Our computers hold our most sensitive information. Our family photos, tax documents, travel plans, credit card information, work emails, and social media accounts are accessible in one location with just a few clicks.
Malware, virus attacks, and human error can compromise this essential information. To keep your information safe, consider the following suggestions.
Create strong, unique passwords for your computer and accounts.
- Create a strong password. Don't use common words or phrases, your birthday, your kids' or pets' names, or anything else easily guessed. Choose a mix of letters (both upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols—shoot for easy to remember/hard to guess.
- Use a different password for each of your logins. This way, if a hacker gains access to one account, the others will stay protected.
- Consider changing your passwords every few months. The more often you change this information, the harder it is for cyberthieves to gain access to your accounts.
Use a firewall.
- A firewall is a piece of software or hardware that prevents unauthorized access to your computer while allowing you to access the Internet. This virtual wall helps keep cyberthieves from accessing your personal information. Most firewall software is built into your computer. Be sure that it is enabled.
Install an antivirus program.
- Antivirus programs are used to help detect, defend, and remove dangerous worms, trojans, and malware, like adware and spyware. Programs range in price, and many are free. We recommend reading various reviews online for which antivirus is best for your computer. Be sure to update your protective program regularly. Consumer Affairs offers an Antivirus Software Guide to help with your research.
Install updates on your system.
- Usually called "hot fixes" or "patches," these occasional updates address security holes in the operating system. Selecting "Automatic Updates" helps ensure your system is secure, and will also help your computer run smoothly.
Never open an unsolicited email link or attached file.
- Delete emails from unknown senders and never open embedded links or unknown attachments. Phishing scams can infect your computer with malware, spyware and viruses. Malicious links may trick you into releasing your login and password for private accounts.
Avoid downloading pirated or cracked software.
- Pirated software from peer-to-peer sources can contain viruses and malware. Be aware of the risks and the trade-off for attaining free programs.
Consider investing in encryption.
- Encryption renders your text in code so it cannot be read without the appropriate key or password for decryption. You must provide your email's recipient wth the correct decryption key, creating an added layer of cybersecurity.