8 Steps to Secure Your Computer

Practice safe computing by securing a computerbacking up important files, and following the best practices to avoid scams. Any computer connected to the network is vulnerable to attack. Follow these 8 steps to minimize risk and make a computer safer.

1. Update operating system

Learn how to get Mac OS X updates or Windows updates. Most security issues are related to vulnerabilities in the operating system. As these flaws are discovered, software companies release patches and updates to protect your computer from the security holes. College-owned computers are configured to automatically update their operating system.

2. Install and update antivirus software

Computer viruses and malware are some of the largest risks to a network. An infected computer can spread a virus quickly to other computers over the network. Antivirus software is critical to practice safe computing. College-owned computers have antivirus software installed and are configured to automatically update.

3. Use a passphrase instead of a password

Learn how to create a strong password. Macalester recommends using a passphrase instead of a password to protect valuable information because length provides the most strength. Passphrases are easier to remember because ordinary words are allowed, provided they are chosen randomly. A passphrase such as baTteRyStaPleburMacOrRect (battery-staple-burma-correct) is both memorable and long. Macalester systems do not allow special characters or spaces. Use a different password for each online account. It’s okay to write down passwords; just keep them protected just like credit cards.

4. Protect sensitive information

Learn how to identify and store sensitive information. Never store information of a confidential nature or that can be used to steal an identity in an insecure location. Be particularly careful of names in combination with one or more of the following: Social Security Number, bank account or credit/debit card numbers, driver’s license or state ID, passport number.

5. Back up important files

Learn about back-up solutions. No system is completely secure. If important files are stored on a computer, copy them to a secure network location or to another removable drive or disc and store them in a different location from the computer.

6. Enable firewall protection

Learn how to set up a firewall for Mac OS X or firewall for Windows 7. Firewall software can help protect a computer against hackers and other security attacks. The latest versions of Windows and the Macintosh operating systems have built in firewalls. It is sufficient to only use this built in firewall. College-owned computers are configured with this firewall turned on.

7. Stay safe online

Follow general tips for safe computing and online privacy and Google’s Safety Center for Everyone. For any college community computers and mobile devices are primary tools in educational, administrative, and social life. Students, faculty and staff use the Internet for homework, research, social networking, business transactions, online purchases, and more.

8. Enable screen saver passwords

Learn how to lock Mac OS X computer screen  or lock Windows computer screen. When away from a computer, lock the screen or set a screen saver password. This will prevent someone from using a computer when you are away from your desk. This feature is set by default on all College-owned computers.