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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Physical Security Against Theft
On-line Security Issues
With the mandate of the Student Computer Requirement, many students are now faced with the responsibilities that come with the ownership and use of a new computer. It is important that you (the student) not only learn how to protect and care for a computer but also learn how to protect the personal information that is stored on the computer and the computer services you use. This document offers some valuable tips on how to care for your computer and the services you use.
Security against theftComputer systems have become smaller and more portable with each passing year. If you aren't careful, someone can easily steal part or all of your computer. While laptop computers are most susceptible to theft, the following tips are useful to prevent the theft of your desktop:
Never leave your computer unattended in an unlocked room, especially if you live in campus housing. Be sure to lock windows and doors.
Physically secure your computer to an immovable object, such as a desk. Many vendors offer various types of locking devices, from steel cables to enclosures to accomplish this. Desktop docking stations for laptops can be secured in the same fashion, but be sure the laptop is secured to the docking station.
Never give your room key to anyone else.
Work out a policy with your roommate in regards to locking doors and windows when leaving.
The University Police Department offers Operation ID as a service to all students. Students may pick up a registration card at the Department. You should record all pertinent information about your system (deskription, serial number) on the registration card and return it to UPD. Additionally, you may check out an engraver from UPD and engrave your name and phone number on all removable parts of the machine (including the monitor and external peripherals). Should your system ever get stolen, the UPD will have a mechanism for identifying and returning your system to you. Be aware that engraving parts of your system may decrease the value of your system.
Electrical fluctuations (surges and power loss) pose a significant threat to your system and are often the cause of data loss and burned out components. You can protect yourself from such fluctuations in several ways:
Never plug your computer directly into a power outlet. Relatively inexpensive surge protectors go a long way to protect a several thousand dollar investment. Be sure your surge protector includes enough outlets for all your peripherals and the modem jack. Modems are extremely susceptible to power surges, and are often destroyed by surges coming through the phone lines instead of the power outlet.
Unplug your system during lightning storms, even if it is surge protected.
Obtain an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) which can provide several minutes worth of power (enough to save your work) in case of a failure. Most UPS units also function as a surge protector.
If you are living on campus, be sure to follow the guidelines provided by the Division of Housing in regards to extension cords and "power strips." Never daisy chain surge protectors or UPS units - this practice easily overcomes the protection provided by these devices.
The information that you put into a computer represents your the time and creative effort. This information is stored in files in on your hard drive or other storage device. Here are some suggestions to protect your files:
The general rule to protect your data is simple: always maintain backups! It is a simple task to save your work to more than one location, say a diskette (also known as a floppy disk) as well as your hard drive. Although diskettes are still the most common backup media, writable CD-ROM or personal file storage on another computer are other alternatives for file backup purposes. In the event of component failure, you always have a backup available. In most cases, it is legal, for backup purposes only, to make one copy of purchased software. Be sure to read the licensing agreement that came with the software to confirm this.
Don't use diskettes as working media-- that is, work on the file while it is on the hard drive, then transfer it to a diskette when done. Frequent reads and writes to a diskette can wear it out quickly.
Keep diskettes away from heat, moisture, and magnetic fields. Some common sources of magnetic fields are phones, sound speakers, car alarm activators, and laser printers. Never leave your diskette near a laser printer.
If you must transport your diskettes, always carry them in a hard case designed for this purpose. Never carry them unprotected in a purse, bookbag, etc... as they can easily be damaged.
Diskettes are disposable media-- the magnetic field in which the information is maintained deteriorates over time. Transfer critical information to newly formatted diskettes every six months or so. Even if you take good care of your diskettes, they will go bad over time.
Another way to safeguard your data is to run the error checking utility provided by your operating system. This software is designed to find surface damage and data corruption on the hard drive.
Many companies sell programs that can maintain, optimize and and safeguard the data on your computer. You can find these types of system utilities and programs in any computer store or bookstore. If you purchase one of these programs, take the time to read the program's manual.
Computer viruses are easily spread from system to system, and since you will be sharing information with other users, it likely your system will become infected at some point in time. Here are some tips to protect your computer from a virus:
Take a proactive approach. It is much easier to prevent contracting a virus than it is to remove it. Use anti-virus software on your computer. Most anti-virus software, such as McAfee VirusScan, provides both virus detection and removal.
McAfee's VirusScan is avaliable to all faculty, staff and students of the University of Florida (through a site-license agreement). The software is distributed on the UF Software CD or can be downloaded from the SODA Shoppe a web-based software catalog. Anti-virus software must be updated periodically to detect new viruses. Updates are also available at the Soda Shoppe.
Another preventative practice is to avoid indiscriminately downloading software from unknown sites. Stick to known vendor or other known web sites for software downloads.
Never start your computer with a diskette in the floppy drive. Most Boot sector viruses will infect your computer's hard drive in this way. If you need to start your computer using a floppy diskette, first scan the diskette for viruses.
Keep your operating system up to date. If you have a windows computer, make sure you update the operating system on a regular basis.
Safeguard your password. Never tell anyone your password or write it down. Many programs, such as the Windows 95 Dialup Adapter and FreePPP allow automatic login. This is convenient for the user, but presents a security problem because your password must be saved within the program.
If your computer is accessible to others, it is not a good idea to use this feature, as your account can be accessed by anyone using your computer.
Always adhere to the licensing and copyright agreements that come with any software. In most cases, a software license allows for the software to be installed on one machine at a time, meaning that you cannot legally install software from one set of disks or a CD-ROM to more than one machine. This includes illegally giving your software to others or obtaining software from others who are subject to licensing agreements.
The UF copyright policy is derived from federal law and The Florida Computer Crimes Act, which makes clear:
All faculty, staff, and students of the University of Florida are required and expected to obey the laws and legal agreements governing software use. Failure to do so can lead to monetary damages and/or criminal penalties for the individual violator. Because such violations are also against University policies and rules, disciplinary action will be taken as appropriate. It is your responsibility to adhere to the copyright policy. Please see the UF Software Copyright Information Page for your rights and responsibilities.
On-line Security Issues
When using these services on the Internet, you should always use common sense and keep in mind the following:
Never give information through an on-line form or "talk" session that you would not mind someone knowing. This includes webpages linked to from emails. Many companies would like to know more about you, however you are not under any obligation to give them any information. The only exception to this rule is when you are making a purchase, then the company will need information for the purchase and delivery of the product.
Only make purchases through known companies. If you want to make a purchase from an unknown company, take time to research the company. You can find out information from agencies that keep track of fraud and poor business practices. Many of these companies and agencies place information on-line. You can search the web for this information. Make small purchases from a company that you do not know before making a large purchase.
A mention about "cookies". Cookies are files that contain information. This information is stored by the server (company) that you visit on the web. Cookies are necessary to use some web sites. Using cookies makes it possible for a server (company) to detect your web browsing habits. Our suggestion for managing cookies is to set your browser to notify you before accepting a cookie. In this way, you can decide what cookies you will allow on your computer. For more information about cookies visit the web site: http://www.cookiecentral.com/
Many web sites on the Internet use Java applets and Javaskripts (small programs) to enhance the web browser presentation and user interaction. Special conditions have to exist for a Java applet or skript to cause harm to your computer. For more detailed information about the security concerns of Java applets visit: http://java.sun.com/sfaq/index.html or search the web looking for the keywords. "java and security".
Use a personal firewall to keep unwanted entities out of your computer. For help selecting and setting up a firewall, check out the Net-services page.
Don't open email attachment that you are not expecting to receive and scan all attachments with a virus scan program before opening or sending.
Thanks for reading, My lacks is yours...