Q. My PC works fine – why do I need to 'patch' it?
A. Criminals and hackers are constantly finding new ways to attack computers. When a new vulnerability is discovered, software companies release a patch to eliminate the threat.
Q. Is it risky if I don't patch my PC?
A. Some of the patches are for 'critical vulnerabilities'. Sometimes these can leave your PC wide open to criminals.
Q. Why patch if my anti-virus software is up to date?
A. It might feel like belt and braces but patching software can also bring performance improvements and add new security features. Also, it may protect your computer against viruses that aren't detected by anti-virus software.
Q. I am not a computer expert – is it difficult to do this?
A. No, it's not. Microsoft has automated the process to make it as easy as possible.
Q. Where do I do this?
A. To auto-update your PC, go to the Microsoft Windows Product Updates site, for Microsoft Office products like Word and Excel go to Office Update. Of course Apple users will need to visit Apple’s support website.
Q. How often do I need to do this?
A. You should check at least monthly although most operating systems can be set to do this automatically once you are up-to-date.
Q. What is a firewall?
A. It's a program that blocks unwanted traffic between your PC and the Internet.
Q. How does it work?
A. Think of it as a strong-armed bouncer standing between your computer and the Internet to keep out the riff-raff. You can decide which programs are allowed to connect to the Internet. You can add legitimate programs like Outlook Express to the guest list but bar a program that wants to connect for dubious reasons.
Q. Do I need one?
A. Yes. Everybody should use a firewall. They seek to stop incoming viruses, called Trojans, attacking your computer and block unauthorised programs on your computer accessing other machines over the Internet.
Q. Where do I get one from?
Q. Do I need this software?
A. We recommend you run an updated anti-virus program on your computer frequently.
Q. What do viruses do?
A. Some are just irritating but most are more sinister. For example, viruses can cause your computer to malfunction, spread viruses to other machines, send out spam email or give hackers access to your private files and information.
Q. I am a technophobe - can I learn to use anti-virus software?
A. Yes, it's not as bad as you might imagine. Read the manual or help files that comes with the software and ask an expert or well-informed friend for help if necessary. Doing nothing is asking for trouble.
Q. Where can I get such a programme?
A. Commonly used commercial programmes (see below) can be obtained online or from local shops:
Q. What is spyware?
A. This is a general term for hidden programs on your PC that invade your privacy. They gather data about you and send it over the Internet without your permission. Sometimes it can hijack your web browser and display unwanted pop-up advertising on your computer.
Q. Is this a bad thing?
A. Yes. At best it can slow down your Internet connection and your computer; at worst it can pass on confidential information like credit card numbers and passwords to criminals.
Q. Is this an invasion of privacy?
A. Yes. Sometimes it is installed alongside another programme (typically peer-to-peer file sharing programs used to download music over the Internet) and you have to read the small print very carefully to see what you are agreeing to do. Sometimes it just installs without your permission. In most cases it can be very difficult to remove without anti-spyware software.
Q. Can spyware be dangerous?
A. Yes. Some spyware is like viruses but not all spyware programmes will be picked up by anti-virus software or thwarted by a firewall.
Q. How can I tell if I have spyware on my PC?
A. Typical symptoms include a slow computer or Internet connection, unexpected changes in your web browser and unwanted pop-up adverts. Some spyware is designed to stay completely undetected while it scans for private information so the only way to be completely sure is to use anti-spyware software and scan regularly.
Q. Where do I get this?
A. If you are running Windows XP then we recommend downloading Microsoft's own anti-spyware program, freely available from:
If you are running Windows 98, or another operating system, there are several free anti-spyware programs available. Like anti-virus software, you need to use the latest versions every time you scan. We recommend that you scan at least monthly and whenever you see anything unusual happening on your computer. Since different anti-spyware programmes detect different threats, we recommend that you run two or three different programmes from the following list:
Q. What is 'phishing'?
A. 'Phishing' is an attempt by fraudsters to 'fish' for your banking details. 'Phishing' attempts usually appear as an email appearing to be from your bank. Within the email you are then usually encouraged to click a link to a fraudulent log on page designed to capture your details.
Q. How do they get my email address?
A. Not from us. Lists of live email addresses are bought or swapped between unscrupulous parties.
Q. How do they know where I bank?
A. They don't - but if they send enough emails they are bound to reach some customers.
Q. The e-mail says it's from HSBC - is it?
A. There is a possibility that it may not be. We currently use secure 'My messages', from within Internet Banking, to advise you of service related issues or product changes. We may contact you by email, but we will never ask you to click on a link which then directs you to enter or confirm your security details. By contrast, this is typically what a 'phishing' email does.
Q. What should I do if I get a suspicious looking email?
A. If in doubt, delete it. This caution should apply to all unexpected emails with links or attachments.
Q. What should I do if I believe I have been a victim of a 'phishing' fraud?
A. You should call us on 914-7676 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, so that we can investigate.