Computer and Mobile Device Security

Keep your operating system and your software applications up to date to protect University and personal data while working on networks. You should also encrypt your devices to keep data so that your data remains secure even if you lose a device or one is stolen from you. If a lost or stolen device is not encrypted, you can wipe all of its stored data remotely to be sure no one else can access it.

Keep Your Software and Operating System Up to Date

Most desktop security incidents exploit flaws in your computer’s operating system and software. As these flaws are discovered, vendors release patches to cover these security holes. Be sure to promptly accept updates to your operating system and software to be sure you always have the latest security patches.

Updating your operating system is perhaps the most critical and simplest of all the methods for securing your computer. Nearly all modern operating systems have some easy method to make sure you have the latest version of all operating system software. Make sure you enable automatic updates whenever possible.

For instructions on updating your computer, follow the appropriate link below:

  • Updating Windows 10
  • Updating macOS
  • Updating Unix/Linux:
    • The most reliable method for ensuring you are running the latest version of networked clients is simply to subscribe to announce-lists for the programs and recompile or patch to the latest version when one is released. The number of lists you would be subscribed to can be significantly reduced by simply reducing the number of running services to a minimum (and installing/configuring a firewall). At a minimum, you should watch for updates to the kernel, or distribution-specific services.
    • For Linux systems, your distribution may have a command-line or GUI software update tool (for example, up2date for Red Hat, apt-get for Debian, swaret for Slackware, or autoupdate for other RPM-based distributions). If nothing else, the makers of your distribution will keep a mailing list for notifying users of updates to the distribution. Check at your distribution’s website for specific information.
    • For any other Unix systems, contact your operating system vendor for information.

Encrypt Your Devices

There are a number of ways data thieves can gain access to files on your laptop, desktop, mobile phone, or other devices, even if you have set a login password. If your device is lost or stolen, if you leave it turned on in public spaces, or if your login password is compromised, a determined thief may be able to steal sensitive files. Encryption offers another layer of security for your important data.

See the article Laptop and Tablet Encryption to learn how to encrypt your Windows or Mac laptop and tablet devices.

Wipe Your Lost or Stolen Device Data Remotely

We all carry sensitive information on our phones, tablets, and laptops. If our devices are lost or stolen, the data saved on them are vulnerable to thieves, especially if the device is not encrypted. Learn how to remotely wipe data from your macOS mobile or Android mobile device in case this ever happens to you.

Install and Update Antivirus Software

Viruses are the most well-known of several categories of maliciously targeted programs (generically called malware). Most malware programs install themselves through vulnerabilities in the operating system, software, or through social engineering. Once installed, the malware will deliver some sort of a payload (from simply spreading itself again to installing a keylogger to track everything you type) and attempt to spread itself further.
Antivirus software is only as effective as its latest definitions, or, the list of viruses the software can detect. Because of the high number of viruses for Windows, most antivirus software available for Windows has this capability built into the program to automatically update its definitions on a set schedule.

Symantec Endpoint Protection

IT Services licenses Symantec Endpoint Protection for Windows and Mac OS X. Learn how to get Symantec Endpoint Protection.

Wipe Data from Devices Before You Sell Them or Throw Them Away

Even devices you have not used in some time may still have sensitive information stored in memory. Be sure to wipe all desktop, laptop, and mobile device memory before you dispose of these devices or pass them on to anyone else. See the knowledge base article Data Wipe Electronic Devices to learn how.

Remember: simply deleting files from your device does not permanently remove the information from your hard drive. You must perform a wipe to permanently erase data.

Recycle Your Old Devices

The computer Recyling Program accepts accepts computers, laptops, monitors, keyboards, modems, printers, and scanners. Non-working computers will be processed in an environmentally sound manner. Hard drives are wiped or distroyed. Learn more at the Technology Recycling service page.

Malware

Malware, or malicious software, is hostile, intrusive code that can compromise your data or even disable your devices. There are a number of different kinds of malware, including:

  • viruses
  • spyware
  • adware
  • ransomware
  • worms
  • trojan horses

Malware can spread rapidly through many different channels. Malicious email attachments, infected document files, websites concealing hostile code, and unprotected fileshares are common vectors of malware infection.

Modern antivirus software helps protect against the malware, spyware, viruses, and other invasive methods data thieves use to infiltrate computers and networks. Because criminals are always finding new ways to break into systems, it is critical to keep antivirus software current on your personal and University-owned computers.

When you choose antivirus software, select a product from a trusted company. Do not click on internet pop-up ads for antivirus software. This is a common tactic used to trick users into downloading malware. Student, faculty, or staff member, can read the knowledge base article Symantec Endpoint Protection to learn more about acquiring this comprehensive antivirus package that updates automatically and is free for your personal and University-owned computers.

Be sure to use only one antivirus software product per computer. Multiple products can make the machine more vulnerable to attack, not less.