UAlbany Offers Tips for Back-to-School Computer Security
ALBANY, N.Y. (August 2, 2007) -- With students spending hours each day checking e-mail, instant messaging friends, playing games, researching and writing, computers have clearly become a crucial part of college life. Cyber crime has become a serious threat to college networks, which are prime targets for hackers and thieves looking to steal personally identifiable information or financial data. The University at Albany's Information Security Officer Martin Manjak offers best practices for students to safeguard their computers and personal information from cyber criminals.
- Reduce exposure: Turn computers off when not in use. When computers are turned off, viruses and attackers on the Internet cannot attempt to break into it -- offering the strongest protection for PCs.
- Keep PCs patched: Make sure computer operating systems (e.g. Windows XP) are kept up-to-date and have the necessary patches to safeguard from vulnerabilities. Microsoft and other application vendors regularly release updates to their software to fix bugs and plug security holes. Automatic updates can be set up for computers to download critical patches.
- Use long pass phrases on all system accounts: The longer a password is, the harder it is to crack. A pass phrase of 15 characters would take about five years to crack. Pass phrases don't have to be elaborate. Something as simple as "I love my sweet dog, Fang" will baffle hackers, but will also be easy to remember and easy to type. Adding complexity (special characters and numbers) adds extra protection. A different pass phrase should be used for different services -- one for Hotmail, another for the network.
- Use anti-spyware and anti-virus software: People need both to protect themselves from these distinct threats. Several free anti-spyware and anti-virus products are available. Remember to run scans at least once a week and keep the definitions up-to-date.
- Practice safe computing: Cyber criminals have become very sophisticated and have developed effective techniques for exploiting people's trust and curiosity. Victims are often tricked into loading malware themselves. E-mail messages with malicious attachments, IMs with poison links, file sharing software larded with spyware, financial and person information supplied in response to a fraudulent e-mail solicitation...these are common ways that individuals compromise themselves and their computers. If something doesn't look or feel right, trust intuition. There is good reason to be suspicious. All too often, things are not what they appear to be in the realm of cyber space.
For more information, visit UAlbany's Information Security home page.
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