Cyber Tip

Backing up your computer regularly can protect you from the unexpected.

Best Practices

When it comes to safe computing and protecting your vital private and financial information, you can never be too careful!  Even though the task can appear daunting, there are some very general, easy-to-institute precautions that will go a long way to mitigate your risk in this area and ensure the privacy and confidentiality of your most important information.  Below are some suggested computer and information security “Best Practices” for you to consider.

  • Always Use plain old common sense
    When in doubt, err on the side of safety. Delete email attachments from people you don’t know (WITHOUT opening them!). Be especially suspicious of tempting animations on unprofessional-looking sites. Avoid clicking on strange links or attachments in Instant Messaging (IM) programs-they might contain malicious code.
  • Inserting media devices in your computer
    Scan them before use. This is typically done automatically through your virus protection software. However, if you do not regularly update your virus software you could infect your computer by inserting a CD, flash drive or other media device.
  • Don’t share
    Even well-meaning associates can unwittingly transmit viruses, worms, Trojan horses or worse. Label your disks clearly, and “neither a borrower nor lender be.” Use alternate methods for sharing files.
  • Avoid downloading files you’re unsure about
    Be on the lookout for files such as freeware, screensavers, games or other executable programs. Internet news groups and websites may be full of potential threats.
  • Frequently update your antivirus software
    Even the best antivirus software isn’t much help unless you keep it updated. New PC threats emerge daily — even hourly — and variations can often be engineered to slip by previous software versions. Most antivirus software allows easy online updating.
  • Protect system startups
    Make sure to configure antivirus software to launch automatically and run constantly, ensuring that you’re always protected.
  • Scan incoming email/attachments
    Again, you should scan each attached file from email or IM messages — even those from trusted sources. Most PC security software automatically performs this function.
  • Don’t automatically open email/attachments
    This may seem redundant, but it’s important. Make sure your email application doesn’t automatically open messages (Check the program’s "Options" or "Preferences" menus).
  • Use desktop firewalls
    Windows and Macintosh computers have basic desktop firewalls as part of their operating systems. When set up properly, these firewalls protect your computer files from being scanned.
  • Backup, Backup, BACKUP
    Backing up your machine regularly can protect you from the unexpected. Keep a few months' worth of backups and make sure the files can be retrieved if needed.
  • Control access to your machine
    Don't leave your computer in an unsecured area, or unattended and logged on, especially in public places. The physical security of your machine is just as important as its technical security.
  • Use strong, unique passwords
    Do not use words, patterns or easily guessed information. Use at least 8 characters and a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Use different passwords for your financial transactions and accounts. Change passwords regularly and never share them with anyone.
  • Protect your vital information
    Treat your information as if it is CONFIDENTIAL at all times! Only reveal a minimal amount of information as deemed necessary or appropriate for a given transaction or situation. When requested to provide private information, ask the requestor for the reason that the information is needed. Purge all sensitive data (SSNs, credit card information, student records, health information, etc.) from your computer unless it is absolutely necessary. Your computer service provider can help you automate the process of finding sensitive data using special software.
  • Take extra care with portable devices
    Be especially careful about what data you store on portable devices, like laptops, flash drives and smartphones. These are more easily lost and stolen and may require extra protections, like encryption or remote file deletion.
  • Be careful what you share on Social Media
    It is true, services like Facebook and Twitter do present you with powerful and exciting technological tools and resources. However, these services also present new risks. Be aware that anything you share can be preserved online indefinitely and be rapidly shared beyond your original intentions.
  • Stay informed
    Stay current with the latest developments for Windows, Macintosh, Linux and Unix systems.