Top 10 steps to better IT security

Whether you are setting up a new computer or just want to tighten security on your old one, follow these 10 security tips to strengthen your computer's defences and to protect yourself! See our section Securing the Virtual Me for more ideas on securing your Internet presence.

1) Set Strong Passwords – Use a mixture of numbers and upper and lower case letters. Don’t repeat them. Avoid real words and names. A password of at least 8 characters, with at least one capital letter, one number, and one typographical character is recommended. Click “password” in PAWS to check your password’s strength. More on choosing your password.

2) Use Multiple Passwords & Keep Them Confidential – Don’t use the same password for everything. Above all, use your U of S password for only your U of S account. Never share it. If you are using an application or service that supports two-factor authentication consider using it (e.g. Google, Hotmail, Facebook). We recommend that you take the following steps, as a minimum:

  • Select a strong password, but make it something you can remember. Consider using a password management tool.
  • Keep your password a secret
  • Use different passwords for different services
  • Instead of writing down your passwords, write down a hint you remember it; store your hint in a secure place.
  • Enable admin accounts on your devices and use them for only administrating your device.

  More on password security.

3) Protect Your Devices – Keep your computers and mobile devices physically safe and password-protected. If your computer or mobile device supports disk encryption consider enabling it. If your device has a “find” setting or app, turn it on to help you locate it if it goes missing. Learn about mobile device security.

4) Apply Security Updates and Patches – Keep your operating system and applications up to date by regularly installing updates and patches. This is one of the best defenses against malware and malicious software. See your operating system's website for details (Windows, Mac).

5) Use Anti-virus Software – Install anti-virus software on your laptop/desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. There are a number of free options available for use. Learn about anti-virus software and mobile device security.

6) Use Email Safely – Think before you click on links or open attachments. If in doubt, check with the ICT Service Desk. Learn about phishing attacks.

7) Use the Internet Safely – Keep your browser up to date with high security settings. Be wary of free software. Watch where you go and, always, think before you click. Think about how you’re connecting to the Internet and act accordingly: are you on a secure network or on free wireless supplied anonymously? Be careful with applications on your mobile device. Ensure that you have a suitable anti-virus software installed. Ensure that your home Internet connection is secured. Check out Securing the Virtual Me for more details.

8) Back up and Protect Your Data – Back up your data regularly. The university's file storage services are automatically backed up. Instead of using a cloud storage services such as DropBox, iCloud or Amazon, the university will be providing a private, secure alternative for your university-related files (available summer 2014). If you need to use a public cloud storage service consider encrypting your data before saving to the cloud. Think about where your data is going.

9) Use Anti-spyware Software – Protect yourself from spyware that can gather personal information without your knowledge. Some computer systems offer built-in anti-spyware software – turn it on. There are also some good options on the market, such as Malwarebytes and Spybot.

10) Use a Software Firewall – The U of S provides network-level firewall protection but be sure to use any built-in firewall software available for your computer and mobile devices. Set security levels high. See your operating system's security information to learn more about built-in options (Windows, Mac).

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