Protect Your Personal Computer ... and Yourself

Alongside the basic new year's resolutions such as losing weight and getting your finances in order, vow to keep your personal computer fast and clean this year. That includes keeping your personal information from spreading to others from your computer.

If you got a new computer over the holidays, the last thing you want is for viruses to attack it. Brian Grayek, vice president of threat content at software company CA (formerly known as Computer Associates) offers the following tips on keeping your computer (and yourself) safe this year:

If you view videos from sites such as YouTube, make sure you're using a firewall and an antivirus program. According to Grayek, "Video files are fair game for hackers." The same goes for multiplayer or virtual world games such as Warcraft and Second Life.

If you're playing a game on a file-sharing network, you must protect yourself. In fact, you should have a combination of firewalls and antivirus programs in place for a number of eventualities.

If you're using a broadband Internet connection, a firewall is a must — your computer is online whenever it's turned on (even if you're not using any Internet applications). Make sure your antivirus software is up to date. Out-of-date antivirus programs are the No. 1 reason PCs get viruses. Many programs have auto-update features — enable them so you don't have to worry about monitoring the software yourself.

Spam is still a huge problem — 90 percent of all e-mail is spam. Don't click on links claiming to be from your bank — they're not. And don't take stock advice that comes into your inbox. Don't share personal information on the Internet.

If you use social networking sites such as Friendster, MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn, never include your Social Security number, address, phone number, birthday or other information in your profile.

Copyright (c) 2006 MarketWatch, Inc.