computer security on campus

Posted : November 2, 2006
Last Updated : October 15, 2015

computer security on campus

With the growing number of computer security issues, it's crucial for college students to know how to be protected from potential threats. Adhere to these tips to ensure computer safety on campus.

Do Not Reveal Your Passwords
Your network account and password act as your identity on your college's network. To help ensure that no one else besides you can access your e-mail or other files, do not give out your password to anyone. You can deter people from finding out your passwords by:

  • Changing your password regularly.
  • Not keeping a text file of your passwords saved on your computer. Save to a flash drive instead.
  • Not allowing your web browser to remember passwords.
  • Having different passwords for different accounts.

Be sure to choose passwords that are hard to guess. An insecure password is one that is personally associated with you (i.e. a date, social security number, name, address, etc.). The best passwords are those that are at least eight characters long and have a mixture of letters, numbers, and punctuation. If you have a hard time remembering all of the characters of your password, another secure option would be to use a passphrase. A passphrase should be at least 14 characters long but doesn't need the mixture of numbers, symbols, etc. A passphrase of "My mom and dad are awesome." is much easier to remember than "M3rcyM1@" and it's just as secure.

Protect Your Computer from Viruses
A virus is a software program that finds its way into your computer without your knowledge, often by attaching itself to a legitimate file or e-mail message. Therefore, you should always be wary of e-mails in which you do not know the sender or were not expecting. Never open e-mail attachments from unknown sources. To protect your computer from viruses, use anti-virus software and keep it updated. Schools usually require computers on their network to have anti-virus software in order to connect to the Internet or any other resource on the network. Visit your school's IT Help Desk to obtain the software. Most schools offer the software to their students free of charge. If you don't have access to help from IT, for a small fee, companies such as McAfee Security proactively scan and secure computers from viruses and threats.

Scan for Adware and Spyware Programs
Spyware/adware are applications that get installed on your machine without your permission. These programs advertise products via pop-up windows or send data back to a third party. Free anti-spyware tools are available for identifying and removing these applications. Once these tools are installed, you need to update them regularly and run scans often to protect your computer.

Keep Your Operating System Updated
Be sure to keep your system up-to-date to prevent your computer from being infected or compromised. Set your system to automatically run Windows or Mac software updates on a regular basis.

Install and Run a Personal Firewall
A firewall helps block unwanted internet access through your computer (i.e. unwanted programs installed on your computer trying to reach the internet and other computers connecting to your computer). A firewall can be a piece of hardware, such as a router, or a software program. Most newer operating systems have built-in firewalls.

Avoid Peer-to-Peer File Sharing
Be wary of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing programs. Many colleges even prohibit the use of these file sharing programs because of the security risks involved with them. These programs can introduce spyware or adware into your computer and spread viruses, worms, and other malicious computer files. By using these file-sharing programs, you can also make highly personal information available to other users (i.e. your financial or medical records).

For more information about computer security on campus, visit your school's IT Help Desk.

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