One of the best ways to keep attackers away from your computer is to apply patches and other software fixes when they become available. By regularly updating your computer, you block attackers from being able to take advantage of software flaws (vulnerabilities) that they could otherwise use to break into your system.
While keeping your computer up-to-date will not protect you from all attacks, it makes it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to your system, blocks many basic and automated attacks completely, and might be enough to discourage a less-determined attacker to look for a more vulnerable computer elsewhere.
More recent versions of Microsoft Windows and other popular software can be configured to download and apply updates automatically so that you do not have to remember to check for the latest software. Taking advantage of “auto-update” features in your software is a great start toward keeping yourself safe online.
Passwords are a fact of life on the Internet today—we use them for everything from ordering flowers and online banking to logging into our favorite airline Web site to see how many miles we have accumulated. The following tips can help make your online experiences secure:
- Selecting a password that cannot be easily guessed is the first step toward keeping passwords secure and away from the wrong hands. Strong passwords have eight characters or more and use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (e.g., # $ % ! ?). Avoid using any of the following as your password: your login name, anything based on your personal information such as your last name, and words that can be found in the dictionary. Try to select especially strong, unique passwords for protecting activities like online banking.
- Keep your passwords in a safe place and try not to use the same password for every service you use online.
- Change passwords on a regular basis, at least every 90 days. This can limit the damage caused by someone who has already gained access to your account. If you notice something suspicious with one of your online accounts, one of the first steps you can take is to change your password.