Safe Computing Guide

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  1. Patch, Patch, PATCH!
    Most desktop security incidents are centered around flaws in the operating system. As these flaws are discovered, vendors release patches to cover these security holes. By updating your operating system, you ensure it has all the latest patches. Both Windows and Macintosh operating systems have Automatic Update features.
  2. Install protective software
    Protective software, such as anti-virus and anti-spyware software, will help protect your computer and data from online security threats such as viruses, trojans, rootkits, and spyware. Symantec Endpoint Protection is available for departmental and student purchase from the Computer Store.
  3. Keep your software up-to-date
    Like your operating system, some software packages offer regular security updates. These should be installed promptly after they are released, as failure to do so will leave your computer vulnerable to security threats. Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat are two common programs that should be updated regularly.
  4. Use desktop firewalls
    Macintosh and Windows computers have basic desktop firewalls as part of their operating systems. When set up properly, these firewalls will help prevent unauthorized access to your computer over the network.
  5. Manage your passwords
    Choosing passwords that are difficult to guess and easy to remember will help keep your important files and accounts secure. Choose a long password with a combination of upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Do not use words found in any dictionary. Create a different password for each account, and change passwords regularly. Never give your password to anyone, for any reason, no matter what.
  6. Backup, Backup, BACKUP!
    Make regular copies of important data and store them securely in a geographically separate location. This will help prevent data loss if your computer is attacked by a virus or trojan, or if your computer's hard disk fails. TSM backup services are currently available for faculty and staff.
  7. Control physical access to your computer
    Don't leave your computer, PDA, cell phone, or storage media in an unsecured area, or unattended and logged on, especially in public . Enable a screensaver with password on your computer, and setup a login password for your PDA or smartphone. The physical security of your devices is just as important as its technical security.
  8. Use email and the Internet safely
    Ignore unsolicited emails, and be wary of attachments, links and forms in emails that come from people you don't know, or which seem "phishy." Avoid untrustworthy (often free) downloads from freeware or shareware sites.
  9. Use secure connections
    When connected to the Internet, your data can be vulnerable while in transit. Look at secure remote connectivity and file transfer options, such as VPN services, when off campus. When using your browser to transmit sensitive information, ensure the URL address starts with https:// and look for the lock icon in your browser indicating a secure page.
  10. Protect sensitive data
    One of the biggest (and often overlooked) sources for sensitive data is your own computer or workstation. At the very least, your computer contains sensitive data about you, the user, and likely stored passwords in key chains and on Web browsers. Depending on your job or clearance, you might also have access to the sensitive data of others. Store restricted data on University servers. Saving data to your local hard drive, printing it or transferring it to a PDA or laptop can increase the risk to that data.