6 Tips to Protect Your Computer From New Security Threats

We may only be one quarter into 2011, but attacks on our computers’ security are already on the rise.

During the first three months of 2011, software company Panda Security reported about 73,000 new strains of malware (short for “malicious software”) daily. That’s a 26-percent increase over the same period of 2010.

While malware attacks can come in the form of viruses, adware, and spyware, Panda Security found that most new strains are Trojans. “Trojans” are so named because, like the mythical wooden horse, they’re “invited in” through subterfuge, then wreak havoc by pillaging your personal financial information. As Panda Security put it:

“Overall, Trojans remain the most popular type of threat to computer systems, and now account for 70 percent of all new malware. This is not surprising since it is incredibly lucrative for cybercriminals to commit fraud or steal money from Internet users through the online banking channel.”

That’s not to say we fully trust Panda Security’s numbers: After all, they make money selling anti-malware protection. When it comes to computer security, however, you can never be too safe. So we’ve compiled Money Talks News’ top tips for protecting your computer from malicious hackers…

  1. Don’t be insecure. It may sound obvious, but the first step toward protecting your computer is simply making sure it’s equipped with antivirus software. Money Talks News’ in-house tech guru, Dan Schointuch, mentions several free antivirus programs in Antivirus Software is a Waste of Money.
  2. Keep current. If you have antivirus software but don’t always make sure it’s always updated, you may as well just offer your computer’s sensitive data up to hackers. With new strains of malware being produced every day, security software must be updated just as often to best protect your computer.
  3. Click with caution. As Dan says: “For the best protection on your computer, you need to observe common-sense rules like never clicking on unknown email attachments, shady ads or other suspicious links, and keeping your web browser and its plugins (like Adobe’s Flash) up to date.”
  4. Bring backup. If you’re not regularly backing up your computer files, you risk losing them all in a malware attack. You have three basic options: an external hard drive, an online backup service, or Stacy’s flash-drive method, all explained in Low or No-Cost Ways to Protect Your Computer.
  5. Surf with protection. When you use a wireless connection, your data – possibly including your passwords – is literally floating around in the air, and anyone who knows how can eavesdrop on your computer. While places like Starbucks and Panera offer free Wi-Fi, it’s on an unsafe public network. The easiest way to protect yourself is to connect only to secure networks: They usually have a lock symbol next to them and may mention “WPA” or “WEP encryption.” These networks garble up the data you’re transmitting so it won’t make sense to anyone trying to steal it.
  6. Think complicated. Some people use the same password for everything; others make them too simple. Try to get a mix of letters and non-consecutive numbers for the best protection. And avoid having one universal log-in, so that if one password gets hacked, you don’t risk everything.

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