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Secure Your Computer

General best practices for securing any Internet-connected computer:

  • Use the strongest encryption you can get and keep your computer up to date with the latest security updates. Use the most current editions of your operating system and software. Vendors don't always support older software and operating systems, so as new security issues are found, older software remains vulnerable while security patches are released for newer versions.
  • Your Web browser may give you options for increasing your online security. Check the "Tools" or "Options" menus for built-in security features.
  • Your e-mail software or provider may enable you to filter certain types of messages, such as unsolicited bulk e-mail or spam. Activate the filter.
  • Install a firewall and both anti-virus and anti-spyware software on any laptop or PC from which you access the Internet. Update your virus definitions frequently and run scans on your computer on a regular basis.

Precautions for using a public or shared computer:

  • Protect your passwords. Many browsers offer to "remember" your usernames and passwords to secure Web sites. Using this feature may allow others who have access to your computer to gain access to your confidential information, including your account information. Never use this feature on a public computer.
  • Watch those cookies. Many sites will remember you and your information once you have logged in, even after you have closed the session. You can avoid this by clearing any cookies stored in your browser once your session is complete.
  • Always log out. End each online session by clicking on the "log out" button and then closing the browser. Do not just minimize the window or type a new URL into the address bar. These actions could leave your confidential information vulnerable to another user who looks up the browser history or clicks on the "Back" button.

Other tips:

  • Avoid using any computer that is not your own to access your accounts online.
  • Never share your password information with others.
  • Create passwords that are unpredictable and counterintuitive and change them frequently. Don't use the same password for different accounts.
  • Beware of over-the-shoulder snoops when using public computers.
  • Erase information that may have been stored by your browser by deleting cookies, temporary Internet files and history.
  • If you suspect that your password has been stolen or used by others, immediately notify the firm at which you have the account.

Be careful when using wireless hotspots (public access points) and wireless networks.
Hotspots are public access points that enable you to get onto the Internet wirelessly. Some require payment, while many are free. When surfing the Internet using a hotspot, you should take many of the same precautions as when you are using a public computer.

Take some special precautions when connecting to a wireless network:

  • When in doubt about the security of a hotspot, don't use it to conduct confidential business.
  • Shut off wireless connectivity or remove the network card if you leave your computer unattended.
  • Disable wireless ad hoc mode, a setting that allows all wireless devices to find and communicate with others within range.
  • Disable file and printer sharing capabilities when visiting hotspots.
  • Change your wireless network name and encryption keys periodically.
  • Change any default passwords for administering your wireless access point.