04 August 2010

Computer Safety

Well, friends, I write to you from a computer not my own. Two days ago, a rather fishy looking "antivirus" alert popped up on my screen. Though I was suspicious, the alert was in fact a virus that had already downloaded itself onto my computer.

Though many of you know the easy ways to keep yourself and your computer safe while you are online -- don't ever share your login information, for example -- there are some other precautions you can take so that you don't end up like me.

Passwords: Though having a complicated password (upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols) is necessary and an oft-mentioned tip, it is also important to change your password regularly. If you work in a situation where you use a company computer program or are part of an organization with a central network, you probably are required to change your password every 90 or 120 days. However, you should take up this practice for all your passwords. Another quick password tip: try not to recycle passwords -- that is just making it easier for someone to guess it the second or third time you use it.

Updates: Though I'm sad to say that I hadn't taken my own advice here, it's very important that you keep your computer up-to-date. This means both the operating system your computer runs (Windows XP, in my case) and any security software you may have downloaded. I have had an update from Microsoft waiting on my computer for almost a year now because I wanted to back up my information before updating. That may have been a factor in my computer getting a virus. Unfortunately, you can never tell! Just be sure your computer is always updated.

Security: I won't recommend any specific programs or systems here, but lets just say there are a lot of options. You can pay for services like McAfee or Norton, or you can download a free service, like Avast. When my parents bought me my laptop a few years ago, they paid for McAfee on my computer, and it expired about the time I started school. However, the school required that I download their security system in order to use the wi-fi offered, and that system functions year-round. In any case, have a security system and update or scan regularly!

So overall, if any of these are news to you, I hope I can save you from a future mishap. Do you have any tips for me or any of the other readers here at RFP?

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