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In today's increasingly digital world, safeguarding your important data is critical. The threats to computer systems are increasing in both numbers and complexity at an alarming rate. Imagine losing your personal financial data or perhaps years of digital pictures because you became infected with the latest worm spreading over the internet. It's not only the threats from the outside, but also internal system failures that can threaten your important data.

Practice Safe Online Communication
Only share your primary e-mail address with people you know. Avoid listing your e-mail address in large Internet directories and job-posting Web sites, and be careful when you join online user groups. Don't open attachments in e-mail or instant messages unless you're sure what they are and who they're from. Use caution when dealing with suspicious e-mail.

A Hardware Firewall
As more and more homes are connected to broadband internet, a hardware firewall is your first line of defense. With prices dropping there is little reason to not purchase one. Also, enable the Windows firewall if you don't have a 3rd party solution.

Updates and Patches
Keeping your system up to date or patched is a critical measure to ensure security. Nearly everyday there are new exploits or "holes" discovered that leave your systems vulnerable until these updates are installed. It's always recommended to turn on automatic updates from Microsoft and install them when they become available. Also don't forget to patch Microsoft Office if you use that software as well.

Anti-Virus AND Anti-Spyware Software
These days you need to protect yourself on both fronts. Without getting into the differences between spyware or malware and viruses or worms, they cannot be ignored anymore. There are free utilities for home users to scan for and remove spyware. Ad-aware SE Personal - Microsoft Windows Defender and Spybot Search and Destroy are excellent free tools we recommend everyone install and run periodically. AVG offers a free version of Anti-virus software for personal use.

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