Do you know how easy it is for your computer to be infected with a virus, worm or other malicious code? It may only take an instant or a mouse click to become infected, but it may take years to recover from the identity theft or loss of data that may result. Did you know that a freshly installed copy of Windows is vulnerable to such attacks just by being connected to the network? The steps given as part of theStartsafe program can help prevent a new machine from being infected before it is initially connected to the Clarkson network. The items given as part of this program, theRunSafeprogram, can help keep a computer that is already connected to the network running in a healthy state.
You wouldn't get your flu shot from someone on the street, so why run programs on your computer that come from untrustworthy sites? Programs, screen savers, pictures and movies that show up in your email inbox or that are passed around using peer to peer (P2P) software are very suspect. When you don't know or trust the original author of a piece of software, or when you are not certain that the software is in its original form, it should not be run on your computer. Doing so risks exposing your computer and the rest of the Clarkson network to serious risks. So, don't forget if your flu shot didn't come from your doctor, don't take it. And, if your software didn't come from a reputable source, don't run it. Run Safe.
Email Attachments If you receive an email with an attachment that you are not expecting, do NOT open it even if the person sending the email is known to you. If you are wondering if that person sent you an attachment, call them on the phone and ask them. Frequently, viruses will look through an infected computer's address book to gather email addresses. Then the virus will email itself to all of the email addresses that it finds in that address book. This email may look like it came from your friend, co-worker, roomate or supervisor.
Security patches can prevent one of the many Internet users from taking control of your computer. And they can prevent your computer from being used to launch similar attacks against other Internet users. To check your computer for an update, just follow these simple steps:
- Open Internet Explorer
- Go to http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com
- If any updates are found, you will see a yellow shield on the Shutdown button in the Start Menu. Windows Updates will install upon shutdown. You will see the number of updates installing (1 of XX) and the computer will shutdown when after installing the last update. DO NOT turn off the computer while this is taking place.
- Upon boot-up of the computer the updates will configure and should boot to the login screen
Would you leave your car unlocked in a crime ridden neighborhood? Probably not. Why then, would you give the programs on your computer more access than they need? Sometimes software that is running on our computers will expose our personal information. We can reduce the risk of this happening by using the following steps:
- Limit unnecessary network traffic by using a firewall.
- Do not use public access computers or kiosks to read email, check bank statements or view other sensitive information
- Configure your email client to display emails in plain text. This can help reduce the risk presented by viewing a malicious message.
- Perform day to day operations, particularly web browsing and email reading, using an unprivileged user account.
- Disable unneeded Windows services.
Our user ID and password are, in many cases, what identify us online. If an attacker is able to guess our password, then they become us. This means that they can move money around (or out of) our bank accounts, charge items to our credit cards or even worse, launch attacks against other computers. To prevent such misuse, we must choose secure passwords.
If your computer provides a service, then it will require regular maintenance. This means that if you run a webserver on your computer, you should take the time to regularly monitor its log files. If you use Windows file sharing, you should regularly monitor your file shares to ensure that there are no unauthorized files. Regardless of the platform that provides the service, Windows, Linux or MacOSX, the services will require regular monitoring and maintenance. Even if your computer doesn't run as a server, you still need to take the time to regularly update your operating system and anti-virus software.
Every other computer on the Internet has direct access to your computer. Even if you take every recommended precaution, you can't control what someone else may do on the Internet. Because of this, it is important to stay up-to-date with the following items:
- Current threats and scams
- Regularly backup your data
- Do not ignore warning messages, particularly those coming from your anti-virus software
Reckless use of just one networked computer can mean trouble for lots of computers on the Clarkson network. That's why it is important for you to be vigilant about your security ... and to encourage your neighbors, co-workers, roommates and students to do the same.