1. Perform basic computer safety maintenance
Before surfing the Web, you should perform three key maintenance steps to help improve the computer’s security. Visit our Protect Your PC section and follow the steps online to:
* Use an Internet firewall.
* Update your computer.
* Use up-to-date antivirus software.
2. Don’t open files from strangers
E-mail and instant messaging (IM) are two quick ways to communicate with friends, classmates, and family. E-mail and IM can also spread viruses and worms if you aren’t careful. Did you know that most e-mail viruses are spread by people who are fooled into opening an infected file? Don’t be tricked! You should never open a file attached to an e-mail or an instant message unless you recognize the sender and you are expecting the file. For more articles on helping to avoid viruses and worms, visit Help Prevent Viruses. For tips on safer IM, read Instant messaging safety and privacy tips.
3. Help fight spam and online scams
As long as you’re helping to prevent viruses and worms, you may as well learn how to help fight spam and online scams. To find out how you can spend more time on schoolwork and fun, and less time on deleting spam, read How to prevent spam e-mail from reaching you and Spam dos and don’ts: What to do with spam e-mail.
Phishing is another threat to your privacy that could lead to the theft of your credit card numbers, passwords, account information, or other personal data. To learn how to help protect your personal information from identity theft, read Help prevent identity theft from phishing scams.
4. Learn how to protect yourself from spyware
Has your Web browser been taken over by pop-up ads? Are there toolbars on your computer that you don’t remember downloading? You might be the victim of spyware. Spyware is software that collects personal information from you without first letting you know what it’s doing, and without asking for your permission. You might get spyware if you download: music or file-sharing programs, free games from sites you don’t trust, or other software programs from a suspicious Web site. To learn some of the warning signs of spyware, help avoid infecting your computer with spyware, or remove it if your computer has already been infected, start by reading What is spyware?
5. Take precautions when you go wireless
Many high school and college campuses now have wireless networks. That means you can surf the Web in the library, cafeteria, or a classroom. You may have already used wireless networks in your home, in airports, coffee shops, or even public parks. These networks are convenient, but they do come with a security risk. If you set up your own wireless network at home or in your dorm room, read Protect Your Home Network and pay special attention to the section on wireless network security. Also read Use public wireless networks more safely to get 3 more tips on WiFi security.
6. Password protect your computer—and lock it
Passwords are the first line of defense in protecting your computer from criminals, pranksters, or a careless roommate. If you don’t use a password to log on to your computer, anyone can access your computer and unlock it. Use our tips for building better passwords now, and be sure to lock your computer when you’re not using it. (To “lock” your Windows computer, hold down “Windows logo key + L.” Follow the instructions on the screen to unlock your computer when you’re ready to use it again)
7. Back up your work (and the fun stuff, too)
The image of students losing their term papers because they forgot to back up their work has almost become a cliché. Still, many of us don’t have the time to back up.