You're about to enter your user name and password to access your bank-account information, perhaps to make a transfer or check your balance...

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You’re about to enter your user name and password to access your bank-account information, perhaps to make a transfer or check your balance. But how do you know that Web site you’re looking at in fact belongs to your bank?

You feel confident it is because you bookmarked it before or you typed in the address yourself.

But with today’s sophisticated malware that can redirect your browser without your knowing it, for all you know that Web site could be a phishing site that’s waiting to steal your password.

And that’s just one of the many hazards out there waiting for you.

Thankfully there are things available that can protect you. It used to be that malware such as computer viruses and the like were there just to bog your system down or even worse, erase all your data.

But today’s malware doesn’t want you to know it’s there. Because it’s no longer the geeky teenager playing a prank.

It’s organized crime that’s trying to steal your money and now they can do it without having to wave a gun in your face.

Protecting yourself

One of the ways you can protect yourself is by not keeping your passwords on your computer.

Yes, I know that your Web browser can conveniently store all of your names and passwords so that when you go to that Web site, it’s automatically entered in for you.

Unfortunately, that can leave you vulnerable if your system in infected with spyware that’s designed to find that information and send it to the bad guys.

ID Vault (www.guardid.com) is one such product that uses some very clever and sophisticated technology that keeps all your sensitive information off your hard drive.

The ID Vault works much like one of those flash memory sticks that you plug into any USB port. It looks like a little padlock. You just press on the hasp and the USB plug pops out.

After you plug it in, the ID Vault uses its own memory to store all of your name and password information inside of it, and it’s encrypted. When you’re done, simply remove it.

Now if the bad guys go looking for your stuff on your hard drive, it just isn’t there.

Along with the ID Vault is the ID Vault subscription service, which provides complete access to the company’s Trusted Network of more than 7,500 financial and shopping Web sites.

If you are diverted to a phishing site, the ID Vault will know it’s not legitimate and prevent you from entering in your name and password information.

A phishing site may look perfect but it can’t be physically located at the same address the real site resides.

Those real addresses are continually being maintained and updated by the ID Vault Service so that if a legitimate change occurs, you won’t be left out in the cold.

And if you are diverted or you click on a link within an e-mail that claims to take you somewhere, your ID Vault will be watching to insure that you’re where you are supposed to be.

Various sites

The ID Vault can also be used with nonfinancial sites. In fact, it works with any site that requires a name and password.

The 2008 version of the ID Vault can now store user names and passwords for up to 100 online accounts and information for up to 25 credit cards.

If you have more than those limits you can use more than one ID Vault. You can use one for the shopping sites you frequent and another for banking. You can even use an ID Vault to back up another ID Vault in case it’s lost or destroyed.

The purchase price of $39.95 includes a 12-month subscription to the ID Vault Service. ID Vault works only with Windows XP and Windows Vista.