Computers have made our lives easier, turning out to be huge time savers and powerful financial tools. Paying bills online, budget tracking software and buying items cheaply from auction sites does make a lot of sense.

But as you increasingly using your computer for transactions and private information, you should take certain steps to ensure that your personal information stays personal. Here is how to keep your computer secure and off limits to prowlers.

Using Passwords

Just as you wouldn’t leave sensitive documents lying around for prying eyes; you should store the information on your computer in a safe place: in your own user account locked with a password.

Your passwords shouldn’t be common words from the dictionary, partners’ names, Social Security numbers, birthdays, etc. These are things that people think are clever just because they can recall them easily and not write them down.

Even if you never intend to go online, you should still password protect your system. If you have a snoopy house-guest or if your laptop falls into the wrong hands, they could easily access your information if it’s not password protected.

Treating Guests

It’s recommended to set up a separate (guest) user account for others to use on your system so that your sensitive information remains private.

On Windows machines, choose user accounts in the control panel and follow the instructions. Mac users have to create a password on using the computer for the first time, but they can change their password and other settings in the system preferences. It’s better if you disable automatic login.

 

Upping your guard

Before getting on the information highway, you need to make sure that all security settings that come with your computer are turned on. It’s great if you purchase some added protection later on. Always ensure you have the basic protection up and running before going online.

Get the firewall up and running. Your computer should come with one built in, or perhaps with a bundled software package. The firewall is the gatekeeper for Internet activity. It’s on by default, but you’ll need to verify if it’s on. Check for the firewall icon when you switch on the computer.

The higher your security settings, the more you’ll be able to screen and filter the dangerous and harmless. Medium to medium-high should be fine for most of us.

‘Anti’ software

Namely — antivirus and anti-malware. These can be either packaged separately or come together.

Malware is software that gets installed surreptitiously your system that collects information stealthily as you navigate the Internet. Only some spyware might be actually malicious; a common spyware that marketers use is what’s called adware.

Viruses, on the other hand, are those that target your system and information. Immediately download or activate antivirus and antispyware software, if you haven’t done so yet.

Regular Checkups

Unlike fashion, computer security trends are easy to keep up with. You only need to set up automatic updates and let them run. It is essential to get the updates immediately. Set your protection updates to run regularly: on a daily basis is recommended. Then run regular full system scans against viruses and spyware.

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