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How to Protect Your Computer from Snoops

Keep private info from prying eyes and earn some peace of mind when you safeguard your PC or Mac against nosy intruders.


  • Step 1: Password-protect your network When you create a Wi-Fi network, use the instructions that came with your router to set up password-protected encryption. An unprotected network is an open invitation to wireless freeloaders and hackers.
  • TIP: Encrypt your network with Wi-Fi Protected Access — or WPA — and choose a long password that incorporates numbers and letters.
  • Step 2: Disable your auto-login Consult your operating system's help feature to disable your auto-login. If your computer automatically logs you in at start up, you're giving spies a free pass -- a would-be snoop can shut down your computer, reboot, and gain automatic access.
  • TIP: To disable auto-login on your work computer, you'll probably need to talk to the IT specialist first.
  • Step 3: Password protect your screensaver Password-protect your screensaver, and shorten the amount of time it takes for it to pop up. A password-protected screen can give you some peace of mind; when you get up to grab a cup of coffee, your computer won't be at the mercy of anyone who wants to poke around your files.
  • Step 4: Jump between virtual desktops Jump between virtual desktops, which are like extra screens for your monitor. Each virtual desktop can house different windows, & can disappear or return with a keystroke. Keep several desktops filled with files suited for public viewing while using one just for personal information (including IMs and games). Toggle between them as necessary.
  • TIP: Virtual desktops can be created on Macs operating with Leopard OS X 10.5 using the feature known as Spaces. A similar PC program for Windows Vista and XP can be downloaded online.
  • Step 5: Install a snoopware blocker Install a snoopware blocker on your computer, which keeps outsiders from installing software on your computer that lets them track your every keystroke, peer through your webcam, and more.
  • TIP: Don't do this at work. Your employer has a right to keep tabs on your computer activity.
  • Step 6: Invest in a filter A privacy filter fits directly over your screen, and blurs your data from peripheral angles. Your screen will be essentially unreadable unless seen head-on, making it that much harder for spies to get a glimpse.
  • Step 7: Mount a mirror Mount a mirror on top of your monitor. Angle it so that you have a good view of what's going on behind you, and keep a discreet eye on potential busybodies. And if anybody asks, blame it on your need to look great at all times.
  • FACT: Thirty percent of bosses who participated in a 2007 study had fired an employee for internet misuse.

You Will Need

  • Several great passwords
  • Virtual desktop software
  • Snoopware blockers
  • A screen filter
  • A mirror
  • A healthy sense of paranoia
  • WPA encryption
  • An understanding IT specialist

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