You have probably read about how people are able to gain access to an individual's computer and essentially steal all their personal data. There are many ways that this can be done without the owner even knowing that someone is trawling around within their computer right under their nose. There a few simple steps that you can do to safeguard your personal information from internet predators.
Your home network is your first step to securing your personal data from the outside. You should have a secure perimeter network that stops any potential intruders from accessing your data. It is by far better to stop intruders at the perimeter rather than at your computer. Make sure that you have a hardware firewall enabled at the point where your home equipment connects to your internet connection. Hardware firewalls are more difficult to hack and do a good job of keeping unwanted eyes from seeing your personal computer.
A hardware firewall for homes normally comes in the form of a router. Some people have a modem connected to their internet connection but these do not come with a hardware firewall and are not secure. Make sure that you are using a router with a hardware firewall between your computer and the internet connection. If you are not sure which one has been supplied by your service provider, have a look at the original documentation or phone your service provider and ask them.
Most routers provided by internet service providers are wireless. This means that if you have a laptop, you can connect to the internet using a wireless network card from your laptop to the router, and finally out onto the internet. Even if you don't have a laptop and use a desktop computer, the router from your service provider will still have the wireless functionality enabled. This wireless connection broadcasts a name called an SSID. This can be picked up by any wireless device normally within a 50m radius of your home. You need to make sure that the wireless broadcast is switched off if you do not use it. If you have a laptop and use it to connect to the internet wirelessly, make sure that it uses an encryption key to secure all communications. The older type of encryption is WEP and is now less secure; you should be using WPA which is more secure. Read the documentation that came with the router on how to configure encryption on your router.