The following are some general tips to help safeguard your personal information and secure your personal computer or laptop.
Secure your computer
- Install anti-spyware and anti-virus protection and make sure the signatures are updated regularly.
- Using a firewall prevents unauthorized users from gaining access to a computer, or monitors transfers of information to and from the computer while connected to the Internet. Make sure it is turned on!
- Operating system and software updates, sometimes called "patches" or "service packs," should be installed very soon after they are released. Follow good proactive procedures by backing up your computer before installing any patches.
- Web browser updates are deployed with your security in mind so keep them current.
- Turn off your computer or disconnect from wired/wireless network when it is not in use.
- Use caution when opening attachments or downloading files from emails you receive.
- If you are unsure whether or not your computer is at risk for viruses/worms please visit Symantec's threat research center for more information.
Secure your home network
- Change the default password on any networking equipment (routers, switches, wireless access points, etc.).
- Use the built-in security features offered in many routers/switches/access points to help "harden" your home network.
- Turn on encryption for wireless networks. Use the highest encryption available if possible.
- Change the default System ID (SSID) on your wireless access point.
- Turn off all wireless networks when leaving your house for an extended period of time.
- Place the wireless access point away from windows and near the center of your house to decrease the signal strength to prevent outsiders from accessing your wireless service.
Internet browsing tips
- Always use caution when browsing the Internet, especially unfamiliar sites.
- Avoid clicking on advertisements. Even on legitimate sites, the advertisements are coming from other servers and could contain links to compromised sites. If you like the product in the advertisement, go to that company's main website instead of clicking the link.
- Most emails are written with code designed for websites and they can contain links. Be cautious with emails from unknown senders and do not click on any links or pictures in those emails. See our Phishing Scams section for more information and an example of a phishing email.
- Always use your browser's pop-up blocker
- If a window pops up unexpectedly saying you've won something, you have a virus, or you must enter your password to continue, it is most likely malicious and should be handled as such. Do not click anywhere on the window, instead hit the CTRL, ALT, and DELETE keys at the same time, select Task Manager, and choose End Task on the browser window (Windows Users).
- Be aware of online offers to back up your computer over the Internet or of free computer security scans, these can be malicious and provide intruders an avenue to your personal data.
- Disable the feature in your browser that keeps and stores all passwords.
- Always log out of websites by clicking "log out" on the site. It's not enough to simply close the browser window or type in another address because your session may remain active.
- Remember that the Internet is a public resource. Avoid putting anything online that you don't want the public to see or that you may want to retract.
- Adjust Facebook privacy settings to help protect your identity. Unlike some other social networking sites, Facebook has provided some powerful options to protect you online - but it's up to you to use them!
- Check sites privacy policies. Some sites may share information such as email addresses or user preferences with other companies. This may lead to an increase in spam. Also, try to locate the policy for handling referrals to make sure that you do not unintentionally sign your friends up for spam. Some sites will continue to send email messages to anyone you've referred until they join.
- Children are especially susceptible to the threats that social networking sites present. Although many of these sites have age restrictions, children may misrepresent their ages in order to join. By teaching children about Internet safety and to be aware of their online habits as well as guiding them to appropriate sites, parents can make sure that children become safe and responsible users. See our Children's Security section for more information.
To learn more about computer and online security visit the following websites.
US-CERT (U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team)
Home Network Security
This document gives home users an overview of the security risks and countermeasures associated with Internet connectivity, especially in the context of "always-on" or broadband access services (such as cable modems and DSL). However, much of the content is also relevant to traditional dial-up users (users who connect to the Internet using a modem).
The following documents may be useful for home and corporate users, or for people new to computer security.
The following documents may be useful for system administrators or other technical users.
Cyber Security Tips
These Tips describe and offer advice about common security issues for non-technical computer users.
Staying Safe on Social Network Sites
This document outlines the security risks associated with social networking sites and how to take certain precautions to protect yourself.
Microsoft Online Safety
Microsoft website dedicated to online safety and privacy education.
National Cyber Security Alliance website featuring cyber security information, tools and resources for home users, educators and small businesses.
Facebook web page dedicated to how to protect your information both on and off Facebook.
Recommendations for Facebook settings from Sophos, an IT security and data protection company.
Ten ways that you can protect your privacy on Facebook provided by All Facebook, an unofficial Facebook resource.
Web page featuring information on how to protect a wireless network.