Hypertext Student Newsletter: Keep the Bugs at Bay and the Nasties Away

Keep the Bugs at Bay and the Nasties Away:
How to Protect Your Computer From Viruses, Hackers, and Other Baddies

By Suzanne Beck, Senior, History Major

Over the summer, you probably heard or read about the recent problems everyone is having with computer viruses, software bugs, and hacker intrusions. The campus computer security folks have been working hard to make sure the campus network is ready for the fall quarter. So now that you’re back, you need to do your part to care for your computer and our network, because it’s no fun when our computers are infected, the network is down and we can’t get our email. Here are a few easy tips that will help you keep your computer in fighting form.

Tip #1: Fend Off Hackers and Viruses with Automatic Updates
First, make sure your computer has the latest security patches. A new campus Web site (http://winfix.ucdavis.edu/) has an automated self-test that checks computers running Windows for vulnerabilities and takes only seconds to complete. This site also has lots of links to Windows security info and links to downloadable Windows updates and patches.

You should also configure your computer to download patches automatically for your computer’s operating system (e.g., Windows XP or MacOS X). For Windows users, go to “Control Panel” in “My Computer,” click “Automatic Updates,” and select how you want your computer to download updates.

For MacOS X users, your system automatically checks for system updates when you turn on or restart your computer. You can also visit http://www.info.apple.com/ and scan for updates on your own. If you have questions about how to download patches, visit IT Express (the campus computing help desk) in 182 Shields Library, call them at 754-HELP, or email them at ithelp@ucdavis.edu.

Next, purchase the UC Davis Internet Tools CD, which is available at the UC Davis Bookstore Computer Shop for less than $5. This CD includes a one-year subscription to Norton AntiVirus, which is an incredible deal as Norton normally sells for almost $50. You can easily configure this software to run regular updates (make sure it updates daily) and scan your computer to protect it from the most recent viruses.

You can also be your own self-scanner. Viruses can be introduced to your computer via an infected email attachment, an infected diskette, or a corrupted file or program that you download from the Internet. Be wary of opening email attachments sent from someone you don’t know, or an attachment that seems suspicious and out of the norm for the person who sent it. And use good judgment when choosing what to download.

Tip #2: Guard Your Password Like it’s a Million Dollars
Prevent theft of your personal information by never, ever sharing your UC Davis password. Your campus loginID and password provide access to your financial aid information, transcript records, class registration, email, and personal identification information. That information is valuable, so guard it! You wouldn’t hand your debit card to a stranger and tell them your PIN, so don’t share your password, either.

Also, beware of unwittingly making your password available at a public computer terminal. When in places like the computer rooms, don’t allow the computer to “remember your password” or “save as default password”. When you use a Web browser to access material that requires password authentication, be sure to log off and close the browser when you are done.

Tip #3: Keep Your Important Files in a Digital Safe
Protect your important files by keeping an extra digital copy of them in a safe place. Back up any file that you care about to a CD (CD burners are available in some campus computer rooms), or use MySpace, your own personal file space within the MyUCDavis campus portal. To avoid identity theft, you should also remove any files from computer that include your social security number, driver’s license number, or credit card numbers. Try not to use floppy disks as a back-up since they are easily damaged and file recovery is difficult. If your computer files become corrupt or your computer dies, you’ll thank yourself for saving documents you care about in a safe, reliable place.

For more info about computer vulnerabilities, spam and other security topics, visit the campus Computer and Network Security Site.