10 Steps to Securing Your Computer

The steps suggested on this list can help improve the overall security of a computer system. Information Technology Services recommends these steps to students and to all home users who connect to EagleNet. Information Technology Services handles security settings on all campus owned computers.

  1. Set good passwords
  2. Keep your software updated
  3. Run anti-virus software
  4. Handle e-mail attachments with care
  5. Limit access to your machine
  6. Run a personal firewall
  7. Monitor your network usage
  8. Be cautious in using peer-to-peer file sharing
  9. Turn your computer off when not in use
  10. Watch for CNS Advisories & Alerts

1. Set good passwords

  • Make sure all accounts on your machine, including administrator, have strong passwords. Not doing so is the single most common exposure.
  • Choose secure passwords that cannot be easily guessed. Please see our Password Policy for more information.
  • Change your password immediately if you suspect someone else may have guessed it. As a general precaution, you should try to change passwords every 60 days.
  • Your EagleNet password should be different from any other password you use.

2. Keep your software updated

  • New versions of software are released on a regular basis to counter threats; without current software, your computer is almost sure to be infected or compromised.
  • The two components most frequently attacked, and therefore most important to keep up to date, are your operating system and web browser.
  • Tools for Updating
    • Windows: Windows Update or turn on Automatic Windows Update on your computer by going to the Start Menu -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Automatic Updates.
    • Mac: MAC Software Update or turn on Automatic Software Updates on your computer.

3. Run anti-virus software

  • All computers that connect to EagleNet are required to run an up to date Anti-Virus software application.
  • If you use a device not owned and maintained by the college, please make sure you have purchased a supported anti-virus software application and that you update it frequently.

4. Handle e-mail attachments with care

  • Many viruses are transmitted through e-mail, often as attachments.
  • Never open an attachment unless you are sure who sent it and what it contains.
  • Always use your antivirus software to scan an attachment for viruses before opening it. The easiest way to do this is to enable continuous scanning, called File System Realtime Protection on Windows or Norton Auto-Protect on a Macintosh.

5. Limit access to your machine

  • If you don't need to give others access to programs and files on your system, turn sharing off.
  • Consider what other options are available. If you are part of an academic or administrative department, there may be a local fileserver to share files on instead of sending them through e-mail. Any type of file can be posted on a web server. All employees and students are given free web space that can be used for this purpose; then you can send an e-mail with a link to the file's location. E-mail attachments are generally not a good way to share files, but may be adequate for sending a small file to one or two people; avoid sending e-mail attachments to a large e-mail list.
  • You should never have your system set up for anonymous/guest access.

6. Run a personal firewall

  • A firewall lets you decide what types of network traffic you do and don't want your system to accept, and it can alert you to possible intrusions.
  • Windows XP and Mac OS X both include integrated firewall software.
  • For older systems, a third-party package will be needed, such as Symantec Personal Firewall.

7. Monitor your network usage

  • Increased/unexplained network activity can be a sign of a compromise, and may lead to unwanted network usage charges.
  • If there is an unusual spike in your network usage, you may receive an a message from Campus Network and Security (CNS); you should immediately investigate the cause.

8. Be cautious in using peer-to-peer file sharing software (KaZaA, for example)

  • If you have used one of these programs even once, your computer is probably set up to distribute files, which can slow down your computer and network and get you in trouble for copyright violation.
  • Learn enough about the program you are using to select which files are shared and limit the number of downloads from your computer. Better still, turn sharing off (closing the application window usually won't do it).
  • Check logs regularly if available; it is best to actively monitor your system when it is set up to share files.
  • Helpful links:

9. Turn your computer off when not in use if this will not interfere with automatically scheduled updates or personal backups

  • Your computer cannot be infected or invaded when it is not connected to the network.
  • Consider shutting down when done for the day, unless you have an automated backup, upgrade or scan scheduled to run overnight. You can always schedule your updates to happen when your computer is on, too.
  • This is particularly important when you will be away from your system longer than a few days.
  • If you haven't turned on your computer in a few days, be sure to check for updates for software and antivirus files (see steps 2 and 3 above) before you do anything else.

10. Watch for CNS Advisories in the Announcements and on the Arch

  • CNS Advisories are available on the Campus Technology Services homepage to alert of any known security incidents.