Although most of us like to relax during the summer, computer security is one area in which you should always keep your guard up. Remember, cyber-crooks don’t take holidays. The summer period often sees people using computers for more leisure-oriented activities than during the rest of the year. The use of services such as chats, online games, software downloads or online stores increases as users have more time on their hands. Children also tend to spend more time in front of the computer during the summer.

Cyber-crooks, however, will try to take advantage of all of this to target new victims. Here is a series of recommendations to help you keep your computer protected this summer:

Pay close attention to your email, as this is a frequently used channel for spreading threats, as well as phishing attacks and other scams distributed in spam. Typically at this time of year, waves of spam emerge offering unrealistically cheap holidays. These messages either surreptitiously ask users to reveal confidential data or prompt them to download information, which is really an infected file. So, needless to say, you should ignore all emails from unknown senders.

Promptly install the latest security patches for your applications. Cyber-crooks frequently launch attacks that exploit security holes in commonly-used programs. Developers are continually making security patches available to resolve the problems detected. If your application doesn’t notify you that these updates are available, you should enter the product’s official page occasionally to check whether any patches need to be installed. It is therefore a good idea to update applications on your computer just before you go on vacation and also when you come back.

Don’t download programs from dubious Internet sites – they could be infected. The summer period also tends to see a rise in the number of downloads people make. Yet it is important to take special care with what you download from the Internet. In particular, you should scan all downloads before running them, as much malware is distributed under the guise of files such as films, series etc. to trick users.

Take care with information you enter on social networks. Make sure you don’t publish details like the day you’ll be going on holiday, especially if details of your address are available on the same social network. – Leave your router switched off. This will prevent other users connecting to your network -possibly with malicious aims- in your absence. For example, someone could connect to your network and download malicious code which could remain on the network until you start your computer and consequently infect it.

Take precautions if you use shared computers. Many of us go to cybercafes when on holiday to read emails, chat with friends, stay in touch on social networks, etc. In this case, you should take a few precautions. Firstly, don’t enable any option that saves passwords on the local computer when you are logging into accounts from public computers. This would obviously allow the next user of the computer to access any of your accounts. Also, make sure the computer you use is not infected. At the first suspicious sign (pop-ups, malfunction…), stop using the computer. Finally, never use shared computers for bank transfers.

Use parental control programs. During the summer vacations, children will no doubt be using the computer more than usual. That’s why it is as important as ever to instruct them on how to use the Internet safely. It’s a good idea to set timetables for using the Internet, keep an eye on them when they are browsing and prevent them from accessing certain pages or content that could be unsuitable for them. Given that parents will not always be around to monitor how children use the Web, it is advisable to install a parental control program, a tool that will help establish which Web pages your children can see, and which they can’t, etc.

Make sure your computer has an up-to-date and active antivirus solution installed. There are free antivirus programs available from the Web, such as Panda Cloud Antivirus, which you can download from  .