October is Computer Security Awareness Month, but computer security is something to keep in mind all year. There are things that a user can do to help protect themselves from infections or having stolen information. Here are some tips to help you practice smart computer security:
Have an effective, auto-updating Antivirus
The MIO requires that all computers connecting to ResNet have an effective, self-updating antivirus program. The Department of Residence Life highly recommends using Windows Defender for Windows devices (included and pre-installed on Windows), and Avast Antivirus for Mac computers. Avast Antivirus is free to download and can be found at www.avast.com.
Beware that having multiple antivirus programs installed may cause problems on your computer. Make sure to remove any old antivirus programs before installing another. Also, make sure the antivirus program installed on your computer is not a trial version (which typically comes with new computers).
Create a strong password
A strong password is at least eight characters and at least three of four types of characters. These characters are: lower case letter, upper case letter, number and symbol. It is important not only have a strong password, but use it! Make sure when your computer is not in use that it is locked. Remember that things that happen on your computer are your responsibility if you are not doing what you can to prevent another from using it.
A tip for creating a good password is to create a saying and have the password be an acronym. For example “I always practice smart computer security!” could become “Iapscs!”.
Another suggestion for creating a strong password is taking a word and exchanging numbers for letters. For example, take the word “security,” capitalize the first letter and exchange a 3 for the e which ends up as “S3curity”
Watch out for Phishing e-mails and websites
Phishing is the act of trying to acquire your personal information by misrepresentation of a third party. This criminal act will typically look like a credible company and ask that you click on a website and verify your personal information. This information could be, but is not limited to: your username, password, and/or credit card information. A creditable company will NEVER ask for your username and password to be sent to them.
Even if you think you know who sent it to you, be cautious; it may be a hacker who got the company’s information. Make sure you know who is sending things to you before you click on it. This is one of the most common ways to get infected with a virus or spyware. Just make sure you know what it is before clicking. If you aren’t sure, don’t click on it.
Another tip to avoid being tricked is by going directly to the website rather than clicking on the link. If you get an e-mail from your bank, instead of clicking on the link just go to your banks website like you normally would. Sometimes a link can show up as www.housing.uwosh.edu but take you to an entirely different website.
Update your software
Whether it is Windows or Mac OS X, it is very important you make sure you are getting the most up-to-date software for your computer. There are constant patches and security fixes released that will help keep your computer safe. This is true for other software as well. Keeping all software on your computer up-to-date helps ensure that you are protected.
Campus has purchased an appliance to help combat virus and spyware problems on campus. This devices is able to identify and block known bad traffic and websites. This will help minimize the infections on campus and allow MIO to follow up with residents who have infections. However, it is still important that residents take an active role in preventing this themselves by having antivirus and an antispyware/malware program.
There is a common misconception that an anti-virus program is the same as anti-malware program. Many users ask, “isn’t my anti-virus good enough?”. There is no simple answer, so we will explain it.
Anti-virus programs are used to prevent known programs or URLs from doing anything harmful to your computer.
Anti-malware programs specialize in the removal of malicious programs and files already on your device.
Malwarebytes released this information: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware hunts down most often zero-day or zero-hour malware, a term our community uses to explain malware that has been newly created and released on the web. (http://goo.gl/onYWZC)
Kaspersky does an amazing job explaining this in depth. http://goo.gl/L4PdBT