How to avoid the 7 deadly mistakes of computer users
By BILL HUSTED
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Computer users make
plenty of mistakes, whether on their personal or small-business machines. Let's
look at the worst offenses:
program won't stop all threats. Buy an anti-virus program from Norton, or visit
www.safer-networking.org to download SpyBot Search & Destroy for free. Then,
install Norton's firewall or use Windows XP's free firewall.
Many people are tempted to download free
programs. If you stick to sites such as www.tucows.com and www.download.com, it
can be a rewarding experience. But downloading programs from sites you don't
know is the easiest way to end up with a computer infected with adware and
I get notes from readers as
part of a forwarded mass-mail warning of a nonexistent virus. Others seem to
explain that Bill Gates is giving away his fortune. Just forward the message
along, it says. No thanks.
Start with the assumption that the virus
doesn't exist and that Gates isn't giving away his fortune. Don't add to the
problem by forwarding mass mailings. You're spreading bad information and
looking a bit naive.
Meanwhile, watch out for official-looking messages
that point you to equally official-looking Web sites that pretend to be eBay or
EarthLink or Citibank. They ask for personal information, such as passwords and
Social Security numbers.
Don't answer them. Every one is from a crook.
Folks who don't think twice about dropping
$2,000 for a computer seem to shy away from spending a few extra bucks to
protect it. If you don't have an uninterruptible power supply - called a UPS -
buy one and start using it today. Even the models selling for $40 can prevent
your computer from becoming a paperweight. It's the best money you can spend
when it comes to computer accessories.
enough people back up personal data. If you own a computer long enough, your
hard drive will crash. Your e-mail addresses, business contacts and financial
records will be gone. You don't need to back up programs. You can install them
again. But you must make backup copies of the data you create. It's easy and
fast with today's CD burners.
People tend to throw away manuals and discs. If you must be neat,
find a filing cabinet or box to store every bit of material that comes with
installation discs. It's common for programs to require an activation code
before they can be installed.
If it's a name
or a word, you're a prime target for hackers. Use a password that contains
letters and numbers. There are ways to create and remember a complicated
For example, if you have a favorite song, use the first
letters from some of the words to form a password. Then, add in four digits from
a telephone number you had 15 years ago. And don't use the same password for
everything. Sure, it's a hassle. But having your bank account robbed or identity
stolen is worse.