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Ensuring PC Health

Best practices for keeping your PC and data safe over time

 

Contents

Image of a yellow pyramid with layers of the following text from bottom up, router, firewall, patched OS, anti-virus, anti-malware

Overview

Computer viruses, malware, spyware, phishing schemes, and identity theft are very real threats to the safety of your personal information, data, and ongoing computing experience. However, such threats can often be significantly reduced by following a few simple principles to ensure PC health over time.

 

Ensure your Built-in Firewall is Active

A firewall is a software program or piece of hardware that helps screen out hackers, viruses, and worms that try to reach your computer over the Internet. In short, "If you use a computer at home, the most effective and important first step you can take to help protect your computer is to turn on a firewall." (Microsoft Firewall FAQ)

UITS recommends firewalls are activated across all network interfaces.

The following links provide step by step instructions for activating the built-in firewall by operating system.

Microsoft Windows
Apple Mac OS X

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Ensure your OS Automatic Updates are Enabled

Modern operating systems are designed to automatically check for updates and prompt you to update them over time. Taking the time to run these updates is critical to protecting your computer against the latest viruses and security threats and ensures continued compatibility with peripherals and installed software. When you enable your computer to automatically update, you don't have to search for updates online or worry that critical fixes might be missing, the operating system will automatically download and prompt to install them for you, using a schedule that you determine.

UITS recommends setting updates to download/install automatically.

The following links provide step by step instructions for activating automatic updates by operating system.

Microsoft Windows
Apple Mac OS X

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Keep your Antivirus Software Updated

Antivirus software is a computer program that detects, prevents, and takes action to disarm or remove malicious software programs, such as viruses and worms. Computer viruses are software programs that are deliberately designed to interfere with computer operation, record, corrupt, or delete data, spreading themselves to other computers and throughout the Internet. To help prevent the most current viruses, you must update your antivirus software regularly. You can set up most antivirus software to update automatically.

UConn's standard antivirus solution is provided by Symantec.

  • For Windows, Symantec provides a complete malware, spyware, and antivirus solution called Symantec Endpoint Protection.
  • For Macs, Symantec provides Symantec Antivirus.

The following are specific guidelines for using antivirus solutions, for each platform.

Three steps to ensure your computer is running antivirus software effectively
(click each step to link for step by step instructions)

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Keep your Common Software Updated

Keeping your computer secure extends beyond just the core operating system and antivirus, but the common software on your computer as well. Given its popularity, the Microsoft Office suite has become a popular attack vector for malicious code, so keeping Office updated over time is critical to overall system security. Fortunately, all University of CT faculty/staff have access to install and update their Office suite on University-owned computers through the Office Update website listed below.

The following are links to common software suites and their update pages.

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Keep your Browser Plugins Updated

Browser plugins such as Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, and Java represent a convenient way to view media content on the Internet, but similarly a common attack vector for malicious web code that exploits plugins that have not been kept updated over time. UITS recommends you regularly and consistently check for updates to browser plugins to ensure your computer is protected over time. Newer versions of Java and certain web browsers will prompt you to update automatically, others you will have to manually check. Below are the links to download sites.

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Best Practices for Safe Internet Usage

Stories of stolen identities, credit cards, or identity fraud abound, yet often simply adhering to a set of best practices for online interactions can go a long way to keeping your computer and information safe and protected.

  • Check the UITS Security website's Best Practices page for tips and guidance
  • Never give out personal information or passwords over email
    • Absent a digitally-signed signature, email is not a secure means of communication. As a general guideline, never send out your password to anybody claiming to represent your University, bank, or existing service over email.
    • Neither University Information Technology Services nor virtually any legitimate financial institution will ever ask you for your password over email.
  • Use trusted sources only when sharing/submitting personal information online
    • Don't use the links in an email, instant message, or chat to get to any web page if you suspect the message might not be authentic or you don't know the sender or cannot verify their identity
    • If directed to reset your password via a link within an email, verify the address by hovering over (not clicking) the link with your mouse to see the address that pops up in your browser or email client. Be sure that the address listed is consistent with the institution or service you are working with (example: if you are working with Bank of America, make sure that the address listed matches up to the known web address of Bank of America).
  • Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information
    • Be cautious when dealing with any request in the form of "We will close your account X days/timeframe..."
    • Again, neither University Information Technology Services nor virtually any legitimate institution will ever ask you for your password over email.
  • Always use a secure web site (https) when submitting credit card or other sensitive information online
    • Secure web sites are generally denoted by the prefix "https" in the address or via a lock symbol shown in/near the web browser address field. Check for both of these before entering any form of personal, financial, or password information.

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Other Resources

The information contained in this webpage cannot possibly illustrate all of the best practices for ensuring your PC is maintained over time. The following websites are additional resources that you can use to discover other ways to ensure you PC runs smooth over time.

 

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Updated: 6/28/11