Personal Computer Security Tips

From passwords to firewalls, there are a number of basic tips and tools we all should use to secure our computers.

Use strong passwords

Passwords are the equivalent of the lock and key to your house on the Internet and help prevent misuse of your computer and other information. Choose smart passwords and protect your information using these tips:

  • Do...
    • create a password using a string of at least eight letters and numbers.
    • use one password for your computer login and a different password for online orders.
    • be very careful about responding to an e-mail, phone call, fax or letter from anyone who asks ...your password(s).
    • give your password and credit-card number only via a secure connection on a Web site.
    • change your password periodically.
  • Don't...
    • use your address, birth date, phone number, common words or your pet's name.
    • share your passwords with anyone.
    • write down any password near your computer where someone could see it.
    • carry your password in your purse or billfold.
    • give your password or credit card number via e-mail
For more on choosing safe passwords, check out the following links:
  • How do I choose my password?: Tips for choosing a password that's easy for you to remember but impossible for someone else to figure out. (Yahoo)
  • Strong passwords: How to create and use them. (Microsoft)
  • Password Strength: Check if your password is strong and will keep your information safe. (Microsoft)

Securing your computer

The following tips from the public service group GetNetWise will help keep your computer, and the information on it, safe:

  • Always use anti-virus software and keep the software up to date. Each month, more than 500 new viruses are discovered. Doing this will help you protect yourself when using virus software, as well as everyone else with whom you communicate. Learn about virus protection.
  • Always use a firewall. A firewall is like an internal lock for information on your computer. Many computer operating systems already have firewalls installed; you just have to turn them on. You can also download and purchase other firewalls to help secure your computer. Learn more about firewalls.
  • Learn the risks and rules associated with sharing files or your Internet connection. When sharing files across a network, make sure you know the rules and tips to keep your file sharing legal and safe.
  • Disconnect from the Internet when idle. If you aren't using it, disconnect your Internet connection. No one can attack your computer when it is not connected to the Internet. This is especially important if you have a high-speed connection.
  • Be in control of your software. The software and operating system on your computer have many security features, including many you may not use. Learn how to automatically update your computer with security patches, activate firewalls and turn off any extra options that leave your information vulnerable. Learn more about software and operating system security.
  • Use tools to enhance your protection. Learn about email filters, anti-virus software and more that can help protect you from viruses and hackers.
  • Retire your computer. Wipe out your hard drive before you dispose of an old computer. People can obtain personal information from your hard drive, even when it's no longer in use. Learn how to clear your computer of personal information.