Have you ever thought about what you would do if you lost all of your family photos or videos due to a problem with your computer? Or what if your hard drive failed, causing you to lose all of your saved data?

As your insurance agent, our goal is to protect those items that are most valuable to you. And what is more valuable than the information many of us store on our home computers?

Knowing that families’ most precious memories like photos and videos are stored on computers now, we have put together a list and infographic with tips on protecting your personal data.

Below you will find advice on how to ensure that some of your most precious assets are never lost or destroyed.

1. Back It Up!  The most important thing you can do is back up your valuable data.  Doing so will allow you to rest much easier knowing your family photos and other documents are protected in the event something happens to your computer or hard drive.

There are many ways to back up your information, but the most common are external hard drives or on “The Cloud.”  On “The Cloud” simply means you are using software that stores your information on the web so you can access it from any machine at any time.   There are a number of great software programs to use; some are free (or included in the services you currently subscribe to) and others have an associated cost. A list of subscription based cloud services can be found here.

2. Security Software.  Antivirus and antispyware software are vital to keeping your computer safe.  Installing security software will accomplish two tasks for you: scan and remove virus and spyware in files and monitor the operation of your computer for virus activity.

Some Tips with Security Software:

Make sure to keep your application files up to date.

Do not run more than one antivirus program on your computer.  Each program may detect the other as a virus and create a mess for you.

There are additional tools like Identity Finder (free for the basic version) that will actually search for, protect, and dispose of personal information stored on your computer like credit card numbers and social security numbers.

3. Encrypt Your Data.  By encrypting your data, you will actually convert documents and spreadsheets into an unintelligible, scrambled format.  There are many 3rd party software solutions for data encryption that are fairly inexpensive.
4. Lock Down Your Wireless Network.  If you don’t secure your wireless network then everything you have on your personal computer could be accessed by hackers. “Locking Down” consists of a required password to access your network and can even hide your network from others so it isn’t available connect without more information from you. 

Some Tips for Protecting your Wireless Network:

Password protect your wireless router with a strong password.  “Password” is probably not the best one to use here.

Move your wireless router away from windows to decrease the signal strength outside your home.

Make sure your firewall is turned on.

Though it should be common sense, don’t let strangers log on to your network.

5. Don’t Open Email from Unknown Sources. (Even if you think the Prince of Nigeria has a large sum of money he would like to share with you.)
Some things to remember with viruses and emails:

Email attachments are frequently the culprits in virus attacks.

If you do not know the sender of a message with an attachment, delete the message without opening or reading it.  Simply opening the email could release the virus.

Do not open any attachments with the following file endings: .exe, .vbs, or .Ink. They are all executable files, which when opened begin a chain reaction of downloading and installing a virus.  All without your knowing or seeing anything happening. 

Be cautious of unfamiliar attachments from family members, co-workers, or friends.   If their account has been hacked, it is NOT uncommon for the virus to start sending emails to the address in their contacts.

6. Do Not Download Unfamiliar Software From the Internet.  Make sure any software you download comes from a reputable source.  Also, downloading software copies from “less than reputable” sources may be a violation of copyright or other laws.

 7. Update your Software.   It can be annoying to have to restart your computer for the latest software update, but those updates are done to fix security concerns and even holes that could potentially cause you major problems.  For software like Windows you can schedule the updates to happen automatically, which is highly recommended.