Did You Get a New Computer?

8 Steps to making your new computer safe when you connect to the Internet: Internet ScamBusters™ #108

We decided to start the New Year by tweaking the look of Internet ScamBusters a little bit — hope you like it.

Today we’re going to provide some step-by-step advice on how to stay safe when you get a new computer. This advice is also useful with your current computer to help protect you from a variety of scams, including identity theft and credit card fraud — see if you have missed any of these 8 steps to staying safe.

Let’s begin…

Beware: New Computers May Bear Unwanted Christmas Gifts:
8 Steps to Staying Safe When You Connect to the Internet

If you receive a new computer for Christmas, chances are high that it will come without the latest security patches and with outdated antivirus software. Yet, many people wrongly assume that their new computers are ready to ‘plug and play.’

Since over 1,300 new viruses were identified just last month — and because many computers sit in the channel for a number of months — it’s important that you take a few minutes to secure your new computer and protect yourself before you connect to the Internet and start surfing.

Here are 8 steps to help you stay safe — whether or not you have a new computer:

1. Install a firewall. Recent independent tests show that without a firewall, a standard PC that is connected to the Internet can be compromised in 10 to 20 minutes! For more info on firewalls, click here.

2. Update your operating system with the latest security patches. It’s important to do this before you do anything else (besides Step 1).

In Windows, select ‘Windows Update’ from the Start Menu’s ‘All Program’ list. On the Mac, you can select ‘Software Update’ under the Apple Menu. It’s a good idea to set your computer to automatically get future updates.

3. Install and/or update antivirus software. Since many computers only come with 90 days of antivirus software protection, be sure to write the expiration date on your calendar.

Perhaps the best thing you can do for your new computer — and your peace of mind — is to resolve to protect yourself from computer viruses. For anti-virus info, click here.

4. Download and install Firefox as your Web browser. Firefox is much more secure than Microsoft Internet Explorer.

In fact, The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team has gotten so fed up with these Microsoft Internet Explorer vulnerabilities that they have recommended that consumers switch to a different browser.

We agree with this recommendation to switch browsers. There are just too many security holes in Microsoft Internet Explorer. Whereas it certainly is true that no browser is completely secure, we believe that using Microsoft Internet Explorer is not worth the security risks.

Our favorite browser is Firefox. Visit: http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/

Mac users can use Safari or Firefox.

5. Install one or more good anti-spyware programs. Spyware, adware, scumware, etc. are very serious problems for PC users. We’ve written a good deal about spyware — click here.

6. Update other Internet programs. Older versions of programs like RealNetwork’s RealPlayer, Sun Microsystems’s Java software and Microsoft’s Windows Media Player all can suffer from security problems. Update older versions of these and other programs you use:

==} http://www.real.com

==} http://www.java.com

==} http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/default.aspx

7. Use common sense. Be skeptical and careful when you’re on the Internet and checking email. Don’t download email attachments, even from friends.

8. Be very careful about where you give out your personal information. Always make sure that any website you buy from uses a secure server. (The Web address should start with https:// rather than just http:// and there should be a padlock visible on the bottom of your browser window.)

Don’t fall for phishing scams or attempts to steal your identity — they are getting more and more sophisticated each week.

For more information on phishing scams and identity theft, click here.

Follow these 8 steps to help keep your computer safe from computer viruses and spyware, Internet scams, and identity theft.

We wish you a safe, healthy, and productive beginning to this New Year.