1. Use anti-virus software. A virus
is software that is planted in your computer to damage files and disrupt
your system. Most viruses enter a computer hidden in a seemingly innocent
program, often as an attachment to an email. Then the software code
attached to the program produces copies of itself and inserts the copied
code into other programs. A virus can result in lost data or require
costly repairs to your system. You can avoid these risks by installing
and using software that scans your computer and your incoming email
for viruses, and then deletes them.
You can download anti-virus software from
the websites of software companies or buy it in retail stores. Look
for anti-virus software that recognizes current viruses, as well as
older ones; that can effectively reverse the damage; and that updates
2. Regularly update anti-virus software.
To be effective, anti-virus software must be updated routinely with
antidotes to the latest "bugs" circulating through the Internet.
Most commercial anti-virus software includes a feature to download updates
automatically when you are on the Internet.
3. Don't fall for a fibbing email.
Most viruses won't damage your computer unless you open the email attachment
that includes the virus. So hackers - people who use the Internet to
access computers without permission - often lie to get you to open the
attachments. The email may appear to come from a friend or colleague,
or it may have an appealing file name, like "Fwd: FUNNY TEXT"
or "As per your request!" It could appear to link to a website
or promise to clean a virus off your computer if you open it. Don't
open an email attachment - even if it looks like it's from a friend
or coworker - unless you are expecting it or know what it contains.
If you send an email with an attached file, include a text message explaining
what it is.
In addition, don't forward any email warning
about a new virus. It may be a hoax and could be used to spread a virus.
If you receive a chain letter or hoax virus alert, let the sender know
so they can stop spreading the virus.
4. Use strong passwords. Hackers
may try to steal your passwords to gain access to the personal information
stored on your computer. To make it tougher for them, use passwords
that have at least eight characters and include numbers or symbols.
Avoid common words: Some hackers use programs that can try every word
in the dictionary. Don't use your personal information, your login name
or adjacent keys on the keyboard as passwords.
Don't share your passwords online or over
the phone. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) should never ask for
5. Take advantage of your software's
security features. Chances are your web browser and operating system
software give you some options for increasing your online security.
Check the "Tools" or "Options" menus for built-in
security features. You probably have several choices for what types
of files you want to accept from other computers. If you don't understand
your choices, check them out using your "Help" function.
Similarly, your email software may give
you the ability to filter certain types of messages, such as some unsolicited
bulk email, or spam. But it's up to you to activate the filter.
6. Back up important files. If you
follow these tips, you'll reduce the chances of falling victim to a
hacker or virus. But no system is completely secure. If you have important
files stored on your computer, copy them onto a removable disk, and
store them in a safe place.
7. If your computer is infected, take
action immediately. If your computer has been hacked or infected
by a virus, disconnect from the Internet right away. Then scan your
entire computer with fully updated anti-virus software.
Before you reconnect to the Internet, think
about how your computer could have been accessed and what you could
have done to avoid it. Did you open an email attachment and let loose
a virus? Is your anti-virus software out-of-date? Take steps to minimize
the chances of it happening again.
8. Report serious incidents. If
you think you've been hacked or infected by a virus, email a report
of the incident to your Internet provider and the hacker's provider
(if you can tell what it is). Often the ISP's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
or email@example.com. By doing this, you let the ISP know about
the problem on their system and help them plan.