Criminals are always looking for new ways to catch people unawares and take advantage of them. They will use any means necessary to commit whatever crime they have in mind and a lot of the technology we use everyday leaves everyone open for a possible attack. There are quite a lot of things you can do to protect yourself and your family from becoming victims.
Your personal computers contain a wealth of your most personal and valuable information as well as avenues for exploitation and theft by savvy criminals. The easiest way for a criminal to steal information off of your computer is to actually physically steal the computer. Laptops are prime targets for theft and you should never leave it unattended. Never leave them in your car, do not stow them in overhead bins while traveling and even when you are home, store them someplace that they are not readily seen by everyone in your home.
On top of that always secure your computers with good, strong, not-easily-guessed passwords. Do not use common words, do not use sequential numbers or letters and never use personal names or dates of important events. If you can remember them it is best to use alphanumeric passwords, passwords that contain a random set of numbers and letters – both uppercase and lowercase. If that isn’t do-able for you, use an odd sentence. Keep in mind that the longer your password is, the more characters it contains, the harder it will be to guess.
Other ways to safeguard your computer include making sure your firewall is always running, make sure that you have a good spyware program installed on your computers and that you run them at least once a week and never click on any links you do not recognize or are unsure about. Criminals are very good at embedding malicious software into seemingly innocuous programs that can wreak havoc on your computer and your personal life.
Truly deleting files is not as easy as it sounds. You may think that once you delete something from your computer that it is gone forever. A lot of times that is not the case. Unless you go through the trouble of wiping your hard drives or physically destroying them, it is possible to recover that “deleted” data. There are quite a few programs on the market that will “wipe” a hard drive truly clean… but be careful! USB thumb drives or flash data cannot ever be truly wiped clean.
Next week: Medical records, credit reports, junk mail and documents.
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