This is a guest post by iPayX.
Hacking of websites is big news nowadays. Companies have their sites shut down or sensitive customer data stolen at an alarming rate. While companies with websites can afford online security consultants to help ward off the latest attacks to their sites, the average computer user can do a lot on his/her own behalf to help make the home computer secure.
To begin with, when setting up an account of any sort, be it an email account, online bank account, or other, be password savvy. Avoid the obvious. A user with the name "Alfred Crandall" should avoid passwords with any semblance to that name. Hence, "alcran" or "cranoo1" are bad ideas. The best passwords use non-words (i.e., made up words not found in the dictionary) such as "klurpthon" or "fruzzle".
It is also important to add numbers to a password, preferably within the word itself instead of at the beginning or end. In the previous example words, putting in numbers would result in "klu7ptho9n" or "f4ruz2zle". These bizarre combinations are much more difficult to hack than simple words or names. However, since they can potentially be difficult to remember, always write them down somewhere.
Another way to add to security is to limit online tracking by web programs. The most common of these trackers are known as "cookies". They pay attention to the sites that a user visits and then sends that information to a variety of companies looking to send users everything from unwanted ads to potentially dangerous malware or viruses.
To stop all this, use the "tools" button on whatever web browser is being used and find the option tab. Next find the security tab and click it. Most browsers give users the option to block cookies. This will eliminate much of the tracking that can be done when a user is online.
A good anti-virus program is also essential. While there are plenty of good pay programs, there are also plenty that are quite robust and free to boot. ZoneAlarm is a simple and effective anti-virus program that is free to use, as well as Avast, Avira, and others. Download one and run scans often to check for problems.
Finally, be careful of online transactions. Stick with well-known names and payment systems, such as PayPal or Google Checkout, and only give a company a credit card number after thoroughly researching the company.