Protecting Your Information

Backups

You are responsible for the information on your computer. To ensure that your data is not lost in the event of a hard drive crash or virus infection, you should backup your files on a regular basis. There are several ways that you can can accomplish this:

  • Save your information on a USB drive, external hard drive or CD/DVD.
  • Use the backup utility that your operating system provides. Both Windows 7 Backup and Mac OS X Time Machine are excellent utilities.
  • Cloud storage from sites such as Dropbox and iCloud. It is not recommended that you save personal information in the "Cloud" that includes Social Security numbers, usernames, passwords or bank account numbers.

Keep Others From Accessing Your Computer or Network Account

You should protect the information on your computer by setting up a password on your user account. If you need to leave your computer to go a short distance or for a brief period of time, you can hold down the Windows key and the “L” key to lock your workstation. You must then enter your password to gain access to your desktop.

Keep in mind, if you leave your computer unattended, it is vulnerable to theft. A good cable lock can be used to secure it. They are available at any computer store for a reasonable price.

Online and Network Information Protection: Viruses and Phishing

Be sure to protect your information while you are online or connected to a network. Do not open attachments you receive via email or Facebook unless you are sure they are safe and know that the sender is reliable and legitimate.

There are some viruses and trojan horses that look like helpful programs, such as an antivirus program or a pop up that asks to scan your computer to make it run faster. These pop ups can actually download and install a virus or trojan horse that can destroy your data or collect sensitive information from your computer. Read this article from the Microsoft website about one particular trojan. If you see a pop up like this, do not try to close it by clicking on the X; this will actually allow the virus/trojan to install. Instead, use the Ctrl + F4 command to close the active window. If that fails, quit the web browse, clear the cache files and delete your browsing history. If the infection is bad enough, the hard drive usually will need to be erased and restored to the original factory condition so be sure your data is always backed up.

Beware of any emails requesting personal information. Many fraudulent emails provide web links that look legitimate and secure and will prompt you to enter financial information, such as bank accounts, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers, or will ask for password and security information for a specific website. Commonly (but not always), these emails will look like they are sent from banks, EBay or PayPal. Obtaining information this way is called “phishing."  If you are going to enter any personal information online, be sure you are doing so on a secure website.

Antiphishing.org »
How to avoid phishing scams »