Protect Your Identity and Your Computer

Spring 2010 CSANews Issue 74  |  Posted date : May 27, 2010.Back to list

Many computer users are blissfully unaware of the degree to which virus and malware threaten our computing safety and security. According to published security reports, there are now more than 12 million viruses, Trojans, worms and other forms of malware threatening us, with an average of 5,400 new threats and variants showing up every day. In 2009 alone, more than two million new threats were created, released and detected.

Hardly a day goes by that I do not receive an e-mail or a call asking for help in cleaning an infected computer. The current crop of the most common malware can steal your identity by capturing your user names, account numbers and passwords. Then it sends that information to deviants who make fortunes selling your purloined information to crooks who will drain your bank accounts and charge your credit cards to their limits.

Other common malware will hijack your computer and add it to a "bot" of thousands of other hijacked computers which can then be rented to crooks to send out spam e-mails from your computer, or used by terrorists to "cyber attack" other computers. These occurrences are not some abstract work of science fiction, but very real threats that victimize millions of computer users every day.

Over the years, I have heard countless lame excuses for computer users not using antivirus software. Many have even said, "If I knew that I needed to update this software and do so much to protect my privacy, I would not have purchased a computer!" I call these computer users victims, either now or a victim waiting to happen. Make sure that this does not happen to you. Here are some guidelines to follow in order to protect your computer (and your identity):
  • Make sure that you have antivirus software installed on your computer.
  • Make sure that you have only ONE antivirus program installed on your computer. If you have more than one antivirus program installed, even if not active, it can cause your computer to malfunction and neither will be effective.
  • Most antivirus programs include "spyware" prevention. If yours does not, make sure that you install at least one to protect you from identity theft and other privacy issues.
  • Perform "Computer Maintenance" at least once a week, to keep it running smoothly and fast, if you use your computer daily. "Computer Maintenance" consists of "Disk Cleanup," "Error Checking" and "Defragmentation."
  • Turn your computer off at night or "reboot" or "restart" your computer at least once a day.
  • Do not open any e-mails that are from unknown senders (good antivirus software usually detects these and advises you as well).
  • Do not click on links in an e-mail that asks for your personal information. Your bank, eBay or other legitimate companies will ask you to go to your account online to make changes. They will NEVER ask you to click on a link in an e-mail to do so.
  • Help to keep the privacy of your friends and family safe by sending bulk e-mails in the BCC form, instead of in the TO or CC section of your e-mail.
  • Make sure that you back up either your complete hard drive or your important folders.
  • Finally, make "Restore" or "Recovery" disks of your whole system, which includes the operating system, in case your computer crashes.
By following the steps above, you will help to make the Internet a safer place to surf.

Pamela Tabak specializes in computer help for mature users. She has recently published a book, "Computer Tips for Seniors," which is available on her website at

Related links
Computer Tips for Seniors
Computer Maintenance and Safety Tips