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What are some general computer security tips?

Here are some general security tips. For information security matters please see the Information Security web site.

Several computer security tips:

  • Back up your data and store backups in a different location from your computer. (It's no accident that this tops the list. One of the single biggest security problems is that data were not backed up.)

  • Guard your laptop when you travel. Laptop thefts in airports are on the rise. Don't lose sight of your laptop, especially during airport security check-in.

  • Physically secure your computer if it's not in a secure area. Be aware that processor and memory chip thefts are becoming a bigger problem. Contact for information on how to deter chip theft.

  • Don't be surprised that e-mail can be easily forged. If you receive an uncharacteristic message, consider the possibility of forgery. If you suspect forgery, save the message and contact Many forgeries can be traced.

  • Don't use e-mail for confidential matters. Unless you take special precautions, there is not much more privacy in e-mail than there is when you send a postcard through the mail.

  • Be alert for scams. Con-artists try all kinds of techniques to get people's passwords. Systems administrators would not ask you for your password, so if you get a request asking you for your password or asking you to change your password to a specific value, red flags should go up. Also, be wary of unsolicited offers for technical computer help. Don't allow just anyone to type commands on your computer you don't understand. For information on internet frauds, see the National Fraud Information Center web site.

  • Make sure that you are not using unauthorized copies of commercial software. Organizations (including universities) have paid fines for software copyright violations.

  • Choose a password that is hard to guess. (At least seven characters, no dictionary words, use special characters (e.g. @, !, *, $, #) and a mixture of upper and lower case characters). Weak passwords have been one source of computer break-ins on campus recently.

  • Change your password frequently.

  • Make sure your computer is protected from power surges.

  • Obtain the current versions of anti-virus software.

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