A new breed of software can record a computer user's keystrokes, including bank passwords and credit card numbers, and send the data to thieves over the Internet. Some programs are nearly undetectable. Here are tips for safer computing:
• Keep your operating system up to date. On PCs, use the automatic-update feature in Microsoft Windows.
• Install an Internet firewall.
• Use and update your anti-virus software.
• Install a program that scans your computer for spyware and run it weekly. Spyware scanners include Spybot Search & Destroy, Ad-Aware by Lavasoft, Spy Sweeper by Webroot Software and PestPatrol by Computer Associates.
• Never click on Web links embedded in an e-mail; instead, type the address into your browser.
• Change your passwords regularly.
• If possible, keep sensitive information off computers connected to the Internet.
• If your PC has been compromised, volunteers at websites such as http://www.malwarebytes.org can help repair your machine. Consider switching credit cards and bank account numbers and ordering a credit freeze from the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.