This is the second in a series of posts outlining 10 steps you can take to secure your valuable data. Here are steps 4 through 7…

4. Watch out for email attachments

Email attachments can be a wonderful thing. They allow people from all across the world to send pictures to family and friends, businesses to send documents to clients, and sometimes the occasional Powerpoint presentation that somehow didn’t make it to the meeting can be sent directly to you in a matter of seconds. However, email attachments can also be very harmful. Many of the most common and harmful viruses are spread through email. These will infect your machine as soon as you open the attachment. The main ways to avoid these nasty viruses are:

Never open an email attachment from someone you do not know.
Only open an attachment if it is from someone you know and you were expecting it.
If you are sending an attachment to someone else, let them know ahead of time.
And last, but certainly not least, have an Anti-Virus program, such as Avira (free download available, virus definitions updated daily) that will scan incoming and outgoing emails for viruses.

5. Anti-Virus Software

Having a properly updated Anti-Virus program on your PC is crucial these days. Most Anti-Virus programs such as Avira,  Norton Anti-Virus, Trend Micro, McAfee, and AVG all do updates daily in the background, so you don’t have to worry about it. Without an Anti-Virus program, accidentally opening the wrong attachment, or clicking on the wrong pop-up on a website, may open the door for spyware, adware, malware, and viruses to take over your PC.

6. Windows Updates and patches

Having some type of firewall, an anti-virus program and not opening strange email attachments will protect against most of your common threats. But you’re not quite finished yet. Although you can choose to tell Windows when to check for and install updates, why risk forgetting? It’s a good idea to set your Windows Updates to automatic. Most of these updates are actually security patches for either Windows or the programs that are running with Windows, such as Microsoft Office, Windows Media Player, etc… These updates are important because they help to close “backdoors” that hackers have found that allow them to compromise your data and your privacy.

7. Scan for Adware at least once per month

Using a program that specifically scans for adware can be a great tool to have for any business. Programs such as Ad-Aware and Spybot-Search and Destroy can search for any registry changes that may be caused by adware or spyware. These programs may be able to find additional adware and spyware that do not show up in your Anti-Virus program. The best part is, both of these programs are absolutely free.