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  Weekly Feature: (April 29, 2001)


Watch Out! Practice Safe Computing
Brad's Weekly Feature

Students often ask me computer related questions at the PALC. Here is my advice to you on four important things to know about keeping your computer safe.

Number One: Be very careful with e-mail! Nowadays, most computer viruses travel by e-mail. If someone sends you an attachment, especially if that attachment is a program (.exe file) DO NOT open it! Often, viruses hide inside a safe looking program, so unless you have asked for them to send you something, be safe and don't infect your computer accidentally. Remember: any attachment is potentially dangerous, especially if you use Microsoft Outlook for your mail.

Number Two: Is your browser secure? Most of the visitors to PALC.Net use Internet Explorer 5.x. Unfortunately, the browser has had many security "holes." Be sure to go to Windows Update (found on the Windows 98 "Start" menu) to update your browser regularly. Do it today, and check at least once every month, especially for updates with the word "security" in them!

Number Three: Is your Internet connection secure? Many of us (including me) have "high-speed" Internet connections with cable or adsl. If you do, and you leave your computer running all day, or even all the time, then you must secure your connection. I use ZoneAlarm, a program that is free for personal use. Once it is installed, you will find out how often people try to break into your computer! (usually several times every day!)

Number Four: Defragment your computer often! Windows eventually makes a big mess of your hard drive. Defragmenting is a way to sort it all out. To do this, go to the "start" menu, choose "programs" then "accessories," then "system tools" to find a free defragmenting program. You should do this at least once each month. Think of it as "housekeeping" for your computer!

A computer is a useful tool, one we use every day. Take the time to keep it safe and healthy!

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