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 online 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 to 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 online 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.
8. Install a security toolbar.
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.
10. Turn off your computer.
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.
11. Lock your computer if you step away.
If you take a break from your computer for only a few minutes, it's enough time for a hacker to destroy or steal your information. Locking your computer password-protects your session until you return and prevents anyone else from physically or remotely accessing your information.
12. Be careful with public computers.
Avoid banking or conducting other personal business on public computers at libraries, hotels, and airports. Not only could the online activity be intercepted, but strangers in the area could watch your activity and remember passwords and other personal details.
13. Consider Apple computers.
Since Windows personal computers are much more prevalent in the
marketplace, most viruses and spyware is designed to penetrate
Windows software. Mac owners still deal with spam and phishing
issues, but the odds of virus attack is much less likely.
14. Be wary of downloads.
Free downloads are plentiful on the Internet, and the thousands of games, software and utility programs are very useful. Unfortunately, many of these freebies include malware and spyware. Try to download programs only from well-known manufacturers and trusted sites.
15. Consider a security suite.
If your operating system doesn’t include security features or you want extra protection, a security software suite will include all the products required to keep your computer safe.
16. Run your antivirus software.
Simply having antivirus software installed will not help your computer from being attacked. Scan for viruses on a regular basis, or set the software to do automatic scans at a certain time daily.
17. Double your spyware protection.
Spyware can be difficult to detect, so it can be worth your while to use two different programs to search for spyware. Set the stronger program for constant monitoring, and use the second for occasional scans to verify that nothing was missed by the first program.
18. Try disposable e-mail addresses.
Create separate free e-mail addresses for different purposes. Use this ìdisposableî e-mail account to register for sites or complete surveys that may result in increased spam. If the spam becomes overwhelming, close the account and create another. This will keep the junk mail from your regular e-mail account, as you continue to use your regular e-mail address for business or personal communication.
19. Use credit cards.
When shopping online, credit cards offer higher protection than debit cards or other payment options. Credit card issuing banks offer protection against fraud than debit cards and checking accounts do not.
20. Devote a single credit card to online purchases.
If only one card is used for all online transactions, misuse or identity theft will be easier to detect than if multiple cards were used. Using a single card will also minimize the damage you experience if the card number is stolen.
21. Avoid saved passwords.
Although saved passwords and saved site default settings can be convenient, if your computer is hacked into any saved account information becomes available to the attacker. Limit the use of saved credit card numbers and addresses.
22. Look for evidence of secure sites.
Only enter personal information on sites that have the https:// prefix or a padlock icon in your browser window. This means that the Website is secured and any information transmitted is encrypted and can not be read easily by humans.
23. Don't assume that secure and honest are the same thing.
The https:// prefix and padlock symbol are good indicators of transmission security, but not of reputation. Ensure that you shop from or do business with reputable companies by looking for the Better Business Bureau logo or other positive affiliations. Also read reviews online to find out what other users have experienced with the company.
24. Guard your personal information.
Do not respond to emails requesting personal information, like passwords, Social Security numbers and birthdates unless you know the sender or are expecting the email. If email requests that you contact a telephone number, verify the number first.
25. Avoid clicking on hyperlinks.
Hyperlinks in email messages can be misleading, as the text shows one address but the link may take you to another. Before clicking on links in e-mails or Web pages, hold the cursor over the link and verify that the address that appears at the bottom of your browser window is the same one that you intend to visit.
26. Type with care.
Online criminals often create Web sites that look similar to another site and use common misspellings of the original site as the URL. Be sure that you are typing accurately, or use a bookmark to visit favorite sites.
27. Report phishing.
Emails that appear to be legitimate and ask for information are forms of phishing. If you receive a phishing e-mail, forward it to the appropriate bureaus, including the Anti-Phishing Working Group ([email protected]) and the Federal Trade Commission ([email protected]).
28. Review your accounts.
Look at your bank and credit card statements for suspicious or unknown transactions. These are often a signal of identity theft. Report these situations to your bank as soon as possible.
29. Practice the golden rule.
The Internet is a global community with many positive benefits. Just as in the real world, be responsible, safe and respectful towards others. Also, respect any rules or laws that apply to your online activity.
30. Do not open unknown e-mails.
Delete any e-mails from unknown senders. Also be aware of email attachments and do not download attachments that you are unsure about, even if you recognize the sender. Do not forward unknown attachments to others.
31. Create strong, private passwords.
Choose a password that would be hard for others to guess. Do not use obvious passwords like a name or birth date. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols in your password and do not share your password with anyone.
32. Use firewall protection.
Install firewalls to prevent hackers from gaining access to your computer. This will prevent theft of any personal information stored on the computer. You may choose an external or software firewall depending on your network needs.
33. Do not file share with strangers.
Sharing files can allow a stranger to look at files stored on your computer or plant a virus to infect the computer. Learn about the risks of file sharing, and learn how to disable file sharing on your operating system to prevent these risks. If a file sharing program is installed on your computer, be sure that it does not run automatically when you boot up your computer.
34. Back up your files regularly.
Make a back up of your hard drive onto an external media device. The act of making a backup copy does not offer protection, but it is insurance that nothing will be lost should a computer security disaster occur.
35. Protect yours from power outages.
Use power strips and surge protectors to protect your computer against sudden power outages. During a storm when a power surge is likely, shut your computer down and unplug it to prevent any loss of information.
36. Evaluate your computer’s security.
Review the security features and programs on your computer twice annually to be sure that everything is working as it is supposed to. Update or replace any programs as necessary. Do this process for all computers in your home.
37. Delete unused software programs.
Programs that you do not use take up valuable space in your computer’s memory. In addition to wasting resources, rarely-used programs are usually not updated and may not have the security patches that could stop a hacker from accessing your computer.
38. Be wary of e-mail attachments.
Do not open email attachments from strangers unless the security and anti-virus software on your computer verifies that they are safe. Always delete any spam or junk email that contains an attachment.
39. Never open certain attachments.
Viruses are often sent as email attachments. Avoid opening any file with an extension that is .exe, .pif, .com or .bat, regardless of who they are from. These are almost always harmful files.
40. Don’t click on pop-ups.
Many malicious sites use pop-ups that look very similar to the ones that your operating system may use to tell you that there is a security risk for your computer. These are ploys to get you to click on the ad; if you do click, the site usually installs spyware or malware on your computer. Close these ads by clicking on the X in the top right corner.
41. Be sure that your anti-spyware program is authentic.
Stick with anti-spyware products from reputable manufacturers. Unfortunately, some products marketed as free spyware detectors actually install spyware on your computer.
42. Read the license agreement.
Before installing any downloaded software, review its license agreement. Many free downloads come with spyware and programs that you would not want to be installed on your computer. The careful reading of the agreement can help you to find them.
43. Avoid pornographic Web sites.
The majority of spyware is distributed through pop-ups from pornographic sites. On-line gambling sites are also popular locations for adware and spyware.
44. Do not use unlicensed software.
Pirated software is illegal, and the sites that distribute it are often loaded with malware. This admonition goes beyond software, including crack key generators, and pirated music or movies. Unlicensed software is sometimes incompatible with patches and can be more susceptible to viruses. It may even come with viruses previously installed.
45. Run online virus scans.
In addition to running the anti-virus scan scheduled on your computer, occasionally run a free online scan to make sure you’re your computer is not infected with something that your installed software is not aware of. Each program may find something that the other does not.
46. Visit Windows Update.
If you use Windows, visit Windows Update on a regular basis. The site will scan your computer for any updates or patches that are not installed on your computer. Then it will create a list of the items recommended to update your computer. Download anything marked as a critical update to keep your computer secure.
47. Password protect and encrypt sensitive files.
In addition to protecting the entire computer, you may want to encrypt or use passwords for certain files or folders that contain confidential information.
48. Visit Apple Security Updates.
If you are a Mac user, check the Apple Security Site for new updates and download them if they are available.
49. Protect your identity:
Personal information is all that an online criminal needs to begin stealing your identity. Be sure to keep your social security number, birth date, credit card numbers and address protected by limiting how you share the information online.
50. Protect your kids.
Children face many unique risks with Internet activity. Monitor your children’s online activity and use parental filters or other tools to protect them from threats and security risks.