Protect your online ID Phishing and viruses

Which? Archive

This article, Protect your online ID, was last updated on 23 July 2008 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Technology articles.

Are viruses a threat to my privacy?

Yes. Adware, spyware and other malicious software (malware) from online sources can invade your privacy and, in some cases, monitor keystrokes, hijack your email or use your identity to mail out spam. 

Anti-virus and anti-spyware protection are an absolute must on your home PC.

Similarly, a firewall will help to prevent anything from getting onto your computer.

Windows doesn’t come with any anti-virus protection, so you’ll need to get that yourself. AVG Anti-Virus is widely recommended, especially since it’s free.

A screengrab of Windows Defender

Windows Vista users have a built-in firewall and will find that adware and spyware are dealt with by the operating system's new Security Center. 

XP users who have kept their machines up to date can use the firewall that comes with the Service Pack 2 update. You can also download Windows Defender from Microsoft for free. 

To run a quick check for spyware using Windows Defender: go to Start > All Programs > Windows Defender. Click Scan.

What about scams and hoaxes?

Email scams and hoaxes range from preying on the gullible to forward emails onto all their friends, to claims that you've won a lottery. 

Before falling victim to the latest email doing the rounds, check on, and read Microsoft's hoax guidance.

How do I protect myself against phishing scams?

Phishing emails appear to come from a legitimate company asking you to provide your login details.

You use phishing filters within your web browser.

Internet Explorer 7

Go to Tools > Phishing Filter > Phishing Filter Settings and scroll down to make sure there’s a check next to ‘Turn on automatic website checking’.

FireFox 2

Go to Tools > Options > under the Security tab, make sure there’s a check next to where it says ‘Tell me if the site I’m visiting is a suspected forgery’.

How do I know when a web page is secure?

A secure website will be prefaced ‘https://’ rather than the usual ‘http://’ - the extra ‘s’ standing for ‘secure’.

In Internet Explorer and Firefox, a padlock icon also appears in the address bar every time you arrive at a secure page.

You can check the security certificate for a web page to make sure it’s genuine too.

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Go to Page > Security Report > View certificates. Under the details, you should be able to check that the certificate was issued to the correct site and whether or not it is valid.

Mozilla FireFox

Go to Tools > Page info > Security > View.

Cookies at Which? We use cookies to help improve our sites. If you continue, we'll assume that you're happy to accept our cookies. Find out more about cookies