Using the Internet for business and leisure is a necessity in today’s world. As the technology that allows you to work more efficiently on-line increases, techniques used by Internet criminals also adapts. While some on-line crimes are perpetrated only for the criminal to exert power by making your life miserable through damaging your computer, identity theft is a main focus for most Internet thieves. In addition to identity theft threats from hackers, computers can fall victim to viruses, spyware and phishing programs from Internet misuse. While you may think that high-profile or wealthy individuals are the common targets, most hackers are looking for any easy opportunity. The easiest opportunity, of course, is an unprotected computer. Your computer holds all of your most private personal and financial information, so proper security is a must to keep you and your files safe.
1. Activate protection systems.
If your operating system comes standard with a built-in firewall, spam blocker, anti-virus software or other security application, be sure that it’s activated. Your Internet service provider may provide an e-mail spam filtering service that should also be turned on.
2. Upgrade your protection.
Using security software won’t help if it’s not up to date. Be sure that you are using the latest versions of spam, spyware and virus-detection software. The most current software will be ready to handle the most current on-line threats. Also remember to renew subscriptions if the software registration expires at some point.
3. Use anti-virus software.
You should always have anti-virus software on your computer. These programs scan all files that are downloaded from e-mail or opened from the hard drive to ensure that they are safe from malware before use. When these programs detect a virus, they are able to isolate and destroy it so it does not infect your computer.
4. Use anti-spyware programs.
Just like anti-virus programs, spyware protection is also necessary. These programs scan your computer for spyware, browser hijackers and other malicious programs. Both free and commercial anti-spyware products are available.
5. Update automatically.
Set both your operating system and security programs to update automatically. Your virus-detection software needs to adapt as new threats become known. Allowing the software to do automatic updates will ensure that you always have the highest level of protection
6. Use a secure browser.
If you use an older version of Windows, upgrade your browser to Internet Explorer 7 or Firefox 2. Both of these browsers have built-in features to detect on-line threats.
7. Block Pop-ups.
Set your Internet browser to block pop-ups from websites and advertisements. This will minimize spyware and the chances of clicking on an ad that loads malware onto your computer.
Toolbars with security features offer an additional line of defense. Most include features that block pop-ups, spam and known phishing sites. Some are even able to detect potential consumer scams.
9. Create User Accounts.
Create a user account that is separate from the default administrator account. Only log in as the administrator when making configuration changes to the computer. When the administrator account is used infrequently, the access to change configurations will be more limited to hacking. You may also want to create an individual user account for each member of the family who uses the computer. This will allow for each person to keep his or her information private.
When you are not actively using your computer, shut down or disconnect from the Internet. If your computer is on-line less frequently, the chance of access by a malicious source decreases.