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Guide to helping secure your computer

Start protecting your computer by following these steps.

Set up personal firewalls

High-speed internet access is very convenient and "always on." But this continuous connection exposes your computer to online threats. You should install and use personal firewall software and keep it updated. Read your computer's operating manual or search the internet for help installing firewalls. Also look for included firewalls if you're purchasing home networking equipment such as a router.

Personal firewall software takes its name from the barriers built into cars and buildings that separate potentially hazardous environments from protected areas. Similarly, firewall software protects computers by monitoring the types of activity or attempted activity between the personal device and a network. Firewalls can refuse attempted connections that aren't initiated by you or that the software deems suspicious.

Get antivirus software and keep it up to date

Malicious code such as viruses, worms, and Trojan horses can wreak havoc on your computer. Bad code can even capture your logon information and take control of your computer.

You need to install antivirus software to protect against, detect, and repair attacks from most viruses. And, don't forget to update your antivirus software—it's only as good as its last update.

Combat spyware

Even if your computer has a firewall and antivirus software, it still could be susceptible to spyware. Spyware is software that appears to offer some tangible benefit, but actually monitors your behavior online. This illegal access is often used to intercept your user names and passwords to your online accounts. You should install anti-spyware software and configure it to scan your personal device weekly. In addition, you should also:

Verify any software you install on your computer. If you see a Security Warning window when installing a program that reads "Do you want to install and run [name of program] issued by [name of company]?" and you don't recognize the company, click No to stop the installation.

Install a popup blocker to prevent spyware popup windows. (Spyware is often installed after clicking deceptive links in popup windows.) Note: You may want to change the settings in your popup blocker program to allow for popup windows on and other reputable sites you trust.

Follow these additional tips

Log off after accessing your accounts online and close your web browser. Some of your account information can stay in your browser's memory until the browser is closed. You should do this on all computers and for all websites you log on to.

Do not open, click links in, or open attachments in any email you think is suspicious. Vanguard won't send emails with logon links or attachments unless you're expecting such an email based on a conversation with one of our crew members.