Tech Tips: Protecting Your Personal Information


This is a guest post from FCU's SVP of Information Services, Kirk Becker.

The internet can be a great place: you can get real time news updates, stream movies and music, buy just about anything from laundry detergent to furniture, and make financial transactions from the comfort of your home.  However, there are also people trying to abuse the internet to get personal information to enhance their wallets; oftentimes, their focus is turning to the home user.

You can help protect your personal information by protecting your computer and mobile devices.  There are technologies/programs that are low cost that home users can use to defend their computer from the black hat hackers. These include:

1) Automated updates – Microsoft, Apple and other companies have produced a way for people to patch their computers in the easiest means possible. Through the use of automated updates, whenever a critical patch from Microsoft comes out, your computer can download it and install it automatically. This will help make sure that the hackers will have limited opportunities to use known holes in the programming to try to access your data.

2) Personal firewall - This program acts as a gatekeeper to your computer by limiting what goes in and out.  The use of a firewall helps reduce access to your system for any vulnerability that might exist that the software providers haven’t released a patch for.  There are several free firewalls out there that can and should be used to help protect your information.  If you’re on a high-speed connection, you may want to consider a router/firewall combination. 

3) Antivirus/Anti-spyware software – Anti-virus technology is vital to protecting your system from malicious programs that might come via email, websites, etc.  Many of these viruses are threats to your personal information. Anti-spyware helps clear out those programs that are designed to track what you are doing on the internet and then report back to the program's writer. These can be used to gather information that might be used in identity theft. There are several good and free programs that can detect and remove spyware. 

4) Practice Safe Browsing – While you should be leery of most attachments that you receive in email, web links in email can also lead you to a site that may want you to install malware on your computer.  When you receive an unexpected link in email, be cautious of clicking on it. Also, make sure you are on the most recent version of your browser, whether you use Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc. 

5) Web Software updates – Beyond standard system updates, make sure that you keep up on patches on some of the programs that make the web fun, like Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader.  These will not show up on regular updates, but hackers can use holes in these software to gain access to your machine, as well.

Use of these technologies help protect you, your information and your computer from prying eyes.  By having multiple layers of defense, you make your computer harder to be compromised, and this helps us protect you and your account with FCU!

What do you do to protect your information online? Let us know in the comments! 

Like this article? Check out this other Tech Savvy article: “FCU Tech Spotlight: eBills

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