Hackers are able to infiltrate your computer using various techniques, eg. trying to get you to click on fraudulent bank links or simply by secretly installing software on your PC when you visit less reputable websites. Once they gain access to your machine, they are able to copy passwords and other private information for nefarious ends, eg. to access your bank account or to hack your website using the stolen passwords.
To ensure that your system remains secure, there are a few easy steps you can take.
Five Important Steps for keeping your computer secure
||If you are running Windows XP you need to have Service Pack 3 installed with the latest security updates (go to www.windowsupdate.com). If you are using Vista or Windows 7, please ensure that Automatic Updates are enabled and that you have the latest security fixes (under CONTROL PANEL, WINDOWS UPDATE).
||Check that you have an updated antivirus program and then perform a full system scan. If you don't have an AV program, you can download AVG (Free) from http://free.avg.com/ww-en/download-avg-anti-virus-free - it also has a browser plugin which will show you which websites are safe to visit when you do a Google search.
||Check that you have an updated anti-spyware program. If not you can obtain one from http://www.emsisoft.com and then you need to do a full system scan.
||Make sure that your Windows Firewall is active. Although Windows Firewall is good for securing average systems, it is better to install a stronger firewall such as Comodo especially if you have already been the victim of cyber attacks. Download it free from http://personalfirewall.comodo.com
||Make sure that your web browser (Internet Explorer or Firefox) has the latest updates. For IE you can check this at windowsupdate.com and for Firefox at mozilla.com
If any of the above are outdated or absent from your machine, then it is much easier for hackers to gain access to your passwords and personal information.
If there is more than one machine in your office network, please check all of them using the above steps.
Avoid Pirate Software
Pirated versions of Windows and MS Outlook are a major security risk. If you are unsure if the version of Windows on your computer is legitimate, please use the Windows Genuine Validation tool at http://www.microsoft.com/genuine - then click on the button to "Validate Windows".
Pirate software can end up on your machine without you suspecting it, for example an unscrupulous technician may try to save time by installing a cracked version of Windows on your machine if the original disk can't be located, or a friend may unwittingly install something which he believes is legit. Pirate software does not entitle you to any updates therefore you are unable to patch your software to keep out hackers.
Avoid "free" file sharing, music and video websites
So-called free downloads websites are pathways which hackers use to gain access to your computer. They add a bug to the free download which automatically installs malicious content on your machine. Music and video almost always contain copyright, so if this is being made available for free, you should be very suspicious.
Try googling the website name to see if anyone else has had a bad experience from that website.
To be safe, install AVG Antivirus which includes a link checker, so when you search using Google it will tell you which websites are safe to visit.