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Computer Security Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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When it comes to keeping your data secure and protecting your personal information, making the right choices in your computer habits is as important as the computer security tools you use. This computer security buying guide will help you figure out how to choose the right security and utilities software and give you tips on keeping your information secure and your data private.

What You Need to Know:

  1. Threats to your computer: Before you decide what computer security steps to take to protect your data and information, it helps to know the ways in which your computer and your information are vulnerable. All threats to your computer security come in the form of malicious software that installs itself on your computer. When it comes to computer security, there are two basic types of digital intruders: spyware and malware.

  2. Spyware: Spyware is software designed to monitor your activities online, gathering information about your Web-browsing habits and data about your computer. Some spyware can even change your settings and dominate computing resources, slowing down your computer.

  3. Malware: Malware tends to be more invasive than spyware, installing viruses, worms and Trojan horses which use your computer to multiply and then spread to other computers. A lot of malware is designed to record your passwords, credit card information and other sensitive information, possibly even resulting in identity theft or financial fraud. Other malware is simply designed to wreak havoc on the data on your computer.

  4. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software: You can often remove minor infections on your computer with anti-virus software or anti-spyware programs. Good computer security software can even warn you of unsecure Websites, stop malware from automatically downloading and prevent pop-up windows. Anti-malware programs scan your computer for malicious programs and attempt to remove them. Once you have anti-virus software installed, update it regularly and schedule frequent scans to detect infections.

  5. Router security: Routers designed for home use, such as a broadband router, can be set to use Network Address Translation (NAT), which lets all the devices on your home network share the one IP address. When your computer requests information through the Internet, it uses the router as an intermediary. In effect, your router won't allow computers to contact your computer directly, enhancing your computer security by making it more difficult for someone to gain access to your computer. Installing routers, hubs and switches instead of connecting your computer directly to your modem can help create another level of computer security.

  6. Firewalls and other devices: A firewall is either a piece of computer security software or a dedicated device that prevents unwanted traffic from passing through. Your operating system may already have a firewall. Be sure to regularly update your operating system to get computer security updates.

  7. Internet security: A lot of your computer security comes from your Web-browsing behavior. Visiting unknown Websites and downloading files indiscriminately can seriously compromise your computer security, exposing you to all kinds of malicious programs. The best way to avoid malware infections is to stick to trusted Websites that are unlikely to have computer security issues. Don't open email attachments from sources you don't know and beware of clicking on ads and links from unfamiliar sites; they may be a computer security risk.

  8. Passwords: When it comes to the Internet, your computer security is only as good as your passwords. If you choose a sufficiently random password, it can be nearly impossible to guess. Here are a few tips for choosing strong passwords for computer security:

    Password Tips:

    • Create a complex password: Combine uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols for a strong password. The longer the password is, the better.

    • Make it unique: Don't use the same password for multiple Websites.

    • Change it: Change your password regularly. More sensitive passwords, such as for your bank account or other sensitive logins, should be changed as frequently as once a month.

Tip from Overstock.com:

  1. Back up your data on an external hard drive. You can store sensitive files on the external drive and only plug in when you need to update or make changes, significantly enhancing computer security by reducing your data's exposure.

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