Securing Personal Information

Different types of Threats

Malware

Malware is a term that describes a broader set of malicious software. This includes viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. These types of programs are usually made to attempt to disable or cripple computers. Malware can also act as Spyware.

Spam/Phishing

Spam and Phishing are two types or email scams. Spam is typically a mass mailing of unwanted advertisements and messages. Phishing involves sending an email that appears to be from a reputable source. These emails typically want you to verify your account info so that they can get your personal information willingly from you. These emails usually have a link to click on that takes you to a website that looks just like the website of the company they are masquerading as. The best thing for you to do is never click on links that come in your email unless you are certain you know who it is from and to delete it from your mail.

Spyware

Spyware is a type of program that is used to collect information about users of a computer. Spyware is often used to collect a user’s internet activity as well as your usernames and passwords, credit card information, social security numbers, files you saved on your computer, etc. Often Spyware is installed by the computer user as “Free Software” such as screensavers, free music downloads, or file sharing applications. Spyware may also be downloaded to your computer automatically if you are using a web browser with a known security hole that has not been patched.

Identity Theft and Protecting Yourself

The Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft website explains what to do in case you become a victim of identity theft and tips to help prevent it.

You can also get tips and report suspected internet crimes at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Best security defense

Local Security

It is important to understand the need to locally secure your computer. Easy methods to achieve this are locking your computer or logging off before you leave the computer. This will prevent people who do not have an account from logging in.

How to quickly lock your computer

Encryption

Encryption is a process that allows you to specify files or folders that become unreadable by anyone else other than yourself. In Windows XP and Windows Vista you can encrypt files or folders on your computer.

How to encrypt files

How to encrypt folders

Passwords

Having strong passwords on your computer and any online accounts you may have is essential to helping secure your personal information. You can check your password strength using Microsoft’s Password Checker.

Antivirus and Spyware Removal

Having a virus or spyware infected computer is usually the method attackers use to retrieve personal information. To help prevent your computer from becoming infected or to clean up current infections you can install Antivirus and Spyware tools. See the Security Utilities section for a list of tools that will do this for you.

Control User Accounts

There are essentially two types of user accounts in Windows; Administrative and Limited. Both have their pros and cons. When you have multiple user accounts that have access to a computer it is necessary to understand who should have what type of account access to help minimize potential security issues. Visit Microsoft’s website to read more about Limited User Accounts.

OS Updates

Operating System updates are the most important thing you can do to help keep your computer from becoming vulnerable. Operating System updates typically patch security holes or provide stability and application improvements.

If you are using Windows XP you can learn more about setting up automatic updates by visiting Using Windows Update for Windows XP

If you are using Windows Vista you can learn more about setting up automatic updates by visiting Using Windows Update for Windows Vista

Additional Information

For additional information about protecting your computer visit Microsoft’s Security Website

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Protecting Yourself

Protecting Your Family

Secure Wireless

Wireless technology allows individuals to connect to a network without the burden of a physical connection between the network hub and the individual's digital device. Wireless technology is widespread, from large corporations to small businesses, to city-wide metropolitan networks to household wireless routers, and innumerable coffee shops and gathering spots in between. With this convenience comes a number of serious security risks.

Public Wireless "Hot Spots"

Public wireless connections can be very convenient for casual Internet use, but anything more introduces several dangers. Here are some rules of thumb when using WiFi hot spots:

  1. Be aware of what anyone can see - Over open, unencrypted channels, like most public wireless connections, whatever you send or receive can be picked up (or "sniffed") by anyone within range. Modern sniffing equipment can pick up wireless communication over great distances. Sniffers can easily log addresses of websites you access, searches you run, conversations you have over instant messenger programs, emails you send and receive, and much more.
  2. Avoid entering personally identifiable or confidential information - Always assume your wireless activity is being viewed! Over open channels, only communicate information that you would feel comfortable giving to a stranger on the street.
  3. If you must send information, make sure your connection is encrypted - Never send login information over open channels. If you must log into a website or enter confidential information online, make sure your are doing so over encryption.

Secure Web Surfing


Secure Utilities

Free Online Scans

Symantec Security Check

Trend Micro HouseCall

Free Products

AVG Technologies

Comodo

View a more detailed list of Antivirus Softare here.