From email to online banking and investing to shopping, today people are using their computers for many things that used to be done only offline. As we do these things on a more regular basis, unfortunately we open ourselves up to a new breed of criminals and their new weapons like spyware, viruses and email scams. While some may be looking to phish your personal information and identity for resale, others simply just want to use your computer as a platform from which to attack other unknowing targets. As our use of computers and the related potential for risk increased, it is import that we make sure we have taken steps to protect ourselves. Just like the advice of not walking alone at night, there are things we should and shouldn’t do on the internet. Below are a few easy, cost-effective things you can do to make your computer more secure.
- Viruses can cause your computer to fail unexpectedly so always make backups of important information and store in a safe place separate from your computer.
-Computer software is being continuously updated and criminals are continuously finding new ways to attack. Update and patch your operating system, web browser and software frequently. Because Microsoft’s operation systems like XP and Vista are on most home and business PCs, they are the biggest targets of fraudsters. Make sure you have the latest software by going to Microsoft’s website and running the update wizard. This will help you find the latest patches for your Windows computer. Also look for updates to any other Microsoft software you have at the same location.
-Install a personal firewall. A firewall is software that protects your computer by not letting some programs do things that could be dangerous. Without a good firewall, viruses, worms, Trojans, malware and adware can all easily access your computer from the Internet. There are a range of great firewall programs and hardware available at any budget. If you aren’t comfortable selecting or installing this type of software check with your local computer store for assistance.
-Install antivirus software and set for automatic updates so that you receive the most current versions. As with firewalls, there are great alternatives available on the internet and in stores. -Once you install software, though, it is very important that you keep it up to date. Make sure you allow the software to automatically update itself to ensure you stay protected.
-Do not open unknown email attachments unless you are sure they are safe. Unfortunately some viruses can spread emails that look like they came from a source you know. If you are not expecting an email, even if is from someone you know it is best to confirm before opening.
-Just like unknown email attachments, do not run programs from unknown origins. Also, do not send these types of programs to friends and coworkers because they contain funny or amusing stories or jokes. They may contain a Trojans horse waiting to infect a computer.
-Consider turning off your computer and disconnecting it from the internet when not using the computer. A hacker can not attack your computer when you are disconnected from the network or the computer is off.
The ability to shop from home, email friends and family are great benefits of the internet. Unfortunately, along with everything new comes the opportunity for criminals to use it for bad purposes. By taking just a few simple precautions you can rest assured that you will get the benefits without becoming a victim.