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Your Computer: What You Don't Know Could Hurt You

You can get free anti-malware (anti-virus/anti-spyware) software here from AVG.  Symantec or Norton  (it goes by either name) is a highly rated paid program. It received an excellent review at PC World.  You will also receive free automatic updates that will include the latest virus/spwyare definition files.  Microsoft Security Essentials also offers free anti-malware software, which includes free automatic updates for Windows 7 and Vista. 
  
Microsoft offers a total of 6 free anti-malware programs.  Each of them has different capabilities.  MS's offering is extremely confusing.  Two of the programs have the same name, but are very different.

You should run only one anti-malware program in real-time active mode on your computer.  However, you can have multiple programs on your computer that run passively, i.e. you have to ask the program to scan your computer.  An example of a passive anti-malware program is Super Anti-Spyware.

If your computer becomes infected with a virus, you may be unable to boot to Windows.  If you have a rescue CD available, it may remove the virus and allow you to boot to Windows.  Several companies will create free Rescue CDs.  You will need to burn the Rescue CD to a CD.  This free software can do that for you.
  
There are 3 companies in the world that perform ratings on anti-malware programs.  The companies make their ratings available to the public.  You can see the ratings from AV ComparativesAV-Test, Simon Edwards Labs and Virus Bulletin.  PC Magazine also rates free anti-malware programs, although their tests are very different from the three above.


Kaspersky Total Security may or may not have ties to the Russian government.

You already have a one-way firewall on your computer. You can go to this website, where you can obtain a free firewall called Zone Alarm that is even better than the one that comes with Windows because it is a 2 way firewall.  You can also read a review of Zone Alarm.
 
Choice Mail offers anti-spam software. Spamfighter offers a similar anti-spam program that is free.

Phishing emails can be extremely dangerous.  You can take an 8 question quiz that shows you sample emails.  See if you can determine which are phishing emails and which are legitimate. 

The "bad guys" who try to break into your computer can use programs sold on the internet that crack passwords.  Using a lengthy password makes it much more difficult for criminals to crack your password.  You can learn how long it would take a criminal to crack your password.  Recently a computer was built that can use brute-force to try 350 billion passwords/second. 


Here's a 13 minute video demonstration of how LastPass works.  LastPass uses a sophisticated methods to keep your data safe.  You can read about their technology here and here.

Here's an excellent article that offers tips for good security on all electronic devices.

Most anti-malware companies sell 3 different versions of their software.  For example, Symantec sells Internet Security Standard, Internet Security Deluxe and Internet Security Premium.

Android phones and tablets are also vulnerable to malware.  PC Magazine rated antimalware software to deal with this problem.

Security Class

Lisa Friedman created this document, which compares both free and paid password managers.  The data was taken from the PC Magazine and PC World web sites.  Just below the name of each Password Manager you will find the words "rev" in red and "site" in blue.  Clicking on "rev" will take you to a review of the password manager.  Clicking on "site" will take you to the password manager web site.

The Equifax break-in was a particularly egregious security breach because 145,500,000 Social Security numbers were stolen as well as a lot of additional information.  You can learn whether your information was stolen in this breach.   Additional information is available here

This web site and this one allow you to see if your email address and password were among the 5 billion+ that have been stolen in the past few years.   There is a 3rd site that provides similar information, but in some cases, it specifies what data was stolen.  The New York Times offers this web site that allows you to see whether your credit cards numbers have been exposed to hackers.

You can freeze and unfreeze your credit file at each of the three major credit agencies (Experian, Transunion, and Equifax)  for free.  Directions  are available for freezing your account at the 3 credit agencies.  Additional information on this subject is available here. Here's some information about unfreezing your account at the 3 credit agencies.

You can obtain a free credit report once per year from each of the 3 credit agencies.

The New York Times ran an article by a writer who was shocked to see how much information Facebook and Google had collected about her.  Tips for deciphering the information they know about you are included in the article.  The NYT article mentions Google Takeout, which allows you to download all your information in a single file.  You can also visit this Google site, which allows you to see information they know about you, and delete some but not all of it.  In addition, you may wish to visit this site.  Some of the information on the information overlaps with the previous site, but some it is additional.

You can download what Facebook knows about you.  Additional information about this is  available here.  This article offers 8 ways you can reduce the amount of information Facebook knows about you or displays about you.

Microsoft allows you to see the data they know about you, as well as delete/edit some of it. You may have multiple accounts with Microsoft, e.g. Hotmail, Outlook, OneDrive, OneNote, Windows 10, etc.  Each of these collects its own information under that email address.  To see everything Microsoft knows about you may require that you sign in under multiple email addresses.

There are two ways to learn what Apple knows about.  Follow these directions to learn what Apple knows about you or try this method.  You will need to wait for Apple to send you a file containing what they know about you.

In 2012 a computer was built that uses brute-force to guess 350 billion passwords/second.  

Recommended password managers include: LastPass, KeePass, LogMeOnce, and Dashlane.

Here's an excellent article about maintaining good security on your computer.