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Securing Your Computer

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Anytime you connect your computer to a network, you increase your risk of exposure to worms, viruses, spyware, and hackers. While OIT works hard to make the network as secure as possible, security must begin with you. There are a few very simple steps you should take that could make a big difference and help protect your computer from viruses, spyware, and/or compromises.

AntiVirus Software

Antivirus software is your best defense against viruses/trojans/worms. Any computer that connects to the UT network must have an up-to-date antivirus package installed. The good news is that UT provides antivirus software free of charge to all students, staff, and faculty. For more information or to download antivirus software, please visit http://antivirus.utk.edu.

Secure Passwords

Secure passwords help protect both your computer and your accounts (i.e. online banking, e-mail, UNIX, etc.). Here are some good password tips to follow to help keep your passwords secure.

  • Keep your password(s) to yourself - Never give your password to anyone, including your mom, roommate, boyfriend, etc. Avoid writing it down at all, and if you do, keep it in a secure place (hint: hanging a yellow post-it note on your monitor in your dorm room is not a secure place), and destroy it after you have memorized it.
  • Use hard-to-crack password - Hackers can figure out people's passwords by plugging in all the words in a dictionary to see if there is a match. So, don't use dictionary words or phrases like govols! Use words not found in the dictionary and include numerals in the word.
  • Regularly change your password - Using the same password over a long period of time increases the chance of it becoming cracked. You should change your passwords every 30-60 days.

Keep your Computer Free of Spyware and Adware

Spyware and Adware are files that are installed on your computer without your knowledge. They allow companies to monitor your Internet browsing patterns and even allow companies to inundate you with those annoying pop up advertisements. Companies can track your surfing habits, profile your shopping preferences, hijack your browser, and even install unwanted software on your computer.

The results of Spyware and Adware can vary but here are some of the most common complaints:

  • Resets your Homepage - When you open up your browser, you are taken to a different homepage than the one you specified. If so, then you probably have a Spyware problem!
  • Changes Search Results - Have you noticed that when you click on a link, instead of going where you expected, you are taken to a different site than the one you clicked on?
  • Pop Up Ads Displayed - Are you seeing so many pop up ads that you can't close them fast enough to keep up?
  • Install Unwanted Software - Have you noticed new programs installed on your computer like Golden Palace that you did not install?
  • Slow Browsers - Have you noticed that your web browser is taking longer to load pages than before?
  • Toolbars Added to your Browser - Have you noticed any new toolbars added to your browser?

Most Spyware is installed without you even knowing it when you click on pop up ads, download music files, install free programs, and so on. You can avoid getting Spyware and Adware by being more judicious about what you click on and what you install on your computer. However, if you have Spyware and Adware, you can either purchase a Spyware removal program or you can download a free one to help clean Spyware from your computer. Often, we have to download two or three different programs to completely clean computers. Please be aware that even if you use one of these programs, they might not catch all of the problems on your computer. Two of the free ones for Windows that we recommend are called Ad-aware and Spybot. You can download them for free at http://www.download.com/.

Microsoft Updates

Microsoft periodically distributes large updates to its operating systems in the form of Service Packs and Hotfixes to fix known vulnerabilities and problems. Service Packs include all the major and minor fixes up to the date of the service pack, and are extensively tested by Microsoft prior to release. Microsoft also distributes intermediate updates to their operating systems in the form of a Hotfix. These updates are usually small and address a single problem. Hotfixes can be released within hours of discovering a particular bug or vulnerability. The process of discovering which Service Pack and hotfixes are needed has been automated.

Win 10

  1. To review your Windows Update settings, head to Settings (Windows key + I).
  2. Choose Update & Security.
  3. In the Windows Update option, click Check for updates to see which updates are currently available.
  4. If updates are available, you will have the option to install them.
  5. Once the updates you choose are installed, please restart your computer.

 

Win 8.1

  1. Press the Windows+S key combination to display the “Search” box, then type windows update.
  2. Click Check for updates.
  3. Click the Check now button.
  4. If updates are available, you will have the option to install them.
  5. Once the updates you choose are installed, please restart your computer.

 

Win 8

  1. Hover the mouse over the bottom right corner of the screen to bring up the Charms menu. On a touch-enabled device, you can also swipe from the right side of the screen to the left to open this.
  2. In the Charms menu, open up Settings.
  3. A larger menu will appear where the Charms bar just was. In this Settings menu, select the “Change PC settings” option.
  4. Go to the bottom of the PC settings tabs and select “Windows Update.” Then press the “Check for updates now” button.
  5. Windows 8 will connect to Microsoft’s online update center to verify if any new updates are available. If updates are available, they will be listed.
  6. Press “Install” to get started with the installation.
  7. Once Windows 8 has completed the installation of the updates, please restart your computer.

Win 7

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. In the search box, type Update, and then, in the list of results, click Windows Update.
  3. In the left pane, click Check for updates, and then wait while Windows looks for the latest updates for your computer.
  4. If you see a message telling you that important updates are available, or telling you to review important updates, click the message to view and select the important updates to install.
  5. In the list, click the important updates for more information. Select the check boxes for any updates that you want to install, and then click OK.
  6. Click Install updates.
  7. Once the updates are installed, please restart your computer.

 

MAC OS Updates

The process of receiving updates for the Macintosh is automated, and you will periodically get a list of updates that need to be installed. If you want to manually check for updates for Macintosh products, use the following steps.

  • From the Apple Menu, choose Software Update
  • In the Software Update window, select the items you want to install and click the Install button
  • Usually you should install all available updates

Local Security Policies

There are many policies you can set on your computer to help make your computer more secure. For example, you can set a lockout policy meaning that if someone is trying to hack into your computer, they can only have a few tries to guess your password before they would get locked out. OIT has created guides to assist you in modifying your local security policies to make your computer more secure. For more information, please visit http://security.tennessee.edu, and click on the "How to Protect Your Computer" link.

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