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How Can You Strengthen Your Computer’s Security to Avoid Identity Theft?

Threats against your computer are numerous. Malicious crackers want to gain control over your information assets and steal your digital identity. Fraud can be committed in your name when they do. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing serious crimes.

A person’s electronic persona, when stolen by a criminal, can be used to mask cyber attacks, perpetrate fraudulent transactions and seriously damage your credit. What can you do to secure your computer and protect yourself from identity theft?

Following are steps that you can take now to help secure your computer and safeguard your identity:

1.) Lock your workstation or computer when you walk away from your work area. Otherwise, any passerby can examine the contents on your screen and take advantage of your connection and exploit any information that can be found.

2.) Make certain that you have downloaded the latest security patches for your computer’s operating system and application software that is installed on your computer. Otherwise, known vulnerabilities related to your system’s weaknesses can be exploited.

3.) Avoid opening suspicious e-mail attachments that you receive. Malicious code can be downloaded when you “click” to open an attachment.

4.) Do not install any free tool bars or plug-ins on your computer. Trojans and other malware can be loaded on to your computer with the free tools or plug-ins from unknown third parties.

5.) Create strong passwords. Crackers can otherwise rotate through a powerful dictionary attack and discover your secret word or phrase and expose your sensitive information.

6.) Be familiar with your bank’s on-line security practices and policies if you use on-line banking. Know how they would make contact with you and guide your on-line behavior accordingly.

7.) Avoid writing down your password or giving it to others regardless of the reason. Your password could otherwise be easily compromised.

8.) Install and maintain a state-of-the-art Internet security software package. The Internet functions in an asymmetric threat environment. A good security package with updated malware signatures can block many attacks.

9.) Avoid answering any sensitive questions (social security number, PINs or account numbers) on-line or through e-mail. There are many “phishing” and social engineering exploits designed to dupe the unsuspecting computer user. Limit the information you give out.

10.) Only give your credit card number to reputable companies. Supplying your credit card number to questionable websites is one way to guarantee the loss of your identity.

11.) Only make purchases on sites that indicate they are using a secure connection. This method of exchange can easily be identified with the following prefix “https://” in your browser’s dialog box. The letter “s” indicates “secure”.

12.) Consider obtaining and installing a personal firewall that will allow you to block incoming threats. Set your own security policies. Limit the threats that penetrate your machine.

13.) Encrypt the data on your hard drive so that if a malicious user gains access to your computer or your mobile computing devices (including lap tops) the data can’t be read. Follow the above steps and you can improve your chances of avoiding the loss of personally identifiable information from your computer.

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