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Source: Money Reports

Posted on March 7, 2011

Today, more and more people are using their computers for everything from communication to online banking and investing to searching. As we do these things on a more frequent basis, we open ourselves to prospective hackers, attackers and crackers.

While some may be hoping to phish your personal data and identity for resale, others want to use your computer as a platform from which to attack other unknowing victims. Below are a few easy, cost-effective measures you can take to make your computer more secure.

1. Always make backups of important data and store it in a safe place away from your computer.

2. Update and patch your operating system, web browser and software regularly. If you have a Windows operating system, start by going to windowsupdate.microsoft.com and running the update wizard. This software will help you find the latest patches for your Windows operating system. Also go to officeupdate.microsoft.com to locate possible patches for your Microsoft Office software.

3. Install a firewall. Without a good firewall, viruses, worms, Trojans, malware and adware can all access your computer from the Internet easily. Consideration should be given to the advantages and differences between hardware and software based firewall programs.

4. Review your browser and email settings for optimum security. Why should you do this? Active-X and JavaScript are often used by hackers to plant malevolent programs into your computer. While cookies are relatively harmless in terms of security concerns, they can still track your movements on the Internet to create a profile of you. As a minimum precaution, adjust your security setting for the ?Internet zone? to High, and your ?trusted sites zone? to Medium Low.

5. Install antivirus software and set for automatic updates so that you get the most recent versions.

6. Do not open unidentified email attachments. It is simply not enough that you may be familiar with the address from which it originates because many viruses can be spread from a familiar address.

7. Do not run programs from unknown sources. Also, do not send these kinds of programs to friends and colleagues because they contain funny or amusing stories or jokes. They may contain a Trojan horse just waiting to infect a computer.

8. Disable hidden filename extensions. By default, the Windows operating system is set to ?hide file extensions for known file types?. Disable this preference so that file extensions show in Windows. Some file extensions will, by default, continue to stay hidden, but you are more likely to see any strange file extensions that do not belong.

9. Switch off your computer and disconnect from the network when not using the computer. A hacker can not strike at your computer when you are disconnected from the network or the computer is off.

10. Make a boot disk on a floppy disk or CD in case your computer is damaged or infected by a malicious program. Clearly, you have to take this precaution before you are subject to a hostile breach of your system security.

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