Minimize Access to Your Information
It is probably easy for you to identify people who could gain physical access to your computer—family members, roommates, co-workers, members of a cleaning crew, and maybe some others. But identifying the people who could gain remote access to your computer becomes much more difficult. As long as you have a computer and connect it to a network or the internet, you are vulnerable to someone or something else accessing or corrupting your information. Luckily, you can develop habits that make it more difficult.
Lock or log-off your computer when you are away from it. This prevents another person from waiting for you to leave and then sitting down at your computer and accessing all of your information.
To be really secure, disconnect your computer from the Internet when you aren't using it. DSL and cable modems make it possible for users to be online all the time, but this convenience comes with risks. The likelihood that attackers or viruses scanning the network for available computers will target your computer becomes much higher if your computer is always connected.
Evaluate your security settings. It is important to examine your computer's settings, especially the security settings, and select options that meet your needs without putting you at increased risk. Many, but not all Internet providers offer free security software. If you don't receive free software, you should consider buying a commercial product that includes virus scan, firewall, and pop-up blockers. You should also be aware of your Internet cookies setting. Cookies are short pieces of data used by web servers to identify users. Some cookies are useful for storing images and data from websites that you frequent, but others are malicious and collect information about you. You'll have to decide how much risk from cookies you can accept. Finally, if you install a patch or a new version of software, or if you hear of something that might affect your settings, reevaluate your settings to make sure they are still appropriate.
Look for signals that you are using a secure web page. A secure site encrypts or scrambles personal information so it cannot be easily intercepted. Signals include a screen notice that says you are on a secure site, a closed lock or unbroken key in the bottom corner of your screen, or the first letters of the Internet address you are viewing changes from "http" to "https."