The safest way to read email/news is to do so using a shell account
so your box is acting like a terminal (your ISP's Unix or Linux box
would host your session). Then any compromise would compromise your
ISP's box, not yours. It looks to me as though you are using
ncplus.net, and their Website doesn't say anything about shell
accounts, so they probably do not offer one. One example of a local,
independent, spam-hating, all-Linux ISP in Western Washington that
offers a shell account is blarg.net
Another good route is to install Linux, then (*not* running as root)
connect to your ISP, then use whatever Linux software you like best
to do email/Usenet. There are GNU/GPL open-source (free) choices
that range from text interfaces to GUI interfaces that mimick
Micros~1 Outlook Express. As long as you are not root, Linux is more
secure than Micros~1 Windows is because a normal user does not have
permissions to write to or delete system files. Current versions of
Linux (Mandrake Linux 9.1, for instance) are easier to install and
use than older versions. On my box, Mandrake Linux 9.1 installs
faster and more easily than Micros~1 Windows 98. Warning: internal
modems may not work with Linux... external modems are cheap (Ebay,
maybe, for really cheap).
If you insist on using Micros~1 Windows applications, then I suggest
Pegasus for email and Free Agent for Usenet (both are freeware, but
neither is GPL). For a Web browser, I suggest Opera (adware).
Anything other than Micros~1 products will be safer than using
Micros~1 Internet Explorer or Micros~1 Outlook Express. Micros~1
products are kitchen-sink applications that try to do everything and
therefore have access to everything. That's one reason almost every
virus or trojan is written for Micros~1 Internet Explorer/ Micros~1
Outlook Express. Another reason is that most home users use a
version of Micros~1 Windows for which everyone is root all the time.
Unix has been a multi-user OS for 30 years, and Linux is essentially
a free version of Unix that runs on PCs. Micros~1 Windows 95 made it
possible to connect a PC to the Internet fairly easily, but Linux has
caught up with Micros~1 in ease of installation/use.
Authors of all-lower-case posts are usually added to my kill file.