Securely Use Email and the Internet

Securely Use Email and the Internet
Using a personal computer for surfing the Internet and email provides an excellent channel for communication and knowledge – it also raises the issue of securing your computer and identity. Below are some basic security tips for keeping your computer and personal information protected. Remember, these tips will help protect, but cannot completely prevent security breaches.

  • When selecting a password do not use personal information, such as birth date or last name, as these are easy to guess. Don’t use common words, or words found in any dictionary. The most secure passwords are those based on a mnemonic such as the first initial of each family member. For added security make the password longer, include a symbol, a number, and use both upper and lower case.

  • For added security change your password on a regular basis. Also, select a different password for each account that requires a password, this way if someone obtains your password they can’t access all of your accounts.

  • Delete temporary files, Internet cache and cookies on a regular basis. If you have sites that you visit that require a password make sure you know the password before deleting the cookies. Many sites on the Internet store your password in a cookie so you don’t have to login each time you visit.

  • If you receive an email from someone you don’t recognize – don’t open the email. There may be instances that you are not sure if the email is from a trusted source. For instance, if you are searching for a job and have recruiters sending you email. In these cases, use your best judgment on whether the email is safe. The same rules apply to attachments within an email.

  • Install a SPAM filter or contact your ISP (Internet Service Provider) to see if they provide SPAM filtering services. If a SPAM email does get through the filter delete it immediately. Don’t respond or asked to be removed from their mailing list – this will increase the amount of SPAM as they now have a verified email address.

  • Never provide your personal information via email or the Internet unless it is a trusted source. If you are not sure side with caution and don’t provide your personal information. Most legitimate companies will not ask for you password or PIN via email.

  • Always keep service packs up-to-date as they contain bug and security fixes. The service packs can be installed manually from the software manufacturer’s website or usually can be setup to install automatically (best option). Also, it is not just the operating system or browser that needs to be up-to-date but other software on the computer should be upgraded when necessary.

  • Buy, install and keep virus scanning software up-to-date. Most virus scan software subscriptions need to be renewed annually. Make sure to renew so the virus definitions are kept current. Also, it is recommended that a complete system scan is run at least once a week.

  • Keep a back up of all your data. To backup data, the data can be burned to CD, copied to a flash drive or backup tape. There are also services that, for a cost, will allow you to backup your data over the Internet to their servers.

  • Record and keep all serial numbers and installation codes for software, along with the installation media, in a safe place. This way if anything does happen to your computer you won’t have to hunt around for this information to reinstall the software.

  • When installing shareware or freeware on your computer, read the terms of the agreement carefully. In many instances, spyware and adware are installed with the shareware or freeware per the agreement.

  • Install a popup blocker for Internet Explorer which will prevent unwanted advertisements when surfing the Internet. This also protects your computer from spyware and adware infections, since many of the popups contain these programs and will install when you click on OK.

  • Use a firewall. Windows XP comes with a pre-installed firewall or you can purchase a hardware based firewall. The firewall adds a layer of protection from attacks from the Internet by only allowing trusted sources to access your computer.

  • Protect children surfing the Internet by installing software that blocks inappropriate content. The software can be customized to only allow content that is appropriate for children and will block access to sites that do not fall within the set criteria.

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This content was written by Allison Nunn. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Allison Nunn for details.