The first step to protecting yourself online is protecting the equipment you use to access the internet. It is important to always keep your operating system up to date, use firewalls, antivirus and antispyware software.
Your computer’s operating system is the heart of your device – without it, nothing else will function. Periodically operating systems will be updated by the developer to fix bugs and stay in tune with new technology requirements. In order for your operating system to run most efficiently, you should take advantage of the updates as they are released.
A firewall is a software program or hardware device that helps to screen out hackers, viruses, and other malware that attempt to reach your computer over the internet. It will allow for outward communication but restrict unauthorized access. Of course, it will only work if it is turned on and configured properly!
Antivirus software is designed to detect and quarantine computer viruses. A virus can infect your computer without your knowledge, so having your antivirus software running regularly and performing real-time scanning will help to keep your system healthy.
Spyware is software that enables a user to obtain information about another’s computer activities by secretly transmitting data from their hard drive. Antispyware software helps to protect your system against collecting data without your consent. Some operating systems offer free spyware protection – but be cautious of internet ads offering free protection. These may be fraudulent offers and may in fact be spyware.
Once online, only enter sensitive information into secure sites and sites that you explicitly trust. Some sites will show a lock icon in the address bar, some will turn green, and all should read “https:” in the address bar.
It is also important to shutdown and turn off your computer when you’re not using it. By leaving your system on, it is more susceptible to unauthorized access. By turning the system completely off, the connection is also cut and therefore not available to hackers or viruses.