Today, Internet transactions are becoming more common as online banking, shopping, and bill paying become the norm, and your credit card and bank account information is fed into cyberspace. Although most online methods of transferring money and making purchases are handled securely and privately, much of your personal information can be accessed on your personal computer.
In itself, protecting your home or office computer is an integral part of your home security plan and should be treated with the same consideration and care as your home alarm.
Start protecting your computer by installing a hardware firewall, which can be done simply by purchasing a firewall router such as Linksys. These are basic computer accessories that can be picked up at any electronics store and protect your computer by filtering unwanted network traffic.
Install an antivirus program and set it to scan your computer for viruses and malicious files and automatically update with new features. Some well-known antivirus software brands include Norton Anti-Virus, McAfee, and ZoneAlarm—they not only locate bad apps, but give you options on how to delete problematic files.
Even if you have an anti-virus system installed on your computer, you should be careful when downloading files and opening email attachments. Make sure that the email attachments you download are normal-looking files from people you know or have regular email contact with that you expected. If you’re not sure, use common sense to determine if the file you’re receiving is a regular file that’s safe to download. Please read the subject line and message carefully and check the attachment’s references before opening it.
Make sure you back up your files regularly, an essential computer habit. Important files can be lost quite easily, whether due to accidental deletion, fire or water damage to your computer, or theft. Burn your important documents to CDs or DVDs, or buy an external hard drive or USB flash drive to copy files to. You can also email yourself copies of files as attachments as a temporary backup method.
Create a few passwords that can’t be easily guessed by a human or computer, but that you can remember so you don’t have to write them down. Some good rules for creating strong passwords are that they should be 6-9 characters long and contain a combination of numbers and letters. Do not use your name or give your password to anyone. Periodically changing the password for e-mail and online banking accounts, as well as the password for the hard drive, helps to improve the security level of your computer.
Even though many people use your computer, you can still protect your private and personal information by installing encryption software. These types of programs, such as PGP, password protect your sensitive files and documents.