A computer virus is a small program that, unbeknownst to you, is installed on your computer by an evildoer. A virus may be used to change or destroy files on your computer, slow it down, send spam, send critical data from you computer to an evildoer, etc. Similar to a human virus, once your computer is infected, it may spread the virus to other computers through your email and attachments. Other types of infections include worms that crawl through your system doing damage such as deleting files, and Trojans, which are destructive files hidden inside seemingly innocuous items, such as music files, video clips, or graphic files.
- Install and use anti-virus software. You may download free anti-virus software, purchase anti-virus software, or use anti-virus software furnished by your Internet service provider.
- New viruses are released daily and anti-virus protection updates are released practically daily, so update your virus protection software once a week, or even daily. Better yet, set your anti-virus software to update itself automatically every day.
- Depending on your computer usage, set your anti-virus software to perform quick scans daily and full scans weekly.
Periodically check for updates to all the software used on your system. If available, set all your software to check for updates automatically.
Passwords help protect your personal data.
- Use passwords that include numbers, upper and lower case letters, and characters. The longer the password is, the harder it is to figure out. For example, a two-character alphanumeric password that uses letters a-z (and is case-sensitive meaning an "a" is different from "A") and numbers 0-9 has 3844 possible combinations; changing that to three characters increases the number of possible combinations to 238,328. An eight characters long password has about 218 trillion possible combinations. A 15 characters long password has about 770 heptillion (24 zeroes) possible combinations. While passwords of this length are difficult to figure out, given the time, inclination, and a decipher program to do the work for you, it can be done, so change your passwords on a regular basis.
- Use different passwords for each application and keep the passwords in a secure location that is easily accessible to only you.
- If you use many passwords, use password management software to make password protection and usage much simpler. A good choice is the free KeePass.
- All browsers store and automatically enter personal data required by Web forms. Use you browsers features to modify, retrieve, or delete that data.