Operating System Updates
Windows Operating System Updates
ITS has automated the process to update your office computer with all critical updates, security updates, and service packs at 1:00am daily. Please take note of the following:
- If your computer is left on and there are updates to install, they will be installed at 1:00am. Be sure to close all applications and Log Off.
- If you DO NOT leave your computer on overnight AND there are updates to install, then one (1) hour after you turn your computer on the installation will begin. This process may be transparent or if a restart is required a message will pop up asking if you want to restart at this time. It is important that you restart your computer if necessary for updates to take effect.
- DO NOT go to the Microsoft Windows Update site to download critical updates, security updates, and service packs.
It is important that you do not install updates on your own. Some updates can be significant and can require a data backup. We are upgrading our network storage space to allow for more regular backups of data. We will send more information about this later. As always, if you have questions, contact the Help Desk at (706) 737–1482.
Apple Operating System Updates
Once a week, you should go out to the Apple site to see if there are any patches for your Apple OS version. An Apple computer may not seem to be as vulnerable to attacks as a Windows computer, but it pays to be prudent. Stay up to date with any updates/patches released by Apple.
Protect Yourself from Fraudulent Emails
Information Technology Services (ITS) at Augusta State University is committed to protecting your online privacy, therefore it is important that you understand our security practices. We recognize your need for appropriate protection and management of your personal identifiable information. The following information is designed to help you protect yourself from fraudulent email and password capture scams.
What to Watch Out For
Fake or spoofed emails will often look legitimate. They may include references to the university, other trademarks, logos and links to realistic looking web pages. Never rely on the name in the "From" field as this is easily altered. Spoofed emails often invite you to re–verify account or personal information and are often initiated by the spoofing party without any action on your part. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the email I just received seem out of place, or is it a response to a question I posed to a legitimate person I do business with?
- Does the email create a sense of urgency or have time limits which I did not expect?
- Does it contain spelling or grammar errors?
- Does it contain offers for prizes or awards not expected?
- Does it contain links to strange web sites, or web sites whose name and URL as displayed don't match or contain misspellings?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is "Yes", then the email may be suspicious. Think of a stranger approaching you on the street and asking for your username and password. Treat these potentially fraudulent emails with the same caution. If you are ever suspicious of any email or communication you receive, contact the ITS Help Desk at (706) 737–1482 to get assistance on verifying the legitimacy of the email. If the email is found to be a fraud, the Help Desk will advise you appropriately.
These attempts at compromising your personal identifiable information will not just be on your work–related emails. You may get these at home as well. Treat them with the same level of caution and if you are unsure of why some entity, for example PayPal or your bank, is asking for you to reply to an email with your information, contact the entity in your customary manner to seek verification. Do not use the reply feature of the suspicious email.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an invaluable resource for answers to questions related to email fraud (phishing) or identity theft.
- For details on phishing: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt127.shtm
- For details on ID Theft: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/
- Great resource on information security: http://onguardonline.gov/
What is it?
"Electronic junk mail or junk newsgroup postings. Some people define spam even more generally as any unsolicited e–mail. However, if a long–lost brother finds your e–mail address and sends you a message, this could hardly be called spam, even though it's unsolicited. Real spam is generally e–mail advertising for some product sent to a mailing list or newsgroup.
In addition to wasting people's time with unwanted e–mail, spam also eats up a lot of network bandwidth. Consequently, there are many organizations, as well as individuals, who have taken it upon themselves to fight spam with a variety of techniques. But because the Internet is public, there is really little that can be done to prevent spam, just as it is impossible to prevent junk mail. However, some online services have instituted policies to prevent spammers from spamming their subscribers.
There is some debate about the source of the term, but the generally accepted version is that it comes from the Monty Python song, "Spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam, lovely spam, wonderful spam…" Like the song, spam is an endless repetition of worthless text. Another school of thought maintains that it comes from the computer group lab at the University of Southern California who gave it the name because it has many of the same characteristics as the lunchmeat Spam:
Nobody wants it or ever asks for it.
No one ever eats it; it is the first item to be pushed to the side when eating the entree.
Sometimes it is actually tasty, like 1% of junk mail that is really useful to some people."
Spam, whether it be electronic junk mail or junk mail delivered to you by your post office happens! There are some measures that can be taken to help control some of it, but there are no solutions or combination of solutions that will eliminate all the Spam you get.
- Be selective about who gets your email address. You may want to have a business email address and a personal address. Sometimes, people will have an email address that they only use for other sources. There are many free email services to choose from.
- If your email reader has a filtering feature, you can set it up to filter unwanted mail. Be careful when using filters as you could block mail that you wanted to see. When filtering it is advisable to redirect to another folder – do not automatically delete (just in case).
- Many ISP providers have systems in place to block spam before it even gets to your computer.
- Finally, just delete messages that you don't want to read.
Spyware & Malware
Spyware, or malware, is a program that may come attached to popup ads or "free" software, like screensavers, that you download. These programs are also called stealthware. Typically, these programs gather personal information and/or internet preferences and send this information back to a home server – usually without your knowledge or permission. Some spyware will hijack the browser, capture keystrokes, sniff passwords, collect confidential data, piggyback on telecommunications servers, and allow outsiders to take control of your computer.
"Spybot Search & Destroy" is software designed to remove these harmful programs from your computer.
- Spybot Installation Instructions – with screen capture pictures
- Spybot Installation Instructions – text only
- Removing Spyware from home computers
For more information, visit the Spybot Search & Destroy website .
Viruses and Worms are now almost a daily issue and virus protection is every person's responsibility. A virus, no matter what its risk rating, can and will cause problems with your computer! Therefore, it is important to always scan files/data you download or receive BEFORE you open it. DO NOT open any mail attachment without saving and scanning, regardless if you know the sender.
When they infect someone's computer, many viruses steal email addresses and then randomly take one of the stolen addresses and put it in the FROM: address and another of the stolen addresses is placed in the TO: field and the mail is sent. This looks like the email has come from a certain individual and it really hasn't. If you get an email message which says you sent something (that you didn't), to a person (you may or may not know) saying that it had a virus, just make sure your computer is up to date with virus protection and delete the message knowing that you did not send it.
Your Virus Protection is automatically managed by ITS on a daily basis. The latest protection will be installed on your computer every time an update comes out. There is nothing special you need to do. IF YOU DETECT A VIRUS, contact the Information Technology Services Help Desk immediately at (706) 737–1482.
Home Computer Protection
If you have not purchased virus protection, we recommend Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows as a free alternative.
Office Computer Protection
The virus protection for your Windows office computer is automated. Every time a new update is available for your computer, that update is downloaded to your office computer. For Apple computers, virus protection software is installed on your computer and you should ensure that your settings are set to get updates daily from the Mcafee web site.
Wireless Internet access can offer convenience and mobility. But there are steps you should take to protect your wireless network and the computers on it.
- Use encryption to scramble communications over the network. If you have a choice, WiFi Protected Access (WPA) is stronger than Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP).
- Use anti–virus (McAfee), anti–spyware software (Adaware, Spybot, etc.), and a firewall (Windows Firewall, etc.).
- Most wireless routers have a mechanism called "identifier broadcasting." Turn it off so your computer won't send a signal to any device in the vicinity announcing its presence.
- Change the identifier on your router from the default so a hacker can't use the manufacturer's default identifier to try to access your network.
- Change your router's pre–set password for administration to something only you know. The longer the password, the tougher it is to crack.
- Allow only specific computers to access your wireless network.
- Turn off your wireless network when you know you won't use it.
- Don't assume that public "hot spots" are secure. You may want to assume that other people can access any information you see or send over a public wireless network.
Securing Your Wireless Network
Increasingly, computer users interested in convenience and mobility are accessing the Internet wirelessly. Today, business travelers use wireless laptops to stay in touch with the home office; vacationers beam snapshots to friends while still on holiday; and shoppers place orders from the comfort of their couches. A wireless network can connect computers in different parts of your home or business without a tangle of cords and enable you to work on a laptop anywhere within the network's range.
Going wireless generally requires a broadband Internet connection into your home, called an "access point," like a cable or DSL line that runs into a modem. To set up the wireless network, you connect the access point to a wireless router that broadcasts a signal through the air, sometimes as far as several hundred feet. Any computer within range that's equipped with a wireless client card can pull the signal from the air and gain access to the Internet.
The downside of a wireless network is that, unless you take certain precautions, anyone with a wireless–ready computer can use your network. That means your neighbors, or even hackers lurking nearby, could "piggyback" on your network, or even access the information on your computer. And if an unauthorized person uses your network to commit a crime or send spam, the activity can be traced back to your account.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your wireless network and the computers on it. As no one step is a complete fix, taking all of the following steps will help you be more secure.
- Use encryption. The most effective way to secure your wireless network from intruders is to encrypt, or scramble, communications over the network. Most wireless routers, access points, and base stations have a built–in encryption mechanism. If your wireless router doesn't have an encryption feature, consider getting one that does.
Manufacturers often deliver wireless routers with the encryption feature turned off. You must turn it on. The directions that come with your wireless router should explain how to do that. If they don't, check the router manufacturer's website.
Two main types of encryption are available: Wi–Fi Protected Access (WPA) and Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). Your computer, router, and other equipment must use the same encryption. WPA is stronger; use it if you have a choice. It should protect you against most hackers.
Some older routers use only WEP encryption, which is better than no encryption. It should protect your wireless network against accidental intrusions by neighbors or attacks by less–sophisticated hackers. If you use WEP encryption, set it to the highest security level available.
- Use anti–virus (McAfee), anti–spyware software (Adaware, Spybot, etc.), and a firewall (Windows Firewall, etc.). Computers on a wireless network need the same protections as any computer connected to the Internet. Install anti–virus and anti–spyware software, and keep them up–to–date. If your firewall was shipped in the "off" mode, turn it on.
- Turn off identifier broadcasting. Most wireless routers have a mechanism called identifier broadcasting. It sends out a signal to any device in the vicinity announcing its presence. You don't need to broadcast this information if the person using the network already knows it is there. Hackers can use identifier broadcasting to home in on vulnerable wireless networks. Note the SSID name so you can connect manually. Disable the identifier broadcasting mechanism if your wireless router allows it.
- Change the identifier on your router from the default. The identifier for your router is likely to be a standard, default ID assigned by the manufacturer to all hardware of that model. Even if your router is not broadcasting its identifier to the world, hackers know the default IDs and can use them to try to access your network. Change your identifier to something only you know, and remember to configure the same unique ID into your wireless router and your computer so they can communicate. Use a password that's at least 10 characters long: The longer your password, the harder it is for hackers to break.
- Change your router's pre–set password for administration. The manufacturer of your wireless router probably assigned it a standard default password that allows you to set up and operate the router. Hackers know these default passwords, so change it to something only you know. The longer the password, the tougher it is to crack.
- Allow only specific computers to access your wireless network. Every computer that is able to communicate with a network is assigned its own unique Media Access Control (MAC) address. Wireless routers usually have a mechanism to allow only devices with particular MAC addresses access to the network. Some hackers have mimicked MAC addresses, so don't rely on this step alone.
- Turn off your wireless network when you know you won't use it. Hackers cannot access a wireless router when it is shut down. If you turn the router off when you're not using it, you limit the amount of time that it is susceptible to a hack.
- Don't assume that public "hot spots" are secure. Many cafés, hotels, airports, and other public establishments offer wireless networks for their customers' use. These "hot spots" are convenient, but they may not be secure. Ask the proprietor what security measures are in place.
- Be careful about the information you access or send from a public wireless network. To be on the safe side, you may want to assume that other people can access any information you see or send over a public wireless network. Unless you can verify that a hot spot has effective security measures in place, it may be best to avoid sending or receiving sensitive information over that network.
Encryption: The scrambling of data into a secret code that can be read only by software set to decode the information.
Extended Service Set Identifier (ESSID): The name a manufacturer assigns to a router. It may be a standard, default name assigned by the manufacturer to all hardware of that model. Users can improve security by changing to a unique name. Similar to a Service Set Identifier (SSID).
Firewall: Hardware or software designed to keep hackers from using your computer to send personal information without your permission. Firewalls watch for outside attempts to access your system and block communications to and from sources you don't permit.
Media Access Control (MAC) Address: A unique number that the manufacturer assigns to each computer or other device in a network.
Router: A device that connects two or more networks. A router finds the best path for forwarding information across the networks.
Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP): A security protocol that encrypts data sent to and from wireless devices within a network. Not as strong as WPA encryption.
Wi–Fi Protected Access (WPA): A security protocol developed to fix flaws in WEP. Encrypts data sent to and from wireless devices within a network.
Wireless Network: A method of accessing high speed Internet without the computer being linked by cables.
Sources for wireless security information: