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Keeping Your Computer Safe

Viruses? Worms? Spyware? Adware? Hackers?

How can I keep my computer safe?!?

With the increasing popularity of "always-on" high-speed Internet connections (like the ones available to all Hope students) comes the increased need to protect your computer. While Hope College provides many tools to protect its users (virus scanning of all e-mails entering from outside campus, for example), it's ultimately up to each person to protect his or her personal computer. With that in mind, we've created the following list of actions that you can take to protect your PC. While no list can be comprehensive, these items will assist in avoiding many potential problems.

Install virus protection software and keep it up to date

Simply purchasing an antivirus program is not enough. Because several dozen new viruses are released each day, it's imperative that your program is updated at least once a week. Although each program is different, every antivirus program should have a "definition" or "DAT" date. If this date is more than 1 week past, your program is out of date, and you're not being protected!

Hope College provides free antivirus protection for all enrolled students. For more details, visit this page.

Keep your Microsoft Windows current with the latest updates and patches

Microsoft is continually identifying new security risks in Windows. Although they usually releases "fixes" right away, many users do not install them until it's too late, if at all. The Windows Update control panel (in Windows Vista) or Windows Update website (in Windows XP) provides an easy way to scan your computer for needed updates and install them. Be sure to install all the "Critical" or "High Priority" updates, as these have been identified as the most important. After each reboot, repeat the procedure again until no more "Critical" or "High Priority" updates are available. Be sure to visit this site regularly to check for new fixes. Or you can turn on Automatic Updates and let your computer continually check for you.

Be very, very careful when opening attachments

E-mail attachments are a great way to send files to others. They're also the perfect way for viruses to spread. Even with an updated antivirus program, you're still vulnerable to new, unknown threats. Therefore, it's important to be very cautious when opening attachments, even if you know the person who sent the message. Viruses are very good at "faking" who they are from, and often will appear as a message from a friend or family member. Unless you're expecting it and know exactly what it is, DO NOT OPEN THE ATTACHMENT. Be especially suspicious of very vague messages like "Check this out!" or "Very important!". These are tricks to get you to click without thinking!

Think of it this way: If someone sent you a bottle of pills in the mail that you weren't expecting, you wouldn't take them, would you?

As long as you're using 1HOPE to read your e-mail, you can only be infected with a virus if you click on an attachment to try to open it. Just having the message in your 1HOPE "Inbox" does not mean you're infected. If you think a message might be a virus, just delete it. Users of Eudora, Outlook, Outlook Express and other POP e-mail clients are more susceptible to viruses, and need to be absolutely certain that their virus protection program is up-to-date (see above) before downloading messages into these programs.

Don't install file-sharing or other "free" programs

File-sharing programs have become incredibly popular in the past few years. The most popular files to "share" are songs and videos, an activity which usually violates federal copyright law and Hope's Computer Usage Responsibilities. This will ultimately result in termination of one's computer privileges at Hope, as well as possible legal prosecution by those owning the copyright. Further, these programs are often touted as "free", but almost always install "hidden" programs designed to do anything from annoy you with popups to download personal information. Remember, nothing is "free". The companies behind these programs must be making money somewhere, and these "hidden" programs are how they do it. Although file-sharing programs are the most popular, others like weather monitors and online games are involved as well.

Turn off Windows "File and printer sharing"

Your computer has the ability to share its files and printers with others connected to the Hope College network. While this might seem like a good way to let friends access things on your computer, it also gives others a way to read (and maybe even modify or delete!) those files. Worse yet, it gives viruses a way to "move" from computer to computer, allowing your computer to be infected without you doing anything.

Unfortunately, this feature is usually turned on when your computer is delivered. CIT highly recommends that all users disable this feature in Windows. The procedure for doing this varies depending on which version of Windows you're running. For Windows XP, open the "Network Connections" control panel, double-click on "Local Area Connection" or "Wireless Connection" (may need to do both, if both are present), then click "Properties". Clear the check box next to "File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks".



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