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Protecting Your Data on the Internet

The internet has literally changed the way we interact with everyday life. Everything you need can now be accessed in the comfort of your own home, right from the computer. Shopping for apparel, electronics, and even real estate can all be done comfortably online. Why waste precious gas money on a trip to a retail store when you can download your favorite songs, movies and games from the internet? Check the balance of your bank account at any time of day or remotely access client data and finish all of your work at home. In fact, there is little you can't do online these days.

With the convenience of the internet comes many dangers. Hackers, con artists and malicious programs all pose a threat to your computer and the information it contains. Whether you're conducting business online or merely managing your emails, learning to practice safe computing is a must. By employing a few essential security measures, you can drastically reduce the chance of being victimized by the array of online threats.

Secure Your Personal Data

First and foremost, you need to understand the importance of protecting your personal information, a factor that just can't be stressed enough. This critical information is powerful ammunition to an identity thief as it could give them easy access to your bank account, credit cards, medical records and other critical assets.

You may find yourself saying, "I'm nobody special, why would anyone want my personal information?" The harsh reality is that anyone can be victimized by identify theft. The numbers reported by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) are staggering, revealing that millions of consumers become victims each year. Because online criminals obtain personal information in various ways, you need to take various preventative measures to ensure that your data is safe.

Use a Firewall

Once used primarily in the network environment, the firewall has become a data security tool for the home user as well. Virus and spyware scanners will keep the malicious software away but are virtually useless against determined intruders looking to steal your data. A firewall will help to keep computer crackers out of your system by monitoring network traffic. For the average home user, this network is the internet. Acting as your personal security guard, a firewall looks out for outside intrusion and will alert you of anyone attempting to access your computer. Some also monitor and block outbound traffic, preventing an application on your computer from communicating with third-party sources and downloading dangerous content.

With hacking attempts on the incline, many of the newer operating systems and network devices come equipped with built-in firewalls. Some come integrated with anti-virus programs. In any event, the firewall must be enabled, properly configured and frequently updated in order to provide the best protection. If you are using the firewall on your Windows operating system, make sure that you are receiving regular updates from the Microsoft website. Without this security mechanism, the gates to your computer are wide open to internet prowlers.

Additional Security

There are several other protective measures you can take towards securing your data. Encryption mechanisms, security software and password protection schemes also play a critical role in keeping online criminals away from your confidential information.

 

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You can protect your computer from viruses without expensive software. Instead, follow these simple tips:

Stay up-to-date on all system updates.

Don't download any email attachments you weren't expecting.

Avoid freeware and peer-to-peer sharing sites.

Use alternative web browsers and email software.