Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - Almanac Vol. 53, No. 4
Security and working at home
Your Penn LSP probably goes to great lengths to keep your office computer free from viruses, worms, and other network nasties. But what happens when you lug a Penn laptop home or use your own home computer to stretch your workweek?
If you have young kids at home, chances are they know more about computers than you do. They may spend more time online than you, and they probably take technology for granted. But there could be problems if you let them use your Penn-provided computer.
Many kids’ recreational style of computing is incompatible with keeping computers secure. Some don’t think twice about clicking on email attachments or installing untrusted, free software that opens up dangerous vulnerabilities. Others are too trusting. When faced with a popup window that screams "Your computer has been hacked. Click here!", they go ahead and click, installing spyware that will eventually bring the computer to a grinding halt.
If you are the only person using a Penn Windows computer at home and are careful about what you click on and what programs you install, there’s a good chance it is secure. But if you allow kids to share your work computer, your computer may very well be infected with viruses, spyware, worms, and more. And, if you bring that computer back to campus, there’s a good chance it will spread security problems to other Penn computers.
It’s best not to allow your kids, or anyone else, to use the same computer that you use for Penn-related work, particularly if you store, or have access to, sensitive data. One alternative is to give your kids a separate, unprivileged account to use. That could help limit any unintentional harm they might cause.