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How do I protect my computer from hackers?

Hackers are becoming more of a problem than ever before. It seems we're constantly trying to keep one step ahead. Here are some ways you can protect yourself online:

  • Keep what's yours, yours. Don't give out any information you don't need to. When you do need to give out personal information, make sure you are on a secured web site. Never respond to an e-mail requesting personal information. More and more, hackers are getting their information by simply asking for it.
  • Use a firewall. Whether the firewall is hardware or software based, you should place a barrier between you and the outside world. Even the basic built in Windows firewall is better than nothing. You have a lock on your front door, put one on your computer.
  • Don't download attachments you aren't expecting. Hackers can disquise themselves as people you know, so don't assume an attachment is safe if it has a familar name on it.
  • Run virus detection software at least once a week to perform a full scan of your computer. Keep automatic detection running at all times so it will scan disks, downloaded files and e-mails for viruses.
  • Run spyware detection software at least once a week.
  • Stay away from illegal downloads via P2P networks. Viruses and spyware are often lurking in files posing as software, photos and music. In addition to opening yourself up to legal issues, you put your computer and personal information at risk.
  • If you have a wireless network, make sure you secure it properly using WEP encryption, MAC address filtering and strong passwords. Change those WEP keys and passwords often.
  • Use an alternative browser to Internet Explorer (such as Mozilla or Firefox) which will offer greater security.

Protecting yourself isn't hard, but it requires vigilance. The key to protecting yourself is to not let your guard down, no matter how friendly a person or web site seems.

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