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Secure Your Personal Computer

lady at computer

If you use a personal computer for work or school, you are responsible for properly securing it in accordance with Ohio University's Desktop Management Standard. If you use an OHIO-managed machine, then your security settings are managed for you.

Refer to the Sensitive Data Guide on Storing Data by Type to determine where OHIO data should be stored. For additional information, check out Sensitive Data: Defining and Classifying. At no time shall University data be stored on your personally owned computer. Regardless of the presence of sensitive OHIO data, your computer may contain personal and private information, such as financial or medical information, notes, photos, contacts, documents, or saved passwords, that you wish to protect from theft or accidental loss.

Below are some helpful tips on the best ways to protect your computer and your personal data

Back up Your Data Regularly

Backups are a great way to stay prepared in the event something happens to your computer. Your hard drive could fail, you could lose your device, or even worse, it could get stolen, or you could become a victim of malware that takes your files hostage. In order to stay diligent and prepared, always back up files. 

Follow a Backup Strategy

  • Select a backup location such as a USB, external hard drive, or online file storage service.
  • For University data, use a Departmental SharePoint site or other approved storage locations.
  • For your personal data, online storage solutions include Amazon, iCloud, or Google Drive.
  • Protect backups with a unique password or passphrase.
  • Schedule the frequency of backups.
  • Periodically test solutions to be sure your files are retrievable.

Use Anti-Virus Software

Use the anti-virus software included with your computer or from a reputable vendor. Be sure to keep it up to date and run weekly virus scans.

Use a Firewall

Use the firewall included with your computer. It will provide basic firewall functionality and protection.

Encrypt Your computer

Use full disc encryption, which is usually included in your operating system. This means everything stored on the device is automatically encrypted. Keep in mind:

  • Use a unique password or passphrase when encrypting your device and store it in a secure location.
  • All encrypted data can be permanently lost if the encryption password is lost or forgotten.
  • Encrypt sensitive documents at the file level. Delete University data off your device as soon as it is no longer needed.

Use a Secure Network

  • Check out Securing Home Network for steps on how to make sure your home network connection is secure.
  • When working from a coffee shop or other locations involving public WiFi, be sure it is password protected. Additionally, make sure it is using WPA2 security protocol. Avoid insecure protocols like WEP or WPA.

Use Campus VPN when Accessing Sensitive OHIO Resources

  • Check with your supervisor to see which services you use that require VPN access.
  • For instructions on setting up the campus VPN, check out VPN Access.

Only Navigate to Sites that Support Encryption

Check for HTTPS in the URL of web pages. Before entering private data on any webpage, be sure to verify it begins with https:// and has a lock icon beside it.

Install Apps from Well-Known, Trusted Sources

  • When possible, install apps from the app store of the device.
  • When downloading software from the internet, make sure you verify the URL belongs to the service or software being installed.

Understand the Risks Associated with Using Peer-to-Peer Programs

Peer-to-peer and anonymous file-sharing programs allow users from all around the world to find and access each other's hard drives to share media such as movies, music, video games, software, or other digital files without a central server. The programs may install other software on your computer, which can make removing P2P programs difficult to remove.

  • Never store OHIO data on a machine with P2P or other file sharing programs installed.
  • If you are using P2P/file-sharing programs, be sure to comply with copyright laws and disable outbound sharing on the program.

Avoid Jailbreaking

Jailbreaking voids security settings your device was initially configured with, leaving your information susceptible to attacks. It is also common that your device could be involved with attacking other devices.

Remove or Disable Unused Services

Use the principle of least privileged on all of your devices. This means limiting your device to only necessary applications and services. This will reduce security risk while conserving battery life.

Securely Erase Files

  • Use software to securely erase or wipe the files on your hard drive.
  • Be sure to regularly clean out your recycling bin, temporary files, and browser cache.
  • For more information, check out Securely Destroying Data.

Share or Transfer Documents Securely

Use One Drive or a departmental SharePoint site for file sharing and collaborating with others. For documents containing sensitive data, be sure to encrypt the document at the file level before sharing.

Use Security Related Browser Plug-ins

Use plug-ins that help detect and warn you of suspicious website content. Below are several plug-ins that will help protect your computer when browsing the web.

  • NoScript in Firefox and Chrome allows JavaScript, Java, Flash, and other plug-ins to be executed only by trusted websites of your choice.
  • uBlock is used for content-filtering, including ad-blocking. Supported by Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Opera.
  • Ghostery enhances browsing by giving you control over ads and tracking technologies to speed up page loads, eliminate clutter, and protect your data. Supported by Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera, Android, and IOS.
  • McAfee SiteAdvisor tests websites for spyware, spam, and scams. This tool adds safety ratings and search results to your browser.

Keep Devices Updated

Protect your devices by keeping all software, operating systems, and applications up to date. Often times updates to these systems will include vital security patches for known vulnerabilities.