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Top priority: Secure your computer
Make sure your personal finances stay personal by taking these steps to thwart the efforts of thieves.
Protecting your identity

10 tips to computer security

Computers can be enormous timesavers and powerful financial tools. Using budget tracking software, paying bills online and buying items more cheaply from wholesale or auction sites can make a lot of sense.

Secure your ID on your computer

But before you load up your computer with sensitive information about yourself, you'll want to take the necessary steps to ensure your personal finances stay personal. Here's how to keep your computer on lockdown and off limits to identity thieves.

1. Use passwords for protection
You wouldn't leave sensitive documents laying out for prying eyes; likewise, you need to put away the information stored on your computer in a safe place: locked behind a password in your own user account.

Even if you are a true Luddite and never intend to go online, you'll still want to password protect your computer. That's because if you have a snoopy houseguest or if a thief picks up your laptop, they could get at your information as you sleep if it's not password protected.

Set up a separate user account for others to surf on so you keep your sensitive information private.

HOW TO: For Windows-based machines, go into the control panel, choose user accounts and follow the instructions. Mac users must create a password upon using the computer for the first time and they can change their password settings by going into system preferences. There they can disable automatic login. (If you get stuck, ask a trusted techie for assistance. That goes for all these tips.)

2. Get your guard up
Before merging with the information superhighway, you're going to want to make sure that all the existing security settings your computer comes with are turned on. If you want to go out and buy added protection later, that's great. Just make sure you have basic protection enabled before going online.

First, fire up the firewall. Your computer should come with a firewall, or perhaps a software package came bundled with your purchase that includes a firewall. It's basically a set of programs that work together to enforce the safety rules you outline when you choose a security level. The firewall is the gatekeeper for Internet activity.

The default setting is usually on, but you'll want to verify that it's on if you don't see the firewall icon when you turn on the computer.

-- Posted: April 21, 2008
 
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