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Top Ten Security Tips

These security recommendations are general guidelines that you should apply to all of your computing practices, whether at home, at school or at work.

  • Create a strong password.  Your password should be at least eight characters.  Use a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.  Try creating a password sentence and use the first letter from every word as your actual password.  “Always drink 8 glasses of water each day!” becomes Ad8gowed!  Never use common words, names, birthdays, or phone numbers.
  • Don’t enter your username/password to a sensitive account (such as a banking or private email account) on any computer you don’t control.  Using public computers will always carry the risk of exposing your personal data.
  • Never store sensitive data on mobile devices.  One of the easiest ways to compromise sensitive data is when your flash drive, laptop, tablet, or smartphone is lost or stolen.    Encryption can help mitigate this risk if you cannot avoid storing sensitive data on mobile devices.
  • Use caution when opening email attachments or clicking on email links.  One of the most effective methods of virus delivery is through the use of email attachments.  Virus writers use clever and mysterious subject lines and messages to pique the curiosity of users, and they know how to make the sender’s address look like it is from someone you already know.  You should always approach email attachments with caution. Likewise, links to websites which download viruses to infect your computer are frequently sent via email as well.
  • Install and run a virus scan consistently and regularly.  Install anti-virus software on your computer and set automatic updates at least once per day.  Do not connect to the Internet without first activating an anti-virus program.  If you purchased an anti-virus system for your home computer, do not let your subscription lapse.    
  • Back-up files.  Back-up your data on a consistent basis (once a week).  For easy back-ups, keep all document files in a central location, such as the “My documents” folder.  
  • Never share personal information such as passwords, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and bank account numbers.  Only banks, your employer, and the government can legally require your SSN. Certain scams, known as “phishing,” attempt to get this information from you by sending a seemingly legitimate message from a bank or other institution that asks for sensitive information “for verification purposes.” Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or over the Internet, unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know with whom you are dealing.
  • Keep your personal computer and mobile devices up-to-date.  Set up your computer and mobile devices to use “Automatic Updates.”  By enabling this feature, your devices will regularly check for any updates.  
  • Lock your computer or mobile device if you leave it alone.  This will prevent people from walking up and snooping on your devices.  For example, click the Windows key (four wavy squares) + L on a Windows machine and the computer will lock. 
  • Don’t use unauthorized software.  It may be tempting to use useful-looking software that you can get free on the Internet, but these tools may carry a hidden cost.  Installing these programs may often cause other programs to stop working and may contain hidden viruses, adware, or bloatware.