Five easy tips to stay safe online

The September issue of Consumer Reports includes tips on the best way a consumer can stay safe online:

- Activating protection. Consumers should turn on their operating system's firewall, spam blocker, or other built-in security application if it has one. Also activate spam filtering and other online protection provided by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or e-mail service.

- Shutting down. Turning off the computer when not using it for long periods (or at least disconnecting the Internet cable) can reduce the chance that a malicious remote computer will access it.

- Using public computers with care. Consumers should not conduc tfinancial or other personal business on computers at libraries, hotels, or airports. The same goes for using a personal computer on a publicwireless network.

- Considering Mac. Although Mac owners face the same problems with spam and phishing as Windows users, they have far less to fear from viruses and spyware. Because Macs are less prevalent than Windows-based machines, online criminals get less of a return on their investment when targeting them.

- Watching downloads. The myriad of free utilities, games, and other software on the Internet can be useful, but many are laden with viruse sand spyware. Stick to downloads from well-known manufacturers or trusted sites.