PC Security for Your Online Experience

The Internet has become an integral part of most of our lives, especially since the advent of social networking. But as we do more and more of our shopping and banking online, cyber crime has become a major source of identity theft and fraud, with more than half of American financial institutions rating it as their biggest problem, according to RSAR, the security division of information technology giant EMC²R. Ensure your online experience doesn't turn into a nightmare by being aware of and attending to PC security when browsing.

Automatic updates

Software vendors and developers are constantly updating their software to counter new vulnerabilities exposed by malicious attacks. From your operating system to your Web browser and desktop programs with Web access, set these programs to automatically download and install updates as they are released. On Windows 7R, click Start> Control Panel > System and Security > Windows Update > Change Settings and ensure Install Updates Automatically (Recommended) is selected. You can also access this screen from Internet Explorer by clicking on Tools in the Menu Bar and clicking on Windows Update.

Anti-malware software

As a bare minimum, ensure you have a functioning firewall, antivirus software and spam filters on your email. Consider installing a full-featured Internet security suite, such as Avast!R Internet Security or Norton 360. These incorporate multiple types of malware prevention to protect network connections and Internet connections, and to incorporate firewalls, antispam and antiphishing email filters. They also include browser plug-ins that, once activated, will provide a visual warning in search engine results to help you avoid visiting Web sites known to contain malicious code.

Awareness

Even the most up-to-date system and software and the most full-featured anti-malware suite won't protect you if you blindly click 'Allow' every time you see a warning. Your own awareness is your best defense against malicious attacks online. Here are some basic dos and don'ts to keep you safe online.

  • Do use different passwords and usernames on different Web sites. Don't use the remember passwords features on your browser or store these in an unencrypted format anywhere on your computer.
  • Do check for a Secure Socket Layer encryption on any Web site where you share financial or sensitive personal information. You can tell if the Web site has this by ensuring the address begins https:// rather than http:// and looking for the closed padlock icon in the browser bar.
  • Don't list your phone number, email or physical address on social networks where they are visible to everyone. If you must list information, make it private and available to friends only, not to friends of friends or the public.
  • Don't click on links in email. Instead, hover over the link and check that the address displayed in the status bar is one you expect. Never follow hyperlinks to banks and other financial institutions. Type the address carefully to ensure you don't make any typing mistakes, and then add it to your bookmarks for future use. Better yet, use a special browser such as Avast! SafeZone to browse in a protected environment when making financial transactions.
  • Be careful about giving away your physical location on social networks, especially if you go away on vacation and leave your home empty. Either make your status updates private, avoid uploading family photos showing you all away from home or take a vacation from social networking and avoid sharing until you get back.
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