DeSERANNO News

Vol. 2, Issue 8January 2011

FINANCIAL ARTICLES

Keeping Your Computer Safe

There is no doubt that computers have changed the way we do many things, and often for the better. Shopping and banking online, for example, have made our financial lives much simpler. And email and social networking have made our social lives simpler as well.

However, there are plenty of people out there who want to use your computer, and the personal information in it, to steal from you or to otherwise do harm. There are some simple things you can do to thwart them and to keep you and your data safe.

First, buy a system security program that includes anti-virus and malware protection and a firewall. Set it up to perform regular system scans as well as to scan incoming email or documents. When your subscription expires, renew it.

Be careful about the emails you open. If an email is obviously spam, delete it and mark it as spam. If you open an email and aren’t sure if it’s real, don’t answer it. For example, if you receive an email that says it is from your bank and they need you to click on to a link and provide information, call your bank and ask.

Check for and install any security patches. As hackers find ways to get into software, the software developers create patches to keep them out. Check regularly for patches to the operating system and software you use, and then download and install those patches.

Change your passwords regularly, and don’t use an obvious password like your name or birthdate. The best passwords are seemingly random combinations of upper-case and lower-case letters and numbers, although these can be difficult to remember. You can get software programs that will help you manage your passwords. If you write them down, don’t store them in a folder in your desk marked “Passwords.”

Back up your computer regularly. You can back up onto a disc or a thumb drive. But perhaps the easiest approach is to hook up an exterior hard drive to back up your computer daily.

Never perform a financial transaction, such as an online purchase, unless you are certain the website is secure. Most legitimate sites offer proof that they are secure, so check before you enter your credit card number or other financial information.

Close out sites when you are finished using them. Don’t keep a site open in the background when you are doing something else, because that provides an entry point for hackers.

Finally, use common sense. Don’t give out information unless you are certain about the person to whom you are giving it. Don’t correspond online with people you don’t know. Protect your online privacy just as you protect your privacy in the real world.

Photo: iStockphoto.com