- Jun 29, 2021
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Protect Yourself and Your DevicesToday we use internet-connected devices in all aspects of our lives. We go online to search for information, shop, bank, do homework, play games, and stay in touch with family and friends through social networking. As a result, our devices contain a wealth of personal information about us. This may include banking and other financial records, and medical information—information that we want to protect. If your devices are not protected, identity thieves and other fraudsters may be able to get access and steal your personal information. Spammers could use your computer as a "zombie drone" to send spam that looks like it came from you. Malicious viruses or spyware could be deposited on your computer, slowing it down or destroying files.
By using safety measures and good practices to protect your devices, you can protect your privacy and your family. The following tips are offered to help you lower your risk while you're online.
Keep your device secureMake sure to download recommended updates from your device's manufacturer or operating system provider, especially for important software such as your internet browser. Antivirus software, antispyware software, and firewalls are also important tools to thwart attacks on your device.
Keep up-to-dateUpdate your system, browser, and important apps regularly, taking advantage of automatic updating when it's available. These updates can eliminate software flaws that allow hackers to view your activity or steal information. Windows Update is a service offered by Microsoft. It will download and install software updates to the Microsoft Windows Operating System, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and will also deliver security updates to you. Patching can also be run automatically for other systems, such as Macintosh Operating System. For mobile devices, be sure to install Android or iPhone updates that are distributed automatically.
Antivirus softwareAntivirus software protects your device from viruses that can destroy your data, slow down or crash your device, or allow spammers to send email through your account. Antivirus protection scans your files and your incoming email for viruses, and then deletes anything malicious. You must keep your antivirus software updated to cope with the latest "bugs" circulating the internet. Most antivirus software includes a feature to download updates automatically when you are online. In addition, make sure that the software is continually running and checking your system for viruses, especially if you are downloading files from the web or checking your email. Set your antivirus software to check for viruses every day. You should also give your system a thorough scan at least twice a month.
Antispyware softwareSpyware is software installed without your knowledge or consent that can monitor your online activities and collect personal information while you're online. Some kinds of spyware, called keyloggers, record everything you key in—including your passwords and financial information. Signs that your device may be infected with spyware include a sudden flurry of ads, being taken to websites you don't want to go to, and generally slowed performance.
Spyware protection is included in some antivirus software programs. Check your antivirus software documentation for instructions on how to activate the spyware protection features. You can buy separate antispyware software programs. Keep your antispyware software updated and run it regularly.
To avoid spyware in the first place, download software only from sites you know and trust. Make sure apps you install on a mobile device come from the Apple App Store for iPhones or Google Play for Android devices.
FirewallsA firewall is a software program or piece of hardware that blocks hackers from entering and using your computer. Hackers search the internet the way some telemarketers automatically dial random phone numbers. They send out pings (calls) to thousands of computers and wait for responses. Firewalls prevent your computer from responding to these random calls. A firewall blocks communications to and from sources you don't permit. This is especially important if you have a high-speed internet connection, like DSL or cable.
Some operating systems have built-in firewalls that may be shipped in the "off" mode. Be sure to turn your firewall on. To be effective, your firewall must be set up properly and updated regularly. Check your online "Help" feature for specific instructions.
Use strong protectionMaking use of complex passwords and strong methods of authentication can help keep your personal information secure.
Choose strong passwordsProtect your devices and accounts from intruders by choosing passwords that are hard to guess. Use strong passwords with at least eight characters, a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Don't use a word that can easily be found in a dictionary or any reference to personal information, such as a birthday. Some hackers use programs that can try every word in the dictionary, and can easily find personal information such as dates of birth. Try using a phrase to help you remember your password, using the first letter of each word in the phrase. For example, HmWc@w2—How much wood could a woodchuck chuck.
Choose unique passwords for each online account you use: financial institution, social media, or email. If you have too many passwords to remember, consider using password manager software, which can help you create strong individual passwords and keep them secure.