10 Golden Rules
1. Keep viruses out
There are hundreds of new viruses created every month. Some are relatively harmless, but most are designed to delete files, compromise your confidential information, or damage your operating system. Both PCs and Macs are vulnerable, and the latest generation of viruses can even spread without human intervention. To stop them, install reliable antivirus software and update it regularly.
2. Block hackers with a firewall
There are hackers lurking in every corner of the web. Some are teenagers with minor technical skill, some are pranksters, and some are just vandals. But they all have a lot of help; there are at least 30,000 web sites dedicated to helping hackers. Hackers can delete personal information, and even use your personal computer to send SPAM. A firewall separates your computer from the Internet and decides what gets in or out. It's the most effective defense against other intruders.
3. Be careful when opening email
Most of us get dozens, if not hundreds, of unsolicited emails. Some, even the ones from friends or co-workers, can carry a virus, worm, or Trojan horse that can wreck a computer. The rule of thumb is: If you get an email from someone you don't recognize, or if the subject line or the purpose seems questionable -- don't open it. Instead, delete the email and any attachments.
4. Be selective about what you download
Part of the fun of surfing the Internet is downloading games, applications, and other kinds of software, but they're often the source of viruses and other malware. Be selective about what you download, and update and run your antivirus regularly.
5. Choose a password that's better than "password"
Passwords are one of your first lines of defense. Make it difficult for hackers to guess. An ideal password is a combination of letters and numbers and contains a minimum of eight characters. You should avoid easily guessed combinations like addresses and birthdates. And it's a good idea to change your passwords every three months or so.
6. Don't let your web browser remember your personal information
Your web browser may offer to remember frequently used passwords and credit card numbers. Although it may make online shopping or banking a little easier, you should decline the offer. Having the potentially costly data stored on your computer means it could be accessible to hackers all over the world.
7. Protect your kids online
On the Internet, your children may be exposed to objectionable material. Or they may be tricked by others into directly giving personal information. You can monitor your kids' online activities by putting the computer in a family room instead of the bedroom. Install special software that blocks access to objectionable material and potentially dangerous services.
8. Keep your private life private
Even though you may develop friendships online with people, be aware that the people you're communicating with might not be who you think they are. Never give out personal information (such as phone numbers or where your kids go to school) via online forums like instant messages, email, and web forms.
9. Backup your computer
One way you can keep your valuable information safe is to keep a backup of it. These days, high-capacity disk drives and CDs can quickly copy your valuable files onto a removable disk or CD-ROM that you can store in a different location.
10. Update your security software regularly
OK, you've installed some security software. But hackers are a productive group, constantly creating and spreading new viruses. In order to stop the latest attacks you'll need to schedule regular updates for your computer's security, preferably once a week or more. Updating software can easily be done online. You can even schedule updates to run automatically.
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