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By Syd Tash ( Sun 11 May 2008)

Over the last few years I have written a lot, and you have no doubt read a lot about identity theft, and how to protect your personal data online and on your computer. So here, in one convenient list, are some dos and don’ts you should follow.

1. Before entering sensitive data on a Web site, look for the closed padlock in the upper or lower part of your screen. Make sure the site address begins with https://… That letter”s” means secure. However, these two indicators are not foolproof.

2. Never copy and paste login IDs or passwords. The contents of your Clipboard can easily be seen.

3. Avoid public computers. If you do use one, do not shop or do your banking. Never step away from the computer while an application is open that you had to log in to. Change your password as soon as you get home.

4. If you use your own laptop at a hot spot, make sure you have proper encryption set up. Do not just use the default factory settings. These usually provide little or no protection.

5. Regardless of where or how you do your online surfing, change your passwords every couple of months, or more often if you think they have been compromised. Choose passwords of at least six characters, and include numbers, letters and ?, !, *, #, $ if permitted.

6. Do not reply to emails supposedly from your bank, broker, utility company, government agency, PayPal, eBay, etc. Do not click on links in such emails. To go to one of these organizations, click your Desktop icon or Favorites link, or type the address manually into the browser address bar.

7. If you have fallen victim to a fake email (phishing) and have given out confidential information, change your password immediately and notify the company in question. Send them a copy of the spoofed email.

8. Do you travel with a laptop across international borders? Make sure you do not have any sensitive data on the machine that could cause you problems if the computer was inspected by customs agents. If your data is encrypted, you may have to reveal the decryption key, or risk having the laptop seized. Make sure you have a current backup at home or at the office.

9. Do not open email attachments, even if it is from your friend. His computer could unknowingly be infected. True friends do not send each other !

10. New threats and dangers generally evolve much faster than countermeasures. So your best defense is to keep your security programs up to date, including your antivirus, antispyware, firewall and of course Windows. Now be a good buddy and send this entire list to your friends. Suggest they save or print it. Click “ShareThis” just below.

Syd Tash is a noted computer security consultant and author of How to Protect Your Computer Online. He has been keeping Internet surfers safe and secure since the last century. Find out how he does it; protect your own computer with five layers of protection right here:
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