Computers are such a large part of our everyday home and work life that we have to take special care to protect our digital livelihood. Modern day criminals can steal your identity from the comfort of their sofa. Don't make it easy for them to steal your valuable personal information which could include passwords, social security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and so on. As they say, knowledge is power, and with the right knowledge for how to protect yourself, you don't have to be afraid on the Internet.
This Quicknote is for the benefit of faculty, staff, and students. It is for general information about computer threats and good programs to use to thwart these threats.
To follow this Quicknote you need to own a computer and be the administrator on it. This recommended software section is not intended for university-owned equipment that has been setup by ITS, all relevant software will have already been set up and installed for you.
Protect Yourself with These Tips
The first layer of defense you have control over is you. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. You need to be smart with where you go, what you do, and who you give personal information to. With the popularity of social media, with sites like Facebook and Twitter, we have become a bit free giving with our information. Be it where we live, where we go, when we are not at home, and so on. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some general guidelines to protect yourself on the Internet:
Email - Don't send personal information like social security numbers or passwords through email. Email is not a secure way to send information, unless it's encrypted, and if you don't know if it's encrypted, then it likely isn't. In addition, never send personal information to people you don't know or those who request it in an email for some kind of monetary gift or reward.
Anti-virus - Make sure to have some kind of anti-virus program installed. You can check the next section for some recommended free programs. Regularly check that your anti-virus and anti-malware software is updated. Its ability to protect your computer is severely diminished if it doesn't know about the latest threats that are out there.
Web Browser - Be careful what passwords you save in your web browser. Just because it's on your computer doesn't mean it's safe. It's actually fairly easy to find out the password of saved web sites in Firefox. Never ever save the password for your online banking or tax filing website in your browser.
Downloading - Be careful what you download on the Internet and in email attachments. When downloading email attachments, be sure that it is someone you know, the email sounds like something they would say, and you are expecting such an attachment from them. Someone's email could be hacked and the hacker could pretend to be this user. If you get an attachment in an email, assume it's malicious unless proven otherwise by the content or having advanced notice about it.
Installing - Even if you are installing a trusted program, be very careful during the install process. Some free programs install other programs that may slow down your computer or hijack your browser's search engine or URL box. Be sure to uncheck any boxes for installing additional toolbars, trial programs, or other programs. Some examples of software you don't want installed includes BrowserSafeGuard, Conduit Search, My PC Backup, and others like these. If you're unsure about a program, feel free to contact the ITS Helpdesk for confirmation (see our contact information at the bottom of this Quicknote).
Protect Your Computer for Free
Just because you want to protect your computer against attacks doesn't mean you have to go broke doing it. Sometimes there are lighter free versions of certain anti-virus programs that should do a decent job of protecting your computer. They might lack some flashier features, but they will still do a great job of finding infections. Why pay if you can get good protection for free? The following are software programs that are highly rated and reviewed:
If you have any questions or experience any issues with this Quicknote, please visit or contact the ITS Helpdesk for assistance.
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