10 Tips for Securing Your Computer

Scammers, hackers and identity thieves are constantly looking for ways to steal your personal information – and your money. They are also looking to recruit vulnerable computers into their vast “botnets”, that can then be used to send spam, spread viruses, or launch attacks against legitimate businesses over the Internet.

But there are steps you can take to protect your computer from divulging your personal information or becoming a tool for criminal enterprises.

  1. Install a commercial antivirus package. Look for recognized name brands, like Symantec, McAfee, Kaspersky, Trend Micro and Sophos. Most ISPs offer free antivirus for their high speed internet customers (Hawaiian Telcom offers free McAfee to our subscribers).
  2. Most antivirus packages require an update subscription that must be maintained, usually annually. Dozens of new viruses come out every day, so it is critical that your antivirus subscription is renewed every year so it continues to receive updates as new viruses become known.
  3. Don’t fall for fake antivirus offers or other “scareware”. This is software that claims to have detected a virus or registry problem on your computer, and offers to fix it (usually for a fee). Authentic antivirus programs do not charge a fee to clean off a virus, so be suspicious of any application that suddenly pops up and asks you for credit card or other information in order to “help” you.
  4. Turn on automatic updates for your operating system (OS). All modern operating systems offer some way to automatically update as new fixes become available. In Windows, you can visit the Security Center in Control Panel to enable automatic updates.
  5. Turn on automatic updates for your applications. Did you know that if you keep just 5 applications updated (in addition to your OS), you will inoculate yourself against 99.8% of attacks on the Internet? Those 5 are Sun Java, Adobe Reader/Acrobat, Adobe Flash, Internet Explorer, and Apple Quicktime. All of those applications offer an automatic update feature. Just check their help page.
  6. Back up your data regularly. USB hard disks are relatively inexpensive, but there are also many cloud-based backup options that will protect your data even if something like a house fire causes your computer *and* backup to be destroyed.
  7. Practice good password hygiene. Learn how to create memorable, yet long, passwords. And also get out of the habit of using the same password everywhere. If someone were to break into your online account at the gym, they should not be able to use those same credentials to access your online bank account!
  8. Be careful about what you are downloading. Peer-to-peer networks, commonly used to share pirated applications and movie, are rife with infected files. Viruses can be embedded into commercial software packages, e-books, and even movies. Always get your content from trusted sources.
  9. Never open an attachment sent to you via email, unless it is from someone you know *and* you are expecting it. Email is a very common mechanism used by hackers to trick you into installing a virus onto your computer.
  10. Never click on a link to a website sent to you via email, unless it’s from someone you know *and* you are expecting it. In August of 2012, malicious websites were being created at a rate of nearly 1100 per DAY. These are sites that hackers use to infect the computers of people they trick into visiting them. DON’T BLINDLY CLICK ON LINKS!