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California State University, Long Beach
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Good Security Practices

After learning about the threats that face your computer you may be concerned but fortunately there are few simple actions you can take to dramatically increase the security of your computer.

Create a Strong Password

Using a strong password for your computer and online accounts can make them much more secure. To create a strong password use at least 10 characters. Don't use words from any language. Instead, use a mix of lower and upper case letters, numbers and symbols. It is also best to change your password(s) every year.

Do not store this password where anyone could get to it. Be aware that individuals may try to trick you into revealing your password. If you suspect that your password has been comprimised, change it just to be safe.

Do Not Use The Computer Administrator Account

Most computers have two types of accounts: general user accounts and administrator accounts, which can change more settings and edit essential files. Most attacks are perpetrated using an administrator account. If you have only basic computing privileges, attackers can't do much.

Make sure your computer account is a general user account by going to Start -> Control Panel -> User Accounts. When the need arises to do administrative work, logon to that account, do the work and log off.

Install Anti-Virus Software

An anti-virus program protects your computer from viruses and other harmful software. It is highly recommended that you have an anti-virus program installed on your computer. The two most popular Anti-Virus program brands are Symantec and McAfee. A high-quality free alternative is available from AVG. There are also free online anti-virus scanners from Symantec and McAfee, but these will not fix the problems they find.

Install Anti-Spyware Software

An anti-spyware program protects your computer from spyware, software which collects personal information and alters the computer without consent. Two free anti-spyware programs which we recommend are Lavasoft Ad-Aware and Microsoft Windows Defender.

Update Your Software

Keeping your software up-to-date is vital for optimal security. You should update your operating system, probably Windows, and other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Office. To do so browse to on your Windows computer.

It's important that your security software, your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs, be kept up-to-date as well. The process for updating this software depends on the specific programs that you have. Most security programs today have a feature to automatically keep you up to date. You can also manually update your programs. To do this you must open the program and initiate the update process.