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Tips to Secure Your Computer

Have you ever felt like your computer always seems to crash, bombarded by viruses, or virus alerts?

Every Student, Faculty and Staff member deserve a secure computer. Infosec would like to offer a simple solution to your problems by providing you with 5 easy ways to maintain a secure computer.If you have a problem with your computer at this moment in time please contact the service desk and they will assist you.

Step 1: Anti-Virus Software | Step 1: Anti-Spyware Software | Step 2: Automaic Updates | Step 3: Firewall | Step 4: Secure Password


Step 1: Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware Software

What is it?
For advertising companies the Internet is, aside from television, a great medium to reach a very large target audience. Spyware is a kind of software used by such companies that when installed on your computer, can do various things to invade your space and your privacy. Though this software is installed without your consent, it is not designed to cause damage but it may slow down your computer considerably.

How does it work?
When spyware is installed on your computer, it may be designed to send pop-up windows, redirect your browser to other websites, it may monitor what websites you visit and the products you’re interested in and send you unwanted advertisements. Your privacy is being compromised because you have no control over who gathers this information, you don’t know how it is used or who is actually seeing it.

How does it happen?
Spyware could be installed in a number of ways. A common trap is installing downloadable software from the Internet that is offered for free e.g. games for your children to play. This doesn’t mean that buying a computer game in a store is a safe bet either. Installing it is also a way to invite spyware to be applied to your machine. Some music DVD’s offer free video’s or screensavers to be installed on your computer. Clicking on pop-up windows is also often a trap.

How do I know it’s there?
You might find that your browser window is suddenly changed even though you didn’t change it, or you’re being bombarded with pop-up windows. You may be redirected to a website that you didn’t mean to go to error messages may begin to appear, or when you try to do work on the computer you might find that it has become very sluggish in completing the task.

What can I do?
Try to get into the habit to avoid installing spyware on your machine following these tips:

The University uses Symantec as their Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware. Symantec provides proactive protection for your system. It is very important not to disable Symantec on your office computer, or even install your own anti-virus or spyware programs. If your computer is experiencing problems, or is showing signs of infection submit a service desk ticket to ITS.

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As always, if you have issues please don’t hesitate to call the IT Service Desk at 678-839-6587 or email servicedesk@westga.edu.  


Step 3: Automatic Updates

When vendors become aware of security vulnerabilities in their software, they work to correct them, much like covering up a hole in a pair of jeans. These corrections are called updates or patches.

At UWG software patches or updates from Microsoft or other major vendors are updated when they become available. You might have seen a message in the “shut down menu” when shutting down your work machine at night, which says “Install updates and shut down”. Or you might have arrived in the morning to find that your machine has rebooted or needs to reboot. Typically this means that updates have been installed and the rebooting needs to happen to apply them.

Typically the software installed on your computer will look for updates. When a vendor offers customers to sign up to receive update notifications, it is a good idea to ‘accept’ this offer. A pop-up box may then inform you each time patches or updates are available. Simply follow the steps to install them. In the case this option is not available it’s good to be disciplined in frequently checking a vendor’s website for announcements. It may be that the individual computer user has to retrieve the patches from that website by downloading them. Remember it is important to install any updates as soon as they are available in order to protect your machine.

Finally a word of caution: be sure to download software and patches only from sources you trust. Do not trust a link in the body of an email claiming to be a software patch. This is a fairly common method for scammers to link you to a website where viruses are masqueraded as patches. As a rule, do not trust emails with an attachment claiming to be a patch. Such attachments are usually also viruses.

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Step 4: Firewall

A Firewall is not designed to protect your computer form viruses, malware, or spam. It is mainly designed to protect your computer from outside forces such as a hacker from accessing your system and scanning your computer. The firewall serves more as a filtering system blocking incoming traffic to your computer unless the host allows it.
There are two types of Firewalls:  

 

It’s main purpose is to prevent unauthorized Internet users from accessing private network connections to the Internet. It also is a type of barrier which protects your processor from “destructive forces” that may hinder it’s abilities. Anything coming to or from the Internet goes through your system’s fire wall.

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Step 5: Password

Poor, weak passwords are easily cracked, and they can put an entire system at risk. Hackers are very good at gaining access through easy-to-guess passwords.

Keep your passwords easy to remember but difficult to guess by using letters and numbers, a mix of lower case and caps, as well as a different character.

Passwords should not be based on well-known or easily accessible personal information. These are examples of what would be a bad password: dictionary word with a digit at the end and/or beginning (falcon8), your pet, child, or spouse's name or any part of your login.

A password should be at least 8 characters long, but if you don’t want to use different characters then your password should be much longer in order to make it stronger.

Your password should not be words in any ‘language’, slang, dialect, jargon, etc.

It is also very important not to set your computer/email or log in of any kind on "auto remember". Although it may be very convenient, it's not a very good idea because you may be more likely to forget the password over time.

Another very important tip is to NEVER have your password or log in written down anywhere around your desk, taped on your monitor, or anywhere else. This could be a security hazard.     

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