Your computer is a goldmine to hackers. If they can get their cyber-hands on your data they can find personal information; if they can steal keystrokes they can steal money; if they can steal personal connections they can go on to a whole new round of hacking. Even if they aren't interested in stealing, they can slow down your computer, cause damage to your files, and use your computer to infect others.
There's no substitute for common sense and vigilance. When you browse the web, don't download from sites with which you are not familiar. One common practice is for hackers to create supposed spyware removal tools that actually download spyware onto your computer. Don't fall for fake sweepstakes or rewards; don't believe that you actually are the millionth customer to visit a site and are eligible to win a fantastic prize. And don't let emails guide you to websites: Type in the addresses of websites yourself to make sure you're going where you expect.
It is a good idea to keep your web browser up to date to enhance security. Security updates are automatically installed for Safari when you run the Mac or Apple Software Updates. Firefox has an automatic update option built in, but there are times when it fails to update, particulary on a Mac. If you need help upgrading Firefox, call the help desk (x5418) for guidance.
While storing passwords and form information can be convenient, it is not a good idea to do so. For example, if you store your password for logging into TheHub, anyone who gains access to your computer can also gain access to any confidential data that your account can view and edit. This is also a concern if you use your computer to do any personal financial banking or purchasing. To be safe, turn off the save password and store form information options.
You can send emails and access the web from almost any public place these days. But should you? Public wireless networks are public because they do not require passwords to log in. They transport your bits and bytes of data in clear text, which means that anyone who has a mind to can intercept and access any of the information you are sending on the airwaves. The article Coffee shop WiFi for dummies provides lots of details.
Here are the key points in a nutshell: