Computer Security Tips

Ensure your computer operating system, software, browser version and plug-ins are current. Software manufacturers (Microsoft, Apple, etc.) periodically issue security updates to address known vulnerabilities. Before downloading any updates to your computer, first go to the company’s website to confirm the update is legitimate as many reputable software manufacturers dedicate sections of their web sites to security updates of this kind. If you don't have or don’t use auto-update mechanisms in your software, it’s a good idea to visit the manufacturers’ websites regularly to make sure you have the latest fixes.

Install a personal firewall. A firewall is your computer’s first line of defense that guards the entrance to your private network and keeps out unauthorized or unwanted traffic. It acts as a buffer between your computer and the outside world, allowing you to determine what traffic may access your computer. Most firewall programs allow you to set the level of security protection that you desire. A good rule of thumb is to start with the highest protection setting and then relax the settings as necessary.

Make sure the security settings in your browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, etc.) are set to provide an appropriate level of protection. Browser-based attacks can occur when a user visits a web page containing hidden code intended to sabotage a computer or compromise one’s privacy. Use the Help feature of your Internet browser program to familiarize yourself with the security features available for your particular browser, or visit the browser manufacturer’s web site for more information.

Configure your devices to prevent unauthorized users from remotely accessing your devices or home network. If you have a wireless network (Wi-Fi) set up at home, take a few extra moments to make it safe:

  • Change the Administrative Password. Wireless access points come with a default password, which is usually non-secure & easy to guess. Make sure you change the default password, then write it down because you’ll need it later to access the router. Enable Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption.
  • Turn off SSID broadcasting. Most wireless routers broadcast the network name or SSID by default. This makes your wireless network viewable to anyone within range. By turning off this feature nearby neighbors or others will not see your network.
  • Disable remote administration unless you use it. This is just one other way a bad guy can get into your home wireless network.

Properly dispose of electronic media (CDs, DVDs, hard drives) that may contain sensitive personal information (financial statements, tax returns, etc.). If you are considering recycling, donating or disposing of a PC, the hard drive should be removed for reuse or physically destroyed. Formatting/erasing/overwriting a hard drive does not completely remove all data, which could potentially be recovered with the right tools. CDs and DVDs should be shredded/destroyed prior to disposal.

Use anti-virus/malware detection software. Anti-virus software protects your computer against viruses – unauthorized computer codes that attach to a program or portions of a computer system. Viruses reproduce and spread from one computer to another, destroying stored information and interrupting operations. An anti-virus program detects and destroys these unauthorized codes. With new viruses emerging daily, you need to have your anti-virus program updated regularly.

Avoid downloading programs from unknown sources. Installing files from unknown sources raises the risk of unknowingly downloading infected or malicious software or computer viruses.

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