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 automatically.
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
Don't share your passwords online or
over the phone. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) should never
ask for your password.
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
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.