Your computer and data storage

Modern computer equipment is generally very reliable, but computers are not shock-proof. They can also be effected by moisture (condensation), extremes of temperature, dust, magnets and electrical interferencIt may be necessary to secure access to the computer. Is a password to the computer necessary? What would happen if the notebook or flash drive was lost or stolen?
Are you taking necessary back-ups of important data and are those backups stored securely? The average hard drive will fail once every 25 years and 99% of those that fil never work again.

Information theft (eg spyware & phishing)

Unless specific details are essential, like date of birth when making an on-line application for car insurance, don’t give away personal information. Many sites ask for security questions which will be used should you forget or lose your account details. If you do choose to give mother’s maiden name or your date of birth, do not give correct details. The information is only being used as like a second password. Your real details are often easy to obtain and a useful to someone trying to establish (steal) your identity.

Take care using links received in an email. Often they take you to a bogus site which requests personal information.

Spyware

There are an increasing number of organisations that are making money using the Internet. They range from the irksome but harmless organisation who collect revenue from advertising to the outright criminal operators who will steal from you.
The most common method employed is the installation of a program on your computer to collect information or modify the behaviour of your browser. These programs are generally called spyware.
Spyware can redirect you to a particular web site; spyware can change your Internet home page; spyware can divulge personal information to a 3rd party

Spyware is sometimes installed with your permission but often you will be tricked into accepting changes without being aware of the consequences. Often spyware is installed totally without your knowledge.

The installation of an anti-spyware program such as AdAware SE, Spybot Seach and Destroy or Spyware Doctor is highly recommended. But beware: there are hundreds of bogus “anti-spyware” programs available as free downloads which will actually install spyware on your computer with your permission!