Computer Security Tips for Home, School and Work
- Protect your passwords.
- Lockup your computer.
- Install and maintain operating system patches.
- Install and maintain antivirus programs.
- Install and use a firewall program.
- Make backups of important files and folders.
- Safeguard you emails.
- Use care when downloading and installing programs.
- Encrypt your data on your desktop or laptop.
- Completely remove file and print sharing.
1. Protect your passwords.
Select a strong, secure password and don’t write it down. Never share your passwords with your colleague or friends. You are accountable for all transactions and other changes made to system resources, including data. If you share your passwords, you may be giving an unauthorized individual access to a system and may be held responsible for their actions.
For information on how to select a good password, see Password Guidelines.
2. Lock up the desktop.
Lock your computer to help prevent unauthorized persons from using your computer while you are away from it.
Set a password-protected screensaver on Windows
- Right click on a blank part of the Windows desktop area
- Choose “Properties” then “Screensaver” tab
- Select a screensaver (from the drop-down list)
- Select how many minutes of inactivity before the screen saver turns on
- Click on “On Resume, Password Protect.”
You will be required to enter your Windows password before using your computer again.
This option will lock the keyboard and blank the monitor screen of a Windows computer (PC) until a valid password is entered.
- Hold the “Flying Window” key & “L” Key
- Press Ctrl+Alt+Del
3. Install and maintain operating system patches.
Along with weak passwords and virus-spreading email attachments, computer systems that are not patched constitute one of the leading security threats on the Internet.
The University regularly deploys and installs Microsoft patches to University computers. For home use, patches can be installed by going to the Microsoft Windows Update site at http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com.
4. Install and update anti-virus software.
All computers should run an antivirus program to prevent installation of unwanted virus programs on your computer. Once installed, be sure to update it on a regular basis.
It is the University of St. Thomas’ policy that all computers connected to the University network be required to have working antivirus software installed and that the antivirus software be kept up-to-date. Currently, The University of St. Thomas has specified antivirus software by McAfee to be used for all University computers connected to the University network.
5. Install and use firewall programs.
Install and turn on your firewall program. Firewall software provides a protective barrier between your computer and potentially harmful content on the Internet. It can monitor communications to and from your computer and allow you, the user, to permit or deny inbound and outbound traffic (e.g., connection requests). Firewalls can block or notify the user of intrusion attempts, but they cannot protect against malware, so make sure you have some type of antivirus software installed on your computer and that you keep it up-to-date. Also be sure to install and configure your firewall correctl; otherwise, it will not work properly.
6. Make data backup of important files and folders.
It is important for users to regularly perform data backups. Backed-up data will relieve the stress and frustration of data loss. Data backups will enable the recovery of data lost or corrupted due to user error, power failures, theft, hardware faults or malware. Data backup can be used by anyone and for anything the user cannot or does not want to recreate.
A couple of effective back up routines would include the following:
- Back up important information to at least two different forms of media (e.g., thumb drive/USB stick, CDs/DVDs).
- Store the backup data in a separate, secure locations.
7. Safeguard emails and Instant Messenger.
Emails and Instant Messenger are valuable tools, but they can be used or misused in a variety of ways. Data sent through either one is not considered confidential or secure. Do not send confidential or sensitive information, social security numbers or account numbers through unencrypted email or Instant Messenger. Do not open a message or an attachment from an unknown sender.
8. Use care when downloading and installing programs.
Download software or files only from trusted sources. Do not download applications from peer-to-peer files sharing. You may believe that you are downloading freeware or an evaluation version of commercial software but you are actually installing malware on your computer.
9. Encrypt your data on your desktop or laptop.
Whether someone has managed to log into your desktop or laptop, you can have your data encrypted so it cannot be accessed.
10. Completely remove file and print sharing.
By default, your Windows XP workstation is configured to act like a File and Print Server. This means other people can connect to your computer and access the files that are stored on it. They can view the files and if they want, delete the files. Most networked printers are connected directly to the network, and therefore most people do not need Microsoft Printer Sharing.
To remove File and Print Sharing from your computer:
- Go into the Control Panel (Click the Windows Start button and choose Settings, then Control Panel).
- Double click "Network Connections" (sometimes labeled Network and Internet Connections).
- Highlight any network connection (typically there is one labeled "Local Area Connection").
- Choose "Properties" from either the File menu or from the menu presented when you right-click on the connection.
- Highlight "File and Print Sharing."
- Click “Uninstall”.
- Click "OK" a couple of times and your computer is significantly safer from network-based intrusions.
11. Shutdown your computer when not in use.
This practice is listed for the obvious reason that a computer that is turned off cannot be electronically compromised. If a computer is not required to run overnight or over the weekend, it should be shut down and powered off. Not only will this alleviate the danger of a criminal breaking into the system electronically, it will save power.