1. Keep them out!  A router is a great defense against attacks on your computer from the outside world.  But like a gate, it’s only good if you  take the steps to make it secure

*Use a Router.

*Change the administration password on your router.

*Change/Hide the SSID Apply encryption to wireless.

2. Be a road warrior.  There are some security considerations when your computer leaves home.   

*Use Windows built-in firewall when using public internet access (Wi-Fi Hotspots).

*Only connect to well-known wireless hotspots.  Use BIOS password on Laptops.

3. lock the door!  You probably lock the front door of your house when you leave.  You do this to protect your belongings so it’s a good idea to afford the same protection to your computer.  

*Install Anti-Virus/Anti Malware and make sure you keep it up to date.

*Turn on Automatic Windows Update.

*Keep your programs up-to-date.

*Use a Windows Password.

*Use strong passwords Encrypt Customer Data using Microsoft’s built in encryption or alternatively, you might install free encryption software like TrueCrypt or BestCrypt.

4. look before you leap (or click) your use of your computer, your online behavior significantly affects how easy it is to penetrate your PC.  Practice safe web surfing.  Handle your email safely.  Follow these tips to reduce the chances that outsiders can penetrate your computer:     *

 *Avoid downloading free software like screensavers, wallpaper, games, or toolbars unless you know they are safe. These often come with embedded malware.  If you just can’t pass up freebies,   download them to a directory where you scan them with your anti-virus and anti-malware programs before using them.

*Don’t visit questionable web sites. Hacker sites, sexually explicit sites, and sites that engage in illegal activity like piracy of music, videos, or software are well known for malware. You could get hit by a drive-by — a malicious program that runs just by virtue of your viewing a web page.

*Before you enter your online account name and password into any web site, be sure the web page is secure. The web page’s address should start with the letters https (rather than http). Most browsers display a closed lock icon at the bottom of the browser panel to indicate a secure web site form.

*Don’t open email or email attachments from questionable sources. These might install malware on your system. Dangerous email attachments often present themselves as games, interesting pictures, electronic greeting cards, or invoices so that you will open them.

*Don’t click on links provided in emails. These could direct you to a legitimate-looking but bogus web site designed to steal your personal information. Avoid using P2P programs such as: Kazaa, Bearshare, Gator, Shareaza, LimeWire, etc. Beware of Phishing and Social Engineering.   Don’t fall for scams on eBay, Craigslist, etc

5.  Don’t be left High and Dry.  Could you afford to lose the data on your computer?  This includes your Word and Excel files, your financial data, your digital pictures, your music, etc.  How long would it take you to recreate all of the data? 

*Backup your Data?  The best rule of thumb is to always have 3 copies of your data: one on your computer, one backed up on-site, and one backup off-site using services like Carbonite.

NOTE FROM NANCY:  I am reprinting this important information because, especially at this time of the year, you need to protect your computer from unscrupulous thieves.

 Christopher Diamond is the driving force behind CDA Tech Pros (http://cdatechpros.com), a full service computer consulting and support firm in the Phoenix area of Arizona.   Christopher honed his skills supporting the IT departments in the entertainment industry in California until he relocated to Mesa, AZ in 2005.  He now offers the same corporate grade support to businesses in the Valley with a wide range of services including Consulting, Implementation, & Support for Computers, Servers, & Networks, IT Security Assessments & Solutions as well as Website Development.   Chris is also the Webmaster for this publication.