Home computers are often a popular target for intruders looking for credit card numbers, bank account information, and anything else they can find. Intruders are not only after money-related information - they also want your computer's resources, which are usually not very secure, because most of us don't have the technical know-how. Added to this, with cable and broadband access, many are permanently connected - sitting targets! Intruders can use your computer to attack other computers. You can help yourself by ensuring that you have some basic security knowledge to minimise the risk of unauthorised access to your data.
Some basic guidelines have been provided in the previous section 'What you should do', and some additional guidance is provided below. If you require more detailed guidelines, take a look at CERT's web site (www.cert.org), which has a more detailed guide on home security.
Install Anti-virus software
Use anti-virus software on your PC and keep it updated to minimise the risk of infection by new viruses. Contact your local computer retailer for advice on anti-virus software, which looks at the contents of each file, searching for something known to be harmful. When you have the software installed on your PC, it will check any files that you receive, or access. For each file that matches a known pattern, the anti-virus program typically provides several options on how to respond, such as removing the offending patterns or destroying the file.
Remember that new viruses appear daily - ensure that you use software which is routinely updated, e.g. receives updates every time you access the Internet.
Install Anti-spyware software
As the name suggests, Spyware will spy on your activities on your PC. Spyware could monitor the activity on your PC, web sites you visit, keystrokes User IDs and passwords. Anti Spyware software should stop such software being installed in the first place, but can also detect and remove existing installations. As with viruses, it is essential to keep the software up to date.
Remember that new spyware appears daily - ensure that you use software which is routinely updated, e.g. receives updates every time you access the Internet.
Take care opening email attachments
These are a common source of viruses, and virus writers try to con users into opening harmful attachments, e.g. with a subject line ‘I Love You’. In most instances, your anti-virus software will delete harmful files, but the best course of action is don’t open them in the first place, if you are at all suspicious. Take caution when opening attachments with a file type of .vbs, .exe, .bat or .com as these are commonly used by viruses.
Take care when accessing web sites from links in emails you receive
Some fraudsters use this method to try and make you disclose security information. You may receive an email which appears to have been sent by an organisation which you deal with. A link within the email directs you to a fake site, which closely resembles the site you wish to visit. The fraudsters use the scam to trick you into revealing your security information, which may then be used, in some instances, to transfer money from your account this is called Phishing. Many sites now use Green Bar technology to help assure the user that they are using the legitimate site and not a malicious copy.
(The WeBSave site can be checked by looking out for the gold padlock at the bottom of the screen, and clicking on it to check the security certificate. The web site address should begin https://...)
Take care when downloading and installing programs
There are lots of free programs available, and we all like a bargain, but consider what you're downloading before you do it. Downloads may contain a virus, or cause your computer to act in an unexpected way. Ask yourself if it’s worth the risk - how much do you need it, and do you trust the source? Programs with hidden malicious content are called Trojan horses.
Take regular backups of important files and folders
If you store a lot of data on your home computer, it is important that you take regular back-ups of anything that you don't want to lose, in the event of your computer breaking down. Back-ups are a copy of your data, which can be stored on CDs, DVDs, or even simply a paper print out. USB memory sticks are very cheap and fast, efficient method of backing up your important files.
Consider using encryption
When you connect to your bank or building society online, they will ensure that the data is encrypted (coded so that information such as credit card details cannot be viewed in transit) - you can tell it's secure when you see the small gold padlock at the bottom of the screen, and the web site address will begin https://... If this security function isn’t available, consider how sensitive and confidential the information, that you want to send, is, and whether email or input to a web site is the best way to send it.