Protect Yourself From Viruses When Using Chat Rooms

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by Barbara J. Feldman on July 10, 2007

Having a home computer can sometimes create a false sense of security for us who use chat rooms and other forms of communication on the Internet. We think that because it is in our house it must be secure from outside threats, just as our possessions are when we lock our doors to the outside world. The truth is that there needs to be a more active approach taken to protecting our computers, information, and our families than we might think is necessary. There are many ways to protect ourselves from intruders that we could encounter online.

One place that is particularly important to protect yourself is in what is called a chat room. Chat rooms are online gathering places where people meet to discuss topics of interest and share information they have about certain things. They are often used to meet new friends, share interests, buy and sell products, and any number of other related activities.

However, some people that log onto chat rooms are there for different reasons. They will misrepresent themselves. They want to get access to valuable information that you may have stored on your computer, like business information, bank account numbers and access information, and other personal info. There are many ways that they can gain access to your computer and the sensitive information it could contain about you, so you need to take some precautions to protect yourself from these intruders. These recommended actions include installing (and using) a firewall, installing anti-virus software, and updating the “definitions” used for these programs frequently.

Use a Firewall

Firewalls could be compared to a barrier that would keep a fire from spreading to a certain part of a building if it does catch on fire. Firewalls on computers act as a filter on computers to deter people from “hacking” into your computer. Using a firewall can be especially important if you store sensitive information on your computer or have a high-speed Internet connection (which most people do these days). They can also reduce the number of cookies (stored information) that are allowed on your computer, block spyware, and defend against direct attacks by computer viruses (which can sometimes be used through a chat room service). Many operating systems (such as Microsoft Windows) come with a built-in firewall that can be activated and used.

Consider Installing Antivirus Software

There are many that are available in the market for Internet protection right now. Some major ones are Norton anti-virus, and Symantec anti-virus. There are many ways of getting them, and some require subscription fees or require you to purchase the program. There are free programs that are available, but be sure that you are getting it from a reputable and reliable source and understand that their features may not be as “beefy” or up to date as a paid service.

Update Frequently

Another important thing to keep in mind is that although you may be protected from a particular virus or type of threat, the people who create these programs to try and steal your information are always creating and thinking of new ways to infect your computer and gain access without you knowing. You should take an active role in protecting the information in your computer. Some systems make this easier by running automatic updates and getting new lists of virus definitions, but it is always a good idea to make sure this is happening even when you don’t notice. Most virus protection programs are updated periodically but can also be told by the manufacturer to run a critical update when a new threat is recognized. It’s also good to check it yourself on a monthly basis.

Above all, responsibility online is one of the best protections you have. If you don’t trust a site, there is probably a good reason for it, so take any precautions necessary and make sure that there was no harm done after the fact. If you don’t trust someone and they ask to be made part of your buddies’ list or contact list, refuse and block their profile. A good policy is to be cautious online whenever you are in a chat room or similar service. There are always people who want to gain access to your personal information, so make sure that you protect it along with yourself and your family.


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