Update Your Computer

Patches and Service Packs correct weaknesses in your software. Keeping these fixes up to date will better protect your system and the University network. Check websites frequently for the software you run on your computer; you may need new patches. Ensure your antivirus software is up to date as there are new viruses every day.

If you have a University-owned computer, you may receive system updates automatically via Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (Windows) or Absolute Manage (Mac OS X). To check if your computer is receiving automatic system updates:

  • Windows: Open Control Panel, select All Control Panel items and see if you have a Configuration Manager control panel item.
  • Mac: Open System Preferences and see if you have an Absolute Manage system preference.

If you don’t have either of these options, talk to your IT support staff to have the automated system updates applied to your computer.

For general software updates, visit the Secunia Advisories website or the CERT.org website.


Use a Firewall

A firewall basically transfers traffic between computer networks. It filters incoming information from the Internet to a computer, allowing or denying the data entry to the network based on its settings. The use of a firewall is essential in maintaining the security and proper functioning of a network by blocking sites that may contain viruses, worms, and other malware. If there is a problem, a firewall can help prevent the spread of malware to other computers on the network.

University IT maintains the firewall that protects the University network and provides a departmental firewall service for department network administrators.


Secure Your Physical Documents and Computer

Leaving your computer or print documents unattended or unsecured gives potential thieves an opportunity to steal your confidential information or to install malware on your computer. Follow these physical security guidelines to better protect your data:

In the Lab or Library
  • Public computer labs are a popular hangout for “shoulder surfers” — people who look over your shoulder while you type in your user name, password, or other sensitive information. It’s very easy to decipher which keys you’re typing for your password, no matter how fast you type. Be on the lookout for these surfers when you log in.
  • Avoid online shopping while using a public computer or using a public network.
  • Log out when you’re done.
In the Dorm or Office
If your dorm room or office is in an open suite, or if you use a laptop in more than one location, your computer and sensitive files could be at risk.

  • If you use a laptop, physically secure it with a lock.
  • To secure your files and sensitive data, use a system password.
  • To secure your personal computer when you leave it unattended, either log off when you leave, requiring a password to log back on, or use a password-protected screen saver.

 

Method Pros Cons
Log-in password When you log off, your computer is secure from the moment you leave until the moment you return You have to remember to log off every time you leave your computer
Screen saver password Comes up automatically if you leave your computer abruptly. In the few minutes it takes for the screen saver to come up, someone could hop on your computer.

You can easily lock your computer by using keyboard shortcuts:

  • Windows: Windows button + L key -OR- Control + Alt + Delete
  • Mac: Control + Shift + Eject
Fires, Drops, and Spills
Laptops require some extra precautions due to their physical vulnerabilities. Following these precautions can help prevent expensive repairs.

  • Do not use a soft surface (such as a bed, pillow, carpet, or couch) as a desktop when using or charging your laptop. These surfaces do not allow the heat that laptops generate to escape, which can cause damage to your computer, or worse, start a fire.
  • Do not let your battery or charger become too hot — for example, by leaving it in your car or in the sun. Extreme temperatures can degrade your battery and reduce its ability to hold a charge.
  • Be careful not to drop your battery or charger because the sudden impact could damage them or cause them to catch fire.
  • Be cautious if you have liquids near your laptop. If they spill, they can damage your computer and its data.
  • If you bring your laptop with you, always carry it in a padded case of some sort. This will protect it in case you drop it or knock it against something.

The UR Tech Store offers protection plans that cover parts, labor, and even replacement for devices in case of accidental damage, theft, and other

Print Documents
  • Don’t leave confidential printouts on your desk, even if you are only away for a few moments — keep them locked in a secure place. If you no longer need these printouts, do not just simply throw them away; shred them.
  • “Dumpster diving” is a popular activity where hackers obtain others’ confidential information from sensitive documents that were not disposed of properly. Shredders are inexpensive and readily available. “Cross-cut” models are preferable to “strip” models because cross-cut models shred documents into more, smaller pieces than the strip models, making it increasingly difficult for dumpster diving thieves to tape documents back together.
  • Remove sensitive data before you sell or donate old computers, smartphones, and other technology. You can find directions on the Data Management page. University IT also provides free, secure recycling for personal and University-owned equipment.

Secure Your Web Browser

Your web browser is your primary connection to the Internet, and many applications may rely on your browser to function. Many web applications try to improve the ease of use of your browser by enabling different types of functionality, but some functionality might be unnecessary and also leave your computer susceptible to attack.  Some hackers target vulnerabilities in users’ web browsers in order to gain access to users’ computers.

To secure your web browser:

  • The safest approach is to disable the majority of your web browser’s functionality features. If you decide later that you need some of these features, you can always go back and enable them.
  • You should also never allow the browser to “remember” your password for a particular website—this makes it easier for a hacker to steal information.
  • Use the latest supported version of your web browser. Microsoft and other vendors are quick to fix reported security problems in the current releases of their browsers, but they usually don’t go back and fix earlier versions. If you are using an earlier, unpatched web browser, it may be possible for remote sites to view files or email on your computer, monitor your web browsing activities, or make network connections from your machine.
  • Use HTTPS
  • When configuring your browser to use plug-ins and helper applications, make sure any plug-ins and applications you download are from trustworthy sources. Periodically review your browser’s plugins and extensions and remove any that you no longer use.
  • Before clicking on a link in a browser window, check at the lower left of the window to make sure the link address shown is the same as the one indicated on the page, or that the destination is what you are expecting. Visit our page on scams and identity theft for more information.

Tutorials

Security Practice Operating System
Turn on automatic updates
Configure firewall settings
Enable password protection on login and screen saver

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