APRIL 2009

Tips and Tactics

You may use your PC to manage personal finances (like taxes and online banking), store personal data, or to do work-related tasks when out of the office. Are these neglected files, unused personal information, and other tracks left behind on your PC leaving you and your family exposed to online dangers? With identity theft levels at record highs, don't make it easy for others to get a hold of your private information. Follow the three steps below to safeguard your data and sure up your defenses.

1. Effectively Erase Unused Files
Whether you've just finished e-filing your taxes or have neglected to get rid of old files and personal documents, unused documents on your PC may be leaving the door wide open to security and privacy breaches. And, the real danger? You might not even be aware that they're still on your PC.

You've deleted your sensitive information, so that means the data is gone for good, right? Not necessarily. Information you erase by formatting your hard drive, using your computer's "delete" key, or emptying your recycle bin is still intact and easily recoverable. After you're finished using files that contain sensitive information, permanently remove them from your PC with a digital file shredder, like Lavasoft's File Shredder. This will clean your computer from old deleted files and folders that are stored on your drives and will ensure that your private information won't fall into the wrong hands - plus, you can easily clean up your computing history, including Internet activity and Instant Messenger chat history.

2. Sweep Up Search Tracks
When you surf the Web, your browser may be storing information about the websites you visit, including data you enter like user names, passwords and credit card numbers. Others that access your computer are able to view this information. To clean up your site tracks, do a quick sweep of your browser cookies, cache, and history. With the TrackSweep privacy tool within Ad-Aware, you can erase the tracks left behind while surfing the Web on multiple browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera, in just one click.

3. Protect Your Data, in Real-Time, from Attacks
It's important to regularly scan your PC for spyware, or to use security software like Ad-Aware Plus or Pro versions, which include advanced, real-time malware protection. You should also use anti-virus software and a firewall, and update it regularly to ensure you're being protected from malicious programs that will try to steal or modify the data on your computer.

For additional information on how to safeguard your personal and work-related data, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team has cyber security tips available on its website.

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