As with any software application that connects to the Internet, using Skype comes with security risks. Microsoft, which acquired Skype in May 2011, claims to do its utmost to protect users of its VoIP program from hackers and viruses by using digital credentials and sophisticated encryption methods, but you, as the end user, can do your bit to keep yourself and your data safe. Failing to do so could end up costing you, especially if you pay for Skype subscription plans and have a credit card or PayPal account linked to your profile.
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Keep your Skype software updated. Skype will let you know when a new version of its software is available, but it's wise to check for any updates you may have missed at least once a month. Sign into Skype, select "Check for updates" from the "Help" tab in the top navigation bar and install any new software available. Updates include security fixes that patch up flaws in previous versions, so could keep you safe from hackers and viruses.
Use a secure password to log into Skype. Don't choose a combination you use to log into any other online account or service. Skype advises to go for a mixture of letters, numbers and other characters and to avoid names. It also counsels that the longer your password is, the better. To stay one step ahead of hackers and malware that may have got hold of your credentials, change your password regularly.
Make sure your anti-virus and firewall software are updated and run frequent system scans. Also check that your computer is set to receive automatic security updates. Windows is set to receive software updates by default, but if somebody's been messing with your settings, type "Windows update" in the search box of your computer's "Start" menu, hit "Change settings" and select the option you want.
Avoid infecting your computer with malware that could hijack Skype or record your personal information by not opening phishing emails, visiting rogue websites or downloading dodgy files from torrent sites.
Log out of your Skype account after using it on public computers or devices you don't own. You should also make sure the "Sign me in when Skype starts" checkbox isn't ticked whenever you use the software on any device other than your own. If it is, your password will be saved on the computer you're using.
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