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How to Protect Your Computer

Below are some important strategies to help protect your computer from cyber intrusions:

Keep Your Firewall Turned On: A firewall helps protect your computer from hackers who might try to gain access to and crash your hard drive, delete information, or even steal passwords or other sensitive information. Software firewalls are widely recommended for single computers. The software is prepackaged on some operating systems or can be purchased for individual computers. For multiple networked computers, hardware routers typically provide pretty good firewall protection.

Install or Update Your Anti-Virus Software: Anti-virus software is designed to prevent malicious software programs from embedding on your computer. If it detects malicious code, like a virus or a worm, it works to disarm and/or remove it. Viruses can infect computers without user’s knowledge. Most types of antivirus software can be set up to be updated automatically.

Install or Update Your Anti-Spyware Technology: Spyware is just what it sounds like, software that is surreptitiously installed on your computer to let others peer into your activities on the computer. Some spyware collects information about you without your consent or produces unwanted pop-up ads on your web browser. Some operating systems offer free spyware protection, and inexpensive software is readily available for download on the Internet or at your local computer store. Be wary of ads on the Internet offering downloadable anti-spyware, in some cases these products may be fake and may actually contain spyware or other malicious code. It's like buying groceries, always shop where you trust.

Keep Your Operating System Up to Date: Computer operating systems are periodically updated to stay in tune with technology requirements and to fix various security issues. Be sure to install important updates to ensure your computer has the latest protection.

Be Very Careful What You Download: Carelessly downloading e-mail attachments can circumvent even the most vigilant anti-virus software. Never open an e-mail attachment from someone you don't know, and be wary of forwarded attachments from people you do know. They may have unwittingly advanced malicious code.

Turn Off Your Computer: With the growth of high-speed Internet connections, many people opt to leave their computers on and ready for action. The downside is that being "always on" renders your computer to be more susceptible to hacking attacks. Beyond firewall protection, which is designed to fend off unwanted attacks, turning the computer off effectively severs an attacker's connection; be it spyware or a situation that employs your computer's resources to reach out to other unwitting users.