Has your PC been taking its vitamins? If not, you may be leaving the door wide open for hackers and trojans just waiting to find a poorly updated PC.
Did you know that hackers and automated viruses often run programs which constantly search the Internet, pinging thousands of PCs for an open door (also called a port)? Your computer actually has thousands of these ports, although only a few are open. The hacker or virus doesn't need to know you, and it's certainly nothing personal - they just want to spread and their automated searching tools tells them who has the security vulnerability they're looking to target.
What to do? The easiest thing is to visit your local Windows update site and make sure your PC has the latest upgrades. For those of you running Windows 2000 or XP, you probably have automated updates turned on. Good for you! But for the rest of you, you can usually find an update icon in your Start menu, just above the Programs option. It's also a good idea to have the Windows XP firewall turned on or at least have a hardware firewall in your cable modem or router. If you have the popular Linksys router then you already have a hardware firewall. Most cable modems also have them by default.
What about everyone else's computer? Especially the computers running online stores. Do you think it's possible their PC could have an open port, get infected, and leave your purchasing details open to hackers? It sure is a possibility. For those of you who wish to check the stores' PCs to see how secure they are, try using SafeShopper on questionable sites. It might just save you from a big headache, or at the very least, make you feel a bit better about shopping online.