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Information Technology Offers Tips to Improve Cybersecurity

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October 18, 2006

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and Information Technology (IT) encourages all users to improve their cybersecurity awareness. Though on-campus security incidents are decreasing, cybercrime in general is increasing, and the variety of crimes is expanding. IT offers the following tips to help computer users keep a security mindset.

Use strong passwords, authentication technology

Passwords/passphrases are gateways to your information. Make yours complex, and change it immediately if you suspect it could be in someone else’s hands. Remember that reputable organizations will never ask for your password information.

Protect your personal information

Before sharing sensitive information such as social security numbers and phone numbers, find out how it is going to be used and protected. When shopping online, be careful about providing financial information without taking measures to reduce risk.  Look for the “s” in “https:” — it stands for “secure.”

Know who you’re dealing with online

Always be aware of “phishers” seeking your sensitive information via false identity claims. Don’t respond to these requests for information. Instead, forward the e-mail to spam@uce.gov and to the impersonated company, bank or organization. Most organizations have information on their Web sites about where to report problems.

Use anti-spyware software

Viruses, spyware and other malware can bring your computer to a grinding halt. Don’t let a virus destroy your data or slow down your computer; download and regularly use Symantec Norton AntiVirus. Also, eliminate malicious online spying with spyware software. IT recommends Spybot – Search and Destroy, free for download on the IT Web site. Finally, make sure your firewall is active; find instructions on the IT Web site.

Secure your operating system, Web browser

Cybercriminals are constantly searching for unsecured Web browsers and operating systems. Lessen your risk of being attacked by changing your settings to increase your online security. Check the “Tools” or “Options” menus for built-in security features, and if you need help understanding your choices, use the “Help” function.

Back up important files

No system is completely secure, and a computer crash could result in the loss of years of work. Back up all important files on removable discs, and store them in a space away from your computer.  If a different location isn’t practical, consider encryption software, which scrambles a message or a file and reverses it only with a specific password.

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Learn more about cybersecurity by attending the

Oct. 27 Tech Talk. Get details and register at www.it.northwestern.edu.

Topics: University