What to know about your computer security

April 10, 2015 | Dan Colt

Padlock icons.

If you go hiking, you usually make sure you have everything you need for the next few hours: water, a snack or food, a sweater in case it gets chilly or sunscreen if you’re out longer than you thought you would be. Now, think about what you do to prepare yourself for safely surfing the Internet. You most likely surf the Internet for a few hours at a time from your desktop or laptop, and wouldn’t you want to make sure you were prepared for anything that could happen? The Internet, as expansive as it is, allows users to have access to products and services, entertainment and information, but it also creates opportunities for hackers and identity thieves. In order to prepare you for the world of the Internet, here are some tips to improve your computer security:

  1. Keep your computer up-to-date on all patches. Patches are pieces of software designed to update, fix or improve a computer program or its supporting data. Set up your computer for automatic software and operating system updates. An unpatched machine is more likely to have software vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
  2. Install protective software. Anti-virus software is available to download for free for Windows and Macintosh. When installed, the software should be set to scan your files and update your virus definitions on a regular basis. Just make sure you trust where you are getting your software from! A pop-up advertisement that claims you have malicious software and need to pay $40 to fix it may have just downloaded a harmful program when there was nothing wrong in the first place.
  3. Choose complex passwords. Choose strong passwords with letters, numbers and special characters to create a mental image or an acronym that is easy for you to remember. Create a different password for each important account, and change passwords regularly.
  4. Backup, Backup, BACKUP! Backing up your computer regularly can protect you from the unexpected. Don’t forget to test your backups to make sure the files can be restored if necessary.
  5. Use email and the Internet safely. Ignore unsolicited emails, and be wary of attachments, links and forms in emails that come from people you don't know or seem “phishy.” Think before you click!

Just like preparing for a hike, the Internet may have a pothole here or there, so consider these safety tips for your computer the next time you want to explore the wilderness of the internet—and feel a bit more comfortable wherever your computer leads you to next.

The content provided in this blog consists of the opinions and ideas of the author alone and should be used for informational purposes only. Mission Federal Credit Union disclaims any liability for decisions you make based on the information provided.

Dan Colt

Dan Colt

Dan Colt is VP Technology Management at Mission Federal Credit Union. He has over 25 years of experience in the Information Technology industry, including numerous aspects such as security, data processing, disaster recovery and project management.

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