Here is how to protect home computers running Microsoft Windows 95 or 98 from hackers and other snoopers on the Internet:

_ Turn off the option that lets others look at your files and use your printer. To do so, click the Windows ``start'' button, go to ``settings'' and select the ``control panel.'' In the control panel window, double-click the ``network'' icon. In the network window, click on the ``file and print sharing'' button, and uncheck the two checkboxes in the new window.

_ For additional protection, get a ``firewall,'' a program that monitors your computer's connection to the Internet. Security expert Steve Gibson of Gibson Research Corp., in Laguna Hills, Calif., recommends ZoneAlarm, which can be downloaded for free from Zone Labs Inc. at www.zonelabs.com. Another option is Symantec Corp.'s Norton Internet Security 2000, which sells for $50 to $60. Information can be found at www.symantec.com.

You can test how secure your computer is at Gibson Research's Web site, www.grc.com.