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Protecting My Computer

Does my computer need antivirus software?

Yes. You are required to have current antivirus software installed on your computer in order to be able to connect to the network. We use different methods to ensure the safety of our network which may include verifying the software installed on your own computer.

Will I need to purchase antivirus software?

No. Bethany recommends students use the free Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus program for Windows computers. Typically, Mac computers do not need an antivirus software. If you are a Mac owner and would still prefer to have antivirus software, we recommend Norton, Avast!, or Sophos.

My computer came with antivirus software. Will I have to replace it with Microsoft Security Essesntials?

Possibly. Many new computers are packaged with limited 30 or 60-day trial editions of antivirus software. Once the trial period expires, the antivirus software can no longer download updates, and soon becomes useless. Should your computer have a limited trial edition of antivirus software, it would be prudent to replace it with Microsoft Security Essentials.

How can I best protect myself from malware?

We recommend using the most recent version of Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Google Chrome and being sure to keep it updated. Using previous versions of any of these browsers increases your security risk considerably. Old versions of Internet Explorer are particularly dangerous.

Also avoid using peer-to-peer file sharing programs. Many install unwanted ad-producing spyware upon your computer as a means of raising revenue. Also take extreme care when installing browser extensions or toolbars; many carry hidden spyware packages.

How can I best protect myself from viruses?

Having up-to-date antivirus software, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, configured to do regular system scans (daily or weekly), is the best protection against viruses.

That said, powerful and quick-spreading viruses and worms like Blaster, Sober, and SoBig are comparatively rare. More commonly, viruses trick the user into installing it on his or her system. This kind of virus is known as a "Trojan Horse" due to its deceptive tactics. Fortunately, Trojans are often delivered via the same techniques:

  • an attachment in a fraudulent spam e-mail
  • masquerading as a useful, free program
  • files available on peer-to-peer networks
  • pornographic websites

A few simple precautions can protect you from Trojan viruses. Never open an attachment in an unsolicited e-mail, and never open a spam e-mail with an attachment. Only download a program from an unknown website if you are certain that it is safe.

How can I best protect myself from phishing scams?

"Phishing" refers to an increasingly common type of on-line fraud. Scammers will send e-mails purporting to be from a financial institution; a bank, for example, or another on-line business, such as eBay. The e-mail usually claims some sort of account problem, and urgently requests you to send in personal information to correct the error, whether via a return e-mail address or through a provided hyperlink. However, once the scammers have personal information in hand, they clean out bank accounts as quickly as possible.

  • NEVER, under any circumstances, put personal information (social security numbers, bank account numbers, etc.) in an e-mail.
  • Beware any e-mails that ask you to act immediately. Phishers often try to create a sense of false urgency, in order to get a potential victim to act before he/she thinks things through.
  • Never follow a link in a suspicious e-mail, since it will often redirect you to a fraudulent site.
  • If you do online banking, always carefully check the address. Phishers often create fake websites to ensnare personal information. For instance, a phishing ring might spoof the legitimate mibank.com site as m1bank.com (note the subtle change of the letter I to the digit 1). Also, when doing online banking, make sure that it is a secure site (an "https" address instead of "http", and your browser should display a small padlock icon in one of the lower corners).
  • Phishing activity often increases in times of national tragedy (after Hurricane Katrina, for instance). Be wary of any e-mails asking for charitable donations.

To test your phishing savvy, try taking this quiz.