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Data Protection and Security

If you use a computer, regardless of whether or not it is connected to the internet, you are in danger. You've spent some money on a nice system and it's proven to be very valuable. You've got lots of financial data (at least your checkbook), your graphics, scanned photos and lord knows what else stored safely on your hard drive.

You Think You Are Safe From Needing Data Recovery? Think Again.

Before you do anything else, make sure you have a backup and recovery plan for your computer system. Invest in some kind of backup device (a tape drive, zip drive or whatever) and a good backup program (Backup Exec is good) and do regular backups. At the very least, back up your critical data files. You MUST do backups if you want a secure system ... if something gets through your defenses you can rebuild if you have a backup. Otherwise, you are stuck ... system destroyed an no backup means you lose all of your data.

Your first and most significant danger is from nasty little viruses. Your system is in danger if it has any contact of any kind with an outside computer. This includes an internet connection, a network link or even a floppy disk. What do you do about it? Spend the money and buy the best antivirus software that you can find ... I prefer Norton Antivirus 2001 because of it's ease of use and automatic updating features. There are plenty of products to choose from, but be sure you can get regular, easily and automatically installed virus updates. Norton is good because it also comes with an email module which scans incoming messages and removes viruses automatically.

The next thing I would recommend is to check out your email program. Microsoft's email programs are wonderful, but they are so powerful that they allow a multitude of malicious programs to damage your computer. If you are using Outlook Express, consider switching to Eudora or a similar program. If you are using Outlook, I would suggest you check out the security upgrade from Microsoft which effectively disables many scripting features and the opening of executable files. This will prevent email viruses, more properly called Trojan Horses, from infecting your system.

Once you are protected from viruses and email Trojan Horses, it's time to protect yourself from people attempting to break into your system. Even if you are using a dialup connection, it is a good idea to get yourself a firewall. If you can afford it, purchase a hardware firewall such as the SonicWall. You can also get a nice software firewall such as BlackIce, or you can even install a free version of Zone Alarm. I believe the best of all possible worlds is to get both a hardware and a software firewall and use both at the same time.

Now if you really want to be secure invest in Norton Internet Security 2001. Install this program (which has a firewall built-in - remember to turn off the firewall if you also install BlackIce or ZoneAlarm) and configure the cookie and referrer protection. This allows you to selectively enable or disable cookies and referrers (and some other things) based upon web site address. It's very useful and easy to configure.

Top this off with AdSubtract to remove advertisements and web bugs, and you've got yourself a pretty secure system.

Now you want to stay secure ... you've got to understand that there is a war going on right now as we speak. This is the war between hackers and the rest of the world. Hackers are constantly testing the limits of computer systems, and find new holes and vulnerabilities all of the time. Thus, in order to keep your system really, really safe, you need to sat on top of the most current security information.

A good place to start to become educated is the Microsoft Safe Internet: Privacy and Security Fundamentals site. Another good site is the ZDnet Security Resource Center. Read through both of these (keeping in mind they are very technical sometimes) and review the sites occasionally and you will be relatively up-to-date on security issues.

Finally, be cautious about installing any new programs, spreadsheets or documents (specifically Word documents). If you download a program off the internet, make sure it is from a very trusted source. Downloading that game from the cool site that you found last night is probably not a good idea - no telling what is in the program, waiting to cause havoc on your computer.

As you can see, keeping your system secure is a lot of work. But if you do not do it, you will no be happy with the results. At the very least, make sure you have a good backup. In fact, if you can only do one thing, spend the time on your backups. That way you can always recover.

About the Authors:
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets. This website includes over 1,000 free articles to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.
Web Site Address: http://www.internet-tips.net
Weekly newsletter: www.internet-tips.net/joinlist.htm

Claudia Arevalo-Lowe is the webmistress of Internet Tips And Secrets and Surviving Asthma.
Visit her site at http://survivingasthma.com

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