Security Recommendations

The security and safety of your computer system is a joint effort between the technical support departments at Rutgers University and yourself.  It is important to understand what you should do on an ongoing basis to ensure that your system remains safe.  The following recommendations will help you keep your systems at work and at home running safely and securely and will also facilitate the recreation of your system should this become necessary either due to system failure or compromise:

  1. Back up your important data regularly. You should keep important data on your networked drive (U Drive) to ensure that it is backed up regularly. If you are keeping data on a portable device, or on your home computer, that information should be backed up regularly (at least once a week). Also, if the data is any way sensitive, it should also be encrypted. If you need advice or guidance on encrypting or backing up important data, please let us know.
  2. Protect your system with anti virus and anti malware software.  All systems configured by the Information Technology Services Office at the Bloustein School have both anti virus and anti malware software installed.  No matter how careful you are working on a computer, there are ways that your computer can be infected with viruses and malware and so we recommend having such software installed.  If you would like our recommendations on which programs to use, please contact us.
  3. Ensure that your computer is doing automatic updates for all of the programs that regularly need to be updated. This includes your operating system, Java, Adobe Flash, Microsoft Office, and your browsers. If your system is not doing this automatically, you should ensure that you do this manually at least once a week.
  4. Be careful about opening attachments or clicking on links in email messages, and be careful when browsing unfamiliar sites.  Many of the problems that users encounter are the result of opening up infected attachments in emails or clicking on links in SPAM messages.  You should only open attachments that you are expecting.  If you have received an attachment from someone that you know and you are not expecting an attachment, you should check with the sender prior to opening the attachment.In addition to attachments, embedded links in SPAM are also another main cause of spyware or malware infestations.  If you receive SPAM messages, you should never use any of the links in those messages, especially the links that appear to provide you with the ability to stop receiving messages (unsubscribe links).  Another way your system can become infected with a virus or infested with viruses/malware is by visiting malicious web sites.  It is much more difficult to prevent problems caused by these sites, as users randomly stumble upon them.  However you should be careful where you go on the Internet as the safety of your computer does depend on it.  Recently, there have been a good deal of problems with the advertising networks and how they feed web sites.  So ad blockers have now become essential in keeping computers safe.
  5. Use good password practices. Keep your passwords private and ensure that they are not common words or names, but rather include a combination of letters, numbers, and punctuation.  A good recommendation is to use passphrases instead of passwords and in the phrases use letters, numbers, and punctuation.  For example, the phrase In1972Iwasborn! is a strong password.  You should also choose passwords that you can remember easily and you should change your passwords regularly (at least 3-4 times a year).  You should also be very careful as to where you store your passwords.  If you do record them, they should be locked away.
  6. Maintain the physical security of your system. Physical security can include such measures as locking the system down with an aircraft grade cable, setting a BIOS password that is then required to start the system, setting screen saver passwords for instances when you may walk away from your system, as well as shutting down your system when you leave for the day.
  7. Run virus and malware scans regularly.  The programs that protect your computer should be setup to run full scans regularly.
  8. Do not run file and print sharing, remote access programs, or peer-to-peer file sharing programs on your system. These programs are dangerous and can expose your computer to security problems.  If for any reason you need these programs for your work, please contact us for guidance.
  9. Install a Personal Firewall. Personal firewalls can also help keep your computer safe. At one time, it was standard protocol to have a third party firewall running.  At the present time, the built in firewalls from Microsoft and Apple are sufficient provided that your computer is protected by a firewall or at the very least a router.
  10. Use secure services whenever possible. Secure services are programs that protect communications and file transfer.  Such tools include SSH/SFTP, webdrive, and security enhancements to email like PGP.

We hope that you find this information useful.  If you have any security questions or concerns, please contact us.