Reduce your exposure - turn off your computer when you're away
This tip is simple: Simply shut down your computer when you're away, whether going home for the night or the weekend. If you're a student, consider shutting your computer down any time you're away from your dorm room. Unless you need to access your computer remotely from another location, there is no need for it to be on when you're not around. The logic is simple -- when your computer is turned off, viruses and attackers on the Internet cannot attempt to break into it.
Reducing the "attack surface"
Shutting down your computer when you're not using it is just one way to "reduce the attack surface." That is, regardless of how up-to-date your operating system or antivirus software is, your computer is continually being probed by worms and hackers on the Internet looking for some way to break into it. Most of us use our computers less than 1/3rd of the time, so why make it available to the "bad guys" all of the time? By shutting your computer down when not in use, you can significantly reduce the amount of time that the bad guys have to attack it -- you are making yourself a smaller target -- you are reducing the attack surface.
But isn't it better for the computer to leave it on?
Time was (before the Internet existed), many would recommend leaving a computer and its monitor turned on 24 hours per day in order to avoid "stressing" the computer by turning it off and on. There were many theories as to why it was better leave the machine on (and some were not without merit), including that it was better to leave it going than to hit it with a power surge when turning it on every day. It was also said to be better to leave the monitor on and warmed-up than to keep turning it on and off, warming it up and cooling it off, which could cause internal stresses that could shorten the monitor's life. This is no longer the case. Today's computers are far less susceptible to either of these predicaments due to newer technology. For example, most of today's computers no longer have that loud "snappy" mechanical power switch that "shocks" the computer into action. Most computers now continuously sip a tiny amount of power (even when they're off), and have a small pushbutton switch that instructs the power supply to "gently" bring on "full" power when you press it. Most monitors are now the flat LCD type that no longer uses a hot filament to produce a picture -- they use a much cooler fluorescent light. Indeed, that light has a limited lifespan in terms of run-hours, and turning it off whenever possible makes the monitor last longer. That is, a monitor that is turned off 2/3rds of the time will last 3 times longer! (Note: Using a "screensaver" does NOT extend the life of the newer flat LCD monitors!)
Where to get help
If you need help shutting down your computer, contact the Computer Support Line at (860) 768-5999.