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UAlbany Offers Tips for Back-to-School Computer Security

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 6, 2006) -- In a time when the computer gets hooked up before the television or the refrigerator, residential college students face increasing risks to their privacy and personal security from on-line threats. College networks are prime targets for hackers and thieves looking to exploit unprotected PCs. The University at Albany's residential network program (ResNet) and Information Security Officer offer several common-sense methods for students to protect themselves and their computers from cyber criminals.

  • Turn off your computer when not in use: The strongest protection you can provide for your PC is to turn it off when you're not using it. Leaving your computer on when you're away is like leaving your keys in your car with the engine running. Hackers will find you if you're connected.
  • Use anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date: Many mail systems at major organizations scan for viruses before delivering mail. But there are many other ways for viruses and worms to reach your computer. When properly set up, anti-virus software will automatically update its virus database, providing you with the most current protection against malicious code.
  • Keep your PC patched: Microsoft and other application vendors regularly release updates to their software to fix bugs and plug security holes. It's critical that you keep your operating system (e.g. Windows XP) current. Microsoft releases updates generally on the first Tuesday of each month. You can set up your computer to automatically download these critical patches. See the Network Security CD for more information.
  • Use complex passwords on all system accounts: All Windows systems include a standard account that is universally known, the Administrator account. If you do not have a strong, complex password set for this account, or any other user account on your PC, anyone can gain remote entry into your computer and all its files, information, and applications. What's more, if they log in using the Administrator (or Admin) account, they can write their own files and applications to your disk, and delete yours.
  • Use Antispyware Software: It's just as important as antivirus software. Spyware refers to several kinds of malicious software programs designed to intercept or take partial control of your computer without your knowledge or consent. Several good free products are available. Remember to scan often and keep the definitions up-to-date.
  • Back up your computer regularly: Murphy's Law, due diligence, and acknowledging that anything that spins at 7,000 rpm 24 hours a day, seven days a week will break down- sooner or later. Back your data files up to a CD or flash drive. Floppies will fail.
  • Practice Safe Computing: Cyber criminals have become very sophisticated and have developed effective techniques for fooling you into loading their malicious software or providing confidential, personal information. A good rule of thumb is: "Trust but Verify." It's estimated that 1 in 3 on-line users have malware installed on their computers. How did it get there? The victims were tricked into loading it themselves. Email messages with malicious attachments, IMs with poison links, file sharing software larded with Spyware, web pages that install malware when viewed, financial and person information supplied in response to a fraudulent email solicitation...these are common ways that individuals compromise themselves and their computers. Security measures are only as effective as the individuals who practice them. Ultimately, you are responsible for safeguarding your system and the information it contains.

For more information, visit the UAlbany residential network.


The University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages more than 17,000 diverse students in 10 schools and colleges. For more information about this internationally ranked institution, visit the University at Albany. Visit UAlbany's extensive roster of Faculty Experts.

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