Crime Watch

Crime Watch: Tips to keep your new computer safe

 

Special to The Miami Herald

Happy New Year to all my readers! I wish you the best of health and happiness in 2014.

With that said, I need to remind everyone to be alert during the New Year’s Eve celebrations for people who fire guns into the air. The minute you hear gunshots, please call police immediately.

This past week, I received emails from several seniors and parents who just got their first computer and shared many concerns. The computer is a wonderful invention but it can also bring nightmares. I pulled some information from one of our crime prevention partners, The National Crime Prevention Council, and here are tips you need to take seriously whether you are a senior or a parent:

• Use anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date. The software is designed to protect your computer against known viruses but, with new viruses emerging daily, anti-virus programs need regular updates.

• Don’t open emails or attachments from unknown sources. Be suspicious of any unexpected email attachments even if they appear to be from someone you know. Should you receive a suspicious email, the best thing to do is to delete the entire message, including any attachment.

• Protect your computer from Internet intruders by using firewalls. These create a protective wall between your computer and the outside world. They come in two forms, software firewalls that run on your personal computer and hardware firewalls that protect a number of computers at the same time. Firewalls also ensure that unauthorized persons can’t gain access to your computer while you’re connected to the Internet.

• Use hard-to-guess passwords. Mix uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and other characters, and make sure your passwords are at least eight characters long. Don’t share your password and don’t use the same password in more than one place. Don’t use your maiden name or the names of your mother, your children or your spouse’s family. Those are easy to figure out.

• Disconnect your computer from the Internet when not in use. This lessens the chance that someone will be able to access your computer. Also, if you haven’t kept your anti-virus software up to date or don’t have a firewall in place, someone could infect your computer.

• Check your security on a regular basis. You should evaluate your computer security at least twice a year. Do it when you change the clocks for daylight savings, just as when you check the batteries in your smoke alarm.

• Back up your computer data on disks or CDs regularly. I use a thumb drive. If we have a hurricane, I can take it with me. There is nothing worst than losing pictures, information and work when a computer crashes. It happened to me, and you will want to cry, which I did.

Last I want to remind all parents that if you gave a computer to your child, no matter what age, please make sure that the computer is somewhere you can see it. For more information on internet safety, visit www.ncpc.org or email me and I will send you some brochures.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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