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Tips to protect home computers on the Internet

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By being diligent about computer security and following some simple tips, you can better protect yourself from the 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.

_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.

Source: National Infrastructure Protection Center, AP research.
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