Steps to Security and Safe Computing

1) Anti-virus software:

Anti-virus software attempts to identify, neutralize, and eliminate malicious content. Key aspects to ensure proper functionality:

  • Configure the settings to automatically check for updated definitions.
  • Schedule the software to perform a routine scan of your entire system.

2) Firewall software:

Firewall software regulates traffic between your computer and the internet. It inspects network traffic that is passing through it and either permits or denies access based on your set of rules. Key aspects to ensure proper functionality:

    Configure the settings to automatically check for program updates.
    If in doubt when allowing or denying an application access to the internet please contact the Help Desk.

3) Anti-spyware software:

Spyware is software that is installed on your computer without your consent. Spyware monitors your online activity and reports it to online advertisers. Spyware can change your settings, slow your computer down and change your browser home page. You can become infected with spyware by installing certain freeware programs such as Kazaa, Imesh, Grokster, etc. Another reason you can become infected is because of low security settings in your browser. Installing anti-spyware software will ensure you are protected against the latest threats. Key aspects to ensure proper functionality:

  • Configure the settings to automatically check for updated definitions.
  • Schedule the software to perform a routine scan of your entire system.

4) Email attachments:

The general rule of thumb here is not to open an attachment unless you know who it's from and you were expecting it, otherwise delete it.

  • Block file types that are known to carry viruses such as (EXE,COM, PIF, SCR, UBS, SHS,CHM,BAT).
  • Use an email program with spam filtering built-in.

5) Operating System:

Setup your computer to automatically download and install updates at least once per week. It is very important to keep your operating system up to date at all times. This will ensure your system is not susceptible to the latest security vulnerabilities. For detailed instructions on how to do this, select your operating system:

    Windows operating systems
    Mac OS X

6) Creating secure passwords:

Being that almost everything that we do on the internet requires a password, it is crucial to maintain secure passwords. Most individuals use the same password for everything they do because it is memorable (yet highly insecure). Here are some important things to consider when creating passwords:

  • Create a password that is 9 to 14 characters long.
  • Use a combination of upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters.
  • Never write down your passwords and place them near your workstation.
  • Consider using your own personal algorithm. For example if your current password for your email is computer123 try something that will make it unique such as CoMpUtEr123email! or compUTER123email!
  • Always logout of an account when you are finished.
  • Change your password a few times per year.

7) Backups:

Backing up your important files is a crucial aspect in protecting your system. You never know when your system will crash, but if it does you won't have to worry about data loss. Useful media to backup your system to would be:

  • External hard drives
  • Recordable CD's and DVD's
  • USB thumb drives

Along with these hardware devices you may want to consider purchasing automated software that will backup your files at specific intervals.

8) Data on the go:

USB thumb drives are often used to store important files. If these small devices are lost or stolen, your identity may be at risk. One thing to consider is to purchase a thumb drive like Iron Key that offers on-the-fly hardware encryption of all the files. If someone finds your drive, they won't be able to see any of the information that is stored on it unless they know the master password.

9) Don't run your account as administrator

Running your computer as administrator all of the time opens up your system to potential threats. The best practice is to run your computer as a limited user and have a separate administrator account that you can switch to when installing applications. When you run a program as an administrator, it has unlimited access to your computer. This means it is much easier to become infected with viruses, spyware, malware, key loggers, etc. If you were running as a limited user, most of these exploits would fail because it reduces your surface area for attacks.

10) Miscellaneous:

  • Disable file and print sharing when not in use.
  • Always have a password for you to login to your user account.
  • Remember to lock your computer when you walk away to prevent unauthorized use. (Use Ctrl+Alt+Delete keys)
  • Don't use public wi-fi spots to access personal financial information.
  • When entering personal information into a website, make sure the site is secure. A secure website address will start with https://. The 's' stands for secure.

Web surfing can leave you exposed to security vulnerabilities if not configured correctly. There is an increasing threat from software attacks that take advantage of internet browsers. Understanding how to configure the security of your browser is crucial in ensuring your safety on the web. The following are some easy tips to get you started:

  • Don't opt to store usernames and passwords in your browser.
  • Don't click on pop-up messages that flash on your screen. You can install a pop up blocker to help minimize this.
  • Always use the most current version of your browser.
  • Don't follow links in emails that you are not expecting.
  • Use different passwords on every website that contains confidential information.
  • Use anti-virus and firewall software.
  • Set your browser security settings to High (for detailed directions, choose your browser below)