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Safeguarding Your Computer

How to keep your information private.

Your computer enables you to access your accounts online. It's important to maintain its integrity and security at all times to ensure your information stays safe. The following six guidelines will help ensure your computer is always protected.

1. Select a strong password and protect it

  • Choose a strong password that uses a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters like ! @ # $ *. It should also be at least 8 characters.
  • Don't use passwords that are easy for others to guess – ones that include birthdays, family names, addresses or telephone numbers.
  • Choose unique passwords for every site you visit. Change them often.
  • Don't use options that 'memorize' passwords. In general, saving passwords on your computer is not a good idea. It allows anyone with access to your computer to impersonate you.
  • Don't disclose your password to anyone (if you do, you could be held liable for losses). Don't write your passwords down where anyone can find them. If you can't remember your password, keep it stored in a locked location. Don't carry it with you.

2. Use a firewall

Firewalls help prevent unauthorized access to or from your computer by filtering the information coming through the Internet into your computer. Use a firewall to protect your home network and family from offensive web sites and potential hackers.

Although some computers come with a standard operating system firewall, it should not be considered sufficient. An additional firewall that will detect new forms of attacks or attempted intrusions should be installed and upgraded regularly.

A wireless router acts as a partial firewall, limiting incoming and outgoing connections except for the ones you open up. A firewall in your computer acts as a secondary layer of security.

3. Use anti-virus software

Your computer can become infected with a virus through e-mail attachments from free content you download from a website or a CD, DVD or USB memory stick someone shares with you. Banner ads, pop-up advertising solicitations and/or site visit or tracking software (spyware) are additional sources of infections. Anti-virus software can detect viruses and clean your machine so the viruses don't spread.

  • Ensure you always use up-to-date anti-virus software that is capable of scanning files and email messages for viruses, which will prevent your files from being corrupted or lost.
  • Use the auto-update feature that enables the program to download profiles of new viruses so it can check for them.
  • Register new anti-virus software immediately and choose to be automatically notified of product updates.
  • The following companies are examples of free antivirus scanners which customers may choose to use in helping diagnose a potential computer infection. Many Canadian Internet Service providers such as Bell, Telus, Rogers and Shaw provide bundled malware scanning software or offer discounted products.

4. Watch for spyware/adware/malware

Spyware/adware is picked up when accessing websites and is downloaded onto your computer without your knowledge to secretly gather information about you and your online habits. Criminals use this technology to install keyloggers or screen-capture programs that allow them to collect personal information and passwords.

  • Practicing safe browsing is the best way to protect yourself from spyware. Avoid 'free' software that promises to improve speed or service.
  • Update your spyware program and scan your computer regularly to detect and remove spyware. Some security industry recommended products include:

5. Use a supported browser and keep it up to date

  • Always take advantage of software updates so your browser and operating system have the latest security updates. Find out which web browsers are supported on BlueShoreFinancial.com.
  • Always use a browser that supports at least 128-bit encryption when accessing secure web sites (standard with most browsers). This provides the best protection when transmitting confidential data over the Internet. Encryption is the process of protecting information as it moves from one computer to another. The stronger the level of encryption used by your browser, the more difficult it is for unauthorized parties to decipher the message in transit.

6. Secure your wireless network

With a wireless network, your information is traveling through the airwaves, so anyone within range can "listen in" on your network. Here are some essential security measures:

  • Change the default SSID or network name. SSID (service set identifier) is a 32-character unique identifier attached to the header of packets (information bundles) sent over a wireless LAN (WLAN). It acts as a password when a mobile device tries to connect. The SSID differentiates one WLAN from another, so all devices attempting to connect to a specific WLAN must use the same SSID. An SSID is also referred to as a network name because it's the name that identifies a wireless network. Hackers know these defaults and can try to use them to join your network. Change your network's SSID to something unique.
  • Disable SSID broadcast options. By default, most wireless networking devices are set to broadcast the SSID, so anyone can easily join the network. Unless you're running a public hotspot, it's best to disable SSID broadcast.
  • Change the default password for your wireless device. Hackers know these defaults and will use them to access your wireless device and change your network settings.
  • Enable MAC address filtering. If your wireless product offers it, enable MAC address filtering. The MAC address is a unique series of numbers and letters assigned to every networking device. With MAC address filtering enabled, it's harder for a hacker to access your network using a random MAC address.
  • Encrypt your connection. Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) is the latest security standard for wireless networking. It keeps unwanted users out by checking for the proper permission and password before allowing network access. It is also more robust than the previous security standard, Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), which provides basic protection for home networks and limited protection on public networks. WPA improves data encryption so attackers will not be able to view or alter any data traveling to or from your wireless network. For more information about WPA, visit www.wi-fi.org.
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