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PCs: The Missing Manual by David A. Karp, Andy Rathbone

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Chapter 15. Security

More than 200 million copies of Windows XP live on PCs worldwide. With such widespread distribution, Windows XP is an attractive target for legions of wannabe virus writers, scammers, and shady business opportunists. For example, as soon as a teenager discovers a vulnerability he can exploit on his own copy of Windows, he can immediately inflict damage on millions of Internet-connected PCs across the globe.

This chapter shows how to thwart these evildoers by backing up your software regularly, creating and managing effective passwords, automatically installing newly released software “patches,” and preventing the theft of your PC or laptop. You’ll also learn how to avoid email scams, viruses, and spyware, and what to do if your PC’s already infected.

Backing Up Your Computer

The most important step you can take to secure your computer is to regularly back up your data. Once you’ve put a reliable backup system in place, you’re prepared for just about anything that can happen. Without one, you stand to lose family photos, tax records, home movies, years of correspondence, music collections, and other valuables that have slowly migrated from bookshelves and closets onto your computer.

There’s one bright spot: you don’t need to back up any of your programs that came on their own CDs. You can always reinstall these programs should your hard drive melt down. If you’ve downloaded software online, be sure to copy those programs onto a CD and keep the CD with the others ...

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