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Computer maintenance needs to become as routine as locking your house and car. Home users need to routinely update their antivirus and Internet firewall software against the latest threats and check for software fixes that software makers provide for free. "If you've got a system out on the Net and it's not patched, there's a very high degree of likelihood that literally in a matter of hours you'll be popped," warns Amit Yoran of computer security firm Riptech.

(AP) -- By being diligent about computer security and following some simple tips, you can better protect yourself from things that go bump on the Internet.

  • Use strong passwords. Choose passwords that are difficult or impossible to guess. Mix up letters and numbers in your passwords, and use a different password for each account. Never write your password down on a piece of paper.
  • Make regular backups of critical data. Backups must be made at least once each day. Larger organizations should perform a full backup weekly and incremental backups every day. At least once a month the backup media should be verified.
  • Buy and use virus protection software. That means three things: having it on your computer, checking daily for new virus signature updates and then scanning all the files on your computer periodically.
  • Use a firewall program as a gatekeeper between your computer and the Internet. Firewalls are usually software products. They are essential for those who keep their computers online through the popular DSL and cable modem connections but they are also valuable for those who dial in.
  • Do not open e-mail attachments from strangers, regardless of how enticing the subject line or attachment may be. Be suspicious of any unexpected e-mail attachment from someone you do know because it may have been sent without that person's knowledge from an infected machine.
  • In your anti-virus program configuration please deactivate the automatic virus alert notifications to senders, since viruses now often arrive in your inbox with a spoofed return address. So by automatically notifying this spoofed sender your anti-virus program is not contributing anymore to solve a problem but compounding that problem by generating useless and damaging traffic to mail servers and intruding the inbox and lives of users who had nothing to do with this virus e-mail you received.
  • If you get an e-mail that warns about a virus, visit an antivirus company Web site first to check whether it is a hoax. Do not forward virus hoax e-mails.
  • Regularly download security patches from your software vendors, especially from your operating system vendor, such as Microsoft, Apple, IBM or Linux.
  • Source: National Infrastructure Protection Center, AP research

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    Last update Montréal 07/03/2004 07:08:11
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