Imagine using your computer for a week without double-clicking your web browser. Impossible, right? Most of us use our browsers on a daily basis, so make sure you know how to keep your personal information hidden from prying eyes while you're online.
Whatever web browser you're using right now, it's a sad fact that there are hackers out there looking to exploit vulnerabilities in the software. Web browsers are updated all the time to make them safer, but hackers can still trick you into clicking a dodgy download link.
Keep scrolling for advice on how to stay secure online, or sign up for Which? Computing for more jargon-free advice.
If you're exploring the Which? website on your computer, there's a good chance you're doing so using the pre-installed web browser your device arrived with.
This explains the popularity of the best-known web browsers - we're talking about Apple Safari, Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. Alternatively, you may have downloaded a third-party browser, such as Brave, Mozilla Firefox or Tor.
These web browsers all offer similar built-in security features but, if used incorrectly, you could expose your personal information to hackers.
Criminals exploit bugs every chance they get. To keep your device secure, make sure you're running the latest version of your go-to web browser. Browsers are updated to fix dozens of bugs every month, with some considered serious enough to be software emergencies.
To check if the browser on your PC is up to date, follow these steps:
But although updating is a must if you're serious about security, it's not foolproof. In fact, around one in 20 users are still sticking with Internet Explorer, even though it has been superseded by Microsoft's new Edge browser.
If you're one of those people, you might want to consider choosing a modern browser receiving security updates.
Downloaded from official markets such as the Google Chrome Web Store, extensions are essentially optional upgrades, with a few offering security protections not available in the browsers themselves.
But be careful - web browser extensions can generate problems of their own, starting with the need to update them if they become vulnerable to a bug. We've also seen cases in the past where criminals have been able to sneak malicious extensions on to official markets disguised as legitimate tools.
Although browser makers claim they vet extensions, harmful apps can slip through undetected. Every time you download a browser extension, you're giving that app permission to access certain information on your PC. Harmful extensions can steal private data and redirect you to scam websites without you knowing.
Downloading a web browser extension is safe as long as you check which permissions the extension wants access to. Ask yourself if the permissions make sense - a calculator extension, for example, shouldn't ask to log your credit card information.
Having a reliable antivirus program running in the background while you browse will give you some peace of mind. We've tested free and paid-for antivirus software packages from big-name brands, including , , and .
To make sure you're treated to effective protection against malware, we test every antivirus software package for the features that matter the most. We consider how the antivirus will help you avoid scams, how easy it is to set up and whether or not it will slow down your computer.
The best antivirus software package we've tested excelled in our security tests, sniffing out viruses without trouble. However, our lowest-scoring antivirus struggled to defend well against data-grabbing malware.
Some adverts will try and convince you that your PC is infected and the only way to resolve the issue is to download their own software.
Take a look at the fake advert we've made below:
You might be tempted to click that enticing green button if you spot it dancing around on the side of your screen, but you really shouldn't. By downloading malicious software such as this, you're opening yourself up to hackers.
If you do accidentally click a link that you think might harm your PC, run an antivirus scan right away. It's better to run a 'full scan' instead of a 'quick scan', although this will take slightly longer to finish.
If you're a keen online shopper, or do most of your work at a computer, you'll probably be juggling lots of different usernames and passwords for various online accounts.
By teaming up with an effective password manager, you can securely save all of your passwords, or generate a single, super-secure password that works across all of your different apps. Popular password managers include LastPass, 1Password and KeePass.
Additional reporting by Tom Morgan.