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Computer security tips

Jul 22nd 2009

The openness of the Internet has dramatically transformed global communications, making it possible for people around the world to easily exchange information. But the very same openness also creates an enormous problem. Anyone can access the network, yet not everyone has good intentions. Some engage in malicious mischief by unleashing destructive software programs, while others view hacking computer networks as sport. Then there are people with criminal goals in mind.

To avoid becoming a victim of misguided pranksters or cybercrime, take the time to examine the security of your personal data.

Use anti-virus software
Viruses spread rapidly and can damage or destroy your computer. New ones appear daily. It’s critical that you install and update anti-virus software regularly. Use the program to scan all the files on your system once a week, deleting the infected ones. Learn more. Only PCs routinely need antiviruses, but Macs usually require a Mac fix program to keep running smoothly.

Be wary of e-mail attachments
A virus can hide in an attachment. Opening it will unleash the virus. Don’t open an attachment from anyone you don’t know. Even if you do know the sender, an infected attachment may have been surreptitiously sent from an infected machine. The safest thing to do is to scan the attachment with anti-virus software before you open it.

Install a firewall on your computer
A firewall is a software program that blocks unauthorized access to your computer. This is particularly important if you have a broadband connection, such as DSL or a cable modem. Windows XP, Vista and Mac OS X have built-in firewalls, so make sure they’re activated if you use those operating systems. If not, we recommend ZoneAlarm. You can download it for free for personal use from Zone Labs.

Protect your passwords
Many online services, such as banking, brokerage and e-mail require the use of passwords. A secure password is the first line of defense against cybersnoops. Use a different password for each account, don’t divulge them to anyone and change them periodically.

Update security patches for your operating system and web browser.
You’ve probably read about security “holes” that turn up periodically. Once they’re discovered, you can download fixes. For Windows users, an easy way to update your system is by clicking on the Windows Update option under the Start menu or by pointing your web browser to this link: http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/

Back up your data
Make copies of your files in case they become corrupted, your system fails or your computer is damaged or stolen. Get in the habit of doing this regularly, at least once a week. Learn more.

Log offline when you’re done for the day.
You are most vulnerable when connected to the Net. If there isn’t a good reason to remain online, disconnect from the network.

Follow these tips and you will enhance your personal security and the health of your PC.

Source: Learn The Net