Good maintenance of your computer involves keeping your software updated, having good security habits, and running the right programs to protect your computer. Computer security is a large, complicated subject, but we've tried to break it down into some smaller, more easily digestible sections.

If you have any questions or concerns of any kind relating to computer security, don't hesitate to contact us.

Quick Tips for Computer Safety

General Practices  

  • Keep your computer patched and up-to-date. Setup the automatic download and installation of all critical security patches. Check for new security patches at least once weekly. More information on how to do do this may be found under Updating your Operating System.
  • Install and use a personal firewall. This allows you to choose what information enters and leaves your computer.
  • Install and use virus scanning software. Update this software at least once weekly. Consider a software that can detect and remove SpyWare and AdWare in addition to viruses and worms. You should scan your computer for "Malicious Software" (Malware) at least once per week. See the Virus Protection page for more information.
  • Keep your computer locked and in a secure location. Know where your computer is at all times and don't leave it sitting out unattended in the library or other academic buildings. Investing in laptop locks or locking your desktop's case are both good ideas. For more information, see Physical Security.
    • In addition to physically locking your computer, if you are using a PC, make sure to lock your screenwhile away for any amount of time ("Start key" & "L").
  • Backup your critical documents and files. It is important to have at least two copies of any important files. Should anything happen to your computer, your backups will at the very least enable you to restore your critical files. Lots more information on how and where to backup can be found under Backing up your Files.
  • Make sure all accounts on your computer have a strong password. This is important for online accounts as well.  Do NOT use the same password for multiple accounts. Do NOT use easy to guess passwords like "password" and "1234" (two of the most common passwords used). The stronger your password, the more secure your accounts and the information stored on them. For more information on creating and using passwords, see the Password Information page.  
    • In addition to having passwords on your E-mail and backups, we recommend using a screen saver password. This keeps others from using your computer should you leave it alone for a while. Make sure to set it to a low enough trigger time (somewhere around 5 minutes) to ensure that it's effective. 
    • Do NOT write down your passwords and leave them in a public place (like under your keyboard). Instead, consider a password storage program that uses encryption to more safely store your account information. One good choice is the KeePass program for Windows available online at:
  • Switch to a more reliable web browser. More secure web browsers include Mozilla FirefoxGoogle Chrome, or Safari. Internet Explorer is NOT recommended. Many of the current security threats specifically target Internet Explorer.
  • Turn off services that you do not need. This includes things like the Windows File and Printer sharing service.
  • Log off the computer when you are not using it.

While Online

  • Be careful of downloading and installing "free" software. These programs often also install malware on your computer without your knowledge. Even after the free program is removed, the malware often remains on your computer.
  • Know and follow the Basic Safety Rules for Email.

    • Beware of "phishing" expeditions. Do not respond to email messages requiring you to open a web site and provide personal information. "Phishing" scams often lead to Identity Theft.
    • Do not attempt to open or view email messages with attachments. These often contain malware and often even come from someone you know or trust.
  • Do not attempt to open or view unexpected files offered in your Instant Messaging program. These often contain malware and often also come from someone you know or trust.

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