthiness: if he has heard of it on TV, it is probably safe. That's actually pretty good advice.
IE7 has a built-in phishing filter that warns you of known malicious phishing, spyware, and scam sites. You should always enable this as a layer of defense against these types of attacks. Furthermore, several companies make add-ins for Internet Explorer that not only warn you of potential phishing sites but some of them also provide a reputation rating for known web sites.
Understand the Prompts
The UAC prompts are actually very well thought out. They run in a secure mode that isn't part of your regular desktop. The dimming of the screen prevents you from being tricked into interacting with malicious programs.
The prompts use several colors, ranging from blue to red, indicating the potential severity of the action you are about to take. But most importantly, those prompts are a reminder that you are crossing the line between a regular user and a privileged user. Pause before you act and remember that Cancel is always the safe choice if it turns out you really did want to take the action, just repeat what you did and hit Continue this time.
Install Anti-Virus Protection
Windows Vista includes Windows Defender and a built-in firewall as some protection, but you still need to install an anti-virus program.
You may find that can be confusing because there are so many to choose from. The fact is that the differences between the major brands are subtle and your choice probably isn't going to make the difference between being protected or not. I suggest asking a few people what they use and see if they are happy (or perhaps more importantly if they are unhappy) with the product.
Use BitLocker on Laptops
If you use a laptop for work or are just worried about the personal data you have stored, consider using the BitLocker feature available in the Enterprise and Ultimate versions of Vista. BitLocker allows you to encrypt your entire hard drive to protect the contents if your laptop ever gets lost or stolen. You don't want your personal information accessible to anyone else and if you store the personal information of others on your laptop, you certainly don't want to be the next news headline.
Vista security is a bit of a change from the way we are used to using our systems, but that's probably what we need. Take advantage of these changes to retrain yourself on a new standard of information security. Think about what you are doing and pause when you see the warning flags. And just be glad that your PC doesn't tell you how fat you are.