7 steps to make PC safe from hackers

It’s the start of a brand-spanking new year and the opportunity to start right with a fresh slate. This applies to your computer as well.

As I’ve said in this column before, you should exercise caution whenever traveling online, taking care not to divulge your personal information and taking extra steps to ensure your PC is safe and secure from hackers.

With the help of Computer Associates, I’ve compiled a list of computer New Year’s Resolutions to keep in mind as you hop on the information superhighway in 2007.

make PC safe from hacker

These will help you, not to mention your PC, to stay safe over the coming year.

● Never, ever provide sensitive information on social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook. Parents, make sure you sit down with your kids, particularly your teenagers, and ensure they understand that this is the biggest computer ‘no-no’ there is.

Never give out your Social Security number, mailing address and phone number, bank account or credit card numbers. Don’t even give out your birth date. Hackers – and Internet predators – lurk at these sites looking for vulnerable people.

● Yes, YouTube is hilarious (think of the video of Britney Spears and her musings on time travel), but don’t download anything unless your firewall and anti-virus software are enabled. Files on file-sharing sites are a common way for hackers to spread viruses.

● Make sure your firewall and antivirus software are enabled whenever playing online games like World of Warcraft. Again, any kind of file-sharing site or network is fair game to a hacker.

● Beware of phishing scams. These are those official-looking e-mails you get from, say, Bank of America, or PayPal, saying something like there’s been unusual activity on your account or that you need to take action so your account won’t go inactive. The e-mail goes on to say “Just click on this link” to get the problem straightened out.

These e-mails are phony and designed to get you to divulge your bank account or credit card numbers. If you’re concerned about your account, go to the company’s site directly or, better yet, give them a call.

● Beware of penny-stock scams. Increasingly, my e-mail inbox is filled with unsolicited stock tips. Often these e-mails are disguised to look like a note from a friend, but when I open them, it’s an image file telling me about the latest and greatest stock and how I can get in on the bottom floor. No, thanks.

● Beware of get-rich quick scams. It goes something like this: The wife of the president of Nigeria needs your help. If you help her, she’ll pay you $32 million – but first, you need to put up $1,000 to help with her legal fees. It’s a scam. Delete the e-mail and don’t look back.

● Never, ever, ever open attachments from strangers. This is the No. 1 way viruses are spread.

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