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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > September 2015 > Five Tips to Shut out Hackers and Malware

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Five Tips to Shut out Hackers and Malware

Whether you’re shopping online, connecting through social media, or checking web-based email accounts, take steps to protect your personal information from hackers and malicious software, also known as malware. Hackers often use malware to gain unauthorized access to users’ Internet-connected devices, which can include personal information.
Examples of malware include viruses and spyware. Viruses are programs designed to infect computers and spread to other users’ devices. For example, a virus may stop your computer’s operating system from loading. Spyware may track and steal your personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
Follow these tips to help keep your network and personal information safe:
  • Don’t leave your home-wireless network unsecured. An unsecured network may give intruders easy access. Ensure the Internet connection is behind a firewall. A firewall refers to either hardware or software that controls the information entering and exiting the network. Firewalls help keep would-be intruders off your network, making it harder for them to capture your personal information.
  • Choose complex passwords for your wireless router and network connections. This will prevent strangers from being able to access your network. 
  • When available, always choose to enable encryption. This will scramble data into an unreadable format for anyone trying to view your network from outside.
  • Run antivirus software updates regularly, or opt to have your devices automatically update once new versions become available. Cybercriminals regularly launch new viruses, so these updates are important. Software should be set up to scan the device on a regular basis. Also, update the computer’s operating system and Internet browser, since those updates may contain new security patches.
  • Never click on suspicious links, attachments, or pop-up advertisements, and don’t trust someone who calls you unexpectedly to report a problem with your computer. Scammers often use these tactics to trick consumers into clicking on links designed to activate malware.
Visit for additional tips and a list of websites offering free “security check ups” to examine your computer for malware.
Contact your Internet service provider and the manufacturers of your computer and wireless router for more information about how to improve your network’s security. A simple Internet search also may help you understand how to secure your network.
While setting up a protected network is very important, it is only a small step toward staying safe in cyberspace. Stay tuned for the next Consumer Advocate for another article about protecting personal information online.
If you suspect a scam or unfair business practice, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-282-0515 or visiting