We’ve all seen those commercials where some big scruffy guy in Illinois — or wherever — is buying himself a new motorcycle or boat for himself, plus a little something for his pals, with a credit card owned by some little old lady in Arizona or some other state. Unfortunately, those commercials don’t exaggerate. Identity theft is as big and as real a threat today as it ever was, especially for those who don’t have proper protection on their computers.
You want the time you spend on the Internet to be enjoyable and worry free, but there are no guarantees. Anyone can get hacked at any time. You can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of cybercrime by taking a few precautions. Even if your computer only has the most basic protection, it’s better than having none at all.
Believe it or not, a lot of people don’t have anti-virus or firewall protection on their computers. If your computer comes with anti-virus and firewall protection, use it. It’s also a good idea to install additional protection from trusted companies like McAfee, Trend Micro or Kaspersky. Research each carefully, and choose the one that works best for you. Some anti-virus software programs are incompatible, so if you’re going to have more than one, make sure that you have two programs that will work together on your computer, such as McAfee and Kaspersky. Once you have your anti-virus software installed, schedule it to do a complete scan of your computer at least once a week. Make sure you schedule regular, automatic updates of your software. This will ensure that you always have the latest version running on your computer.
You want to have a good firewall system, one that will automatically block or alert you to suspicious websites. You can help yourself during Google searches by previewing sites before clicking on the links to them. If a website looks suspicious, don’t visit it. Scan any materials that you plan to download from the Internet. And be careful what friends and family members – particularly your children — do when they’re using your computer, too.
One way people really hurt themselves when they’re online is with their choices of passwords. Everybody wants you to have a login ID and password these days, and it can be hard to remember them all. Still, you should try to come up with passwords for your accounts that are more complicated than your birth date or “password.” You definitely want to have complex passwords for any e-commerce sites that you use. You can keep track of all your different login IDs and passwords in a small notebook. Put the notebook someplace safe … away from your computer.
It’s a shame that we can’t just sit down in front of our computers and log on to the Internet without having to worry about the big bad cyber wolf waiting to pounce. We do have to worry; however, we can worry less and enjoy our time online more by taking a few simple steps to protect our computers from malicious websites and protect our personal information from computer hackers.