Top 10 computer security tips
- Use "anti-virus software" and keep it
up to date.
- Don't open e-mails or attachments from
unknown sources. Be suspicious of any unexpected e-mail
attachments even if it appears to be from someone you
- Protect your computer from Internet
intruders - use "firewalls."
- Regularly download security updates and
"patches" for operating systems and other software.
- Use hard-to-guess passwords. Mix upper
case, lower case, numbers, or other characters not easy
to find in a dictionary, and make sure they are at least
eight characters long.
- Back-up your computer data on disks or
- Don't share access to your computers
with strangers. Learn about file sharing risks.
- Disconnect from the Internet when not
- Check your security on a regular basis.
When you change your clocks for daylight-savings time,
reevaluate your computer security.
- Make sure your family members and/or
your employees know what to do if your computer becomes
1. Use "anti-virus software" and keep it up to date. Make
sure you have anti-virus software on your computer! Anti-virus
software is designed to protect you and your computer against
known viruses so you don't have to worry. But with new viruses
emerging daily, anti-virus programs need regular updates, like
annual flu shots, to recognize these new viruses. Be sure to
update your anti-virus software regularly! The more often you
keep it updated, say once a week, the better. Check with the web
site of your anti-virus software company to see some sample
descriptions of viruses and to get regular updates for your
software. Stop viruses in their tracks!
2. Don't open e-mails or attachments from unknown sources. Be
suspicious of any unexpected e-mail attachments even if they
appear to be from someone you know. A simple rule of thumb is
that if you don't know the person who is sending you an e-mail,
be very careful about opening the e-mail and any file attached
to it. Should you receive a suspicious e-mail, the best thing to
do is to delete the entire message, including any attachment. .
If you are determined to open a file from an unknown source,
save it first and run your virus checker on that file, but also
understand that there is still a risk. If the mail appears to be
from someone you know, still treat it with caution if it has a
suspicious subject line (e.g. "Iloveyou" or "Anna Kounikova") or
if it ortherwise seems suspicious (e.g., it was sent in the
middle of the night). Also be careful if you receive many copies
of the same message from either known or unknown sources.
Finally, remember that even friends and family may accidentally
send you a virus or the e-mail may have been sent from their
machines without their knowledge. Such was the case with the "I
Love You" virus that spread to millions of people in 2001. When
in doubt, delete!
3. Protect your computer from Internet intruders - use
"firewalls." Equip your computer with a firewall! Firewalls
create a protective wall between your computer and the outside
world. They come in two forms, software firewalls that run on
your personal computer and hardware firewalls that protect a
number of computers at the same time. They work by filtering out
unauthorized or potentially dangerous types of data from the
Internet, while still allowing other (good) data to reach your
computer. Firewalls also ensure that unauthorized persons can't
gain access to your computer while you're connected to the
Internet. You can find firewall hardware and software at most
computer stores and in some operating systems. Don't let
4. Regularly download security updates and "patches" for
operating systems and other software. Most major software
companies today release updates and patches to close newly
discovered vulnerabilities in their software. Sometimes bugs are
discovered in a program that may allow a criminal hacker to
attack your computer. Before most of these attacks occur, the
software companies or vendors create free patches for you that
they post on their web sites. You need to be sure you download
and install the patches! Check your software vendors' web sites
regularly for new security patches or use the automated patching
features that some companies offer. Ensure that you are getting
patches from the correct patch update site.
5. Use hard-to-guess passwords. Mix upper case, lower case,
numbers, or other characters not easy to find in a dictionary,
and make sure they are at least eight characters long. Passwords
will only keep outsiders out if they are difficult to guess!
Don't share your password, and don't use the same password in
more than one place. If someone should happen to guess one of
your passwords, you don't want them to be able to use it in
other places. The golden rules of passwords are:
- A password should have a minimum of 8 characters, be as
meaningless as possible, and use uppercase letters,
lowercase letters, symbols and numbers, e.g., xk2&&^&#$%^&*(
- Change passwords regularly, at least every 90 days.
- Do not give out your password to anyone! For enhanced
security, use some form of two-factor authentication.
Two-factor authentication is a way to gain access by
combining something you know (PIN) with something you have
(token or smart card).
6. Back-up your computer data on disks or CDs regularly.
Experienced computer users know that there are two types of
people: those who have already lost data and those who are going
to experience the pain of losing data in the future. Back up
small amounts of data on floppy disks and larger amounts on CDs.
If you have access to a network, save copies of your data on
another computer in the network. Many people make weekly backups
of all their important data. And make sure you have your
original software start-up disks handy and available in the
event your computer system files get damaged. Be prepared!
7. Don't share access to your computers with strangers. Learn
about file sharing risks. Your computer operating system may
allow other computers on a network, including the Internet, to
access the hard-drive of your computer in order to "share
files". This ability to share files can be used to infect your
computer with a virus or look at the files on your computer if
you don't pay close attention. So, unless you really need this
ability, make sure you turn off file-sharing. Check your
operating system and your other program help files to learn how
to disable file sharing. Don't share access to your computer
8. Disconnect from the Internet when not in use. Remember
that the Digital Highway is a two-way road. You send and receive
information on it. Disconnecting your computer from the Internet
when you're not online lessens the chance that someone will be
able to access your computer. And if you haven't kept your
anti-virus software up-to-date, or don't have a firewall in
place, someone could infect your computer or use it to harm
someone else on the Internet. and help protect others:
9. Check your security on a regular basis. When you change
your clocks for daylight-savings time, reevaluate your computer
security. The programs and operating system on your computer
have many valuable features that make your life easier, but can
also leave you vulnerable to hackers and viruses. You should
evaluate your computer security at least twice a year - do it
when you change the clocks for daylight-savings! Look at the
settings on applications that you have on your computer. Your
browser software, for example, typically has a security setting
in its preferences area. Check what settings you have and make
sure you have the security level appropriate for you. Set a high
bar for yourself!
10. Make sure your family members and/or your employees know
what to do if your computer becomes infected. It's important
that everyone who uses a computer be aware of proper security
practices. People should know how to update virus protection
software, how to download security patches from software vendors
and how to create a proper password. Make sure they know these