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Safe Computing

Using computers is a useful and necessary activity, but it can also involve risks to your computer and your personal information.  This article gives tips on keeping your computer hardware and software safe.  The main methods you can use to keep your computer safe are to have up to date antivirus and firewall programs, back up your data, use the internet safely , protect your data by using secure connections and protecting sensitive data, and keep your computer and information safe by using strong passwords and controlling access to your computer.

Top 10 Safe Computing Tips

  1. Patch, Patch, Patch

    Set up your computer to automatically update your software and operating system files. An unpatched machine is more likely to have software vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Microsoft provides Windows Update available in the Control Panel or from Start/All Programs/Windows Update.

    Apple Mac

    Use the built-in Software Update application.


    Use the built-in Windows Update tool located in the Control Panel. Alternatively, you can access it by going to Start/ All Programs/ Windows Update.

    Third-party Applications

    Software such as Adobe Reader and iTunes contain their own updating system. Please be sure that you only download updates from the software developer.

  2. Install protective software

    Activate built-in firewalls and install antivirus software on every computer. Firewalls and antivirus software protect your computer from viruses and malware.

  3. Choose strong passwords

    Choose strong passwords with letters, numbers, and special characters to create a mental image or an acronym that is easy for you to remember. Create a different password for each account, and change passwords regularly.

  4. Backup, backup, backup

    Backing up your machine regularly can protect you from the unexpected. Keep a few months' worth of backups and make sure the files can be retrieved if needed. Use institutional network storage whenever possible (for example, the UNRNAS).

    Apple Mac

    Mac computers offer a number of options depending on hardware and software capabilities.


    Different versions of the Windows operating system offer different methods for backing up data: XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.

    If possible, in Windows, keep all data in your My Documents folder, and on Enterprise network storage (for example, your NAS drive).

  5. Control access to your computer

    To prevent unwanted access or theft, don't leave your computer in an unsecured area especially in public places like the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, @One or student computer labs, OR unattended ANYWHERE. Also, guard the physical security of your laptop or desktop machine. Contact the IT Support for suggestions.

  6. Use email and the internet safely

    Ignore unsolicited emails. Be wary of attachments, links and forms in emails that come from people you don't know, or which seem "phishy". Many schemes look legitimate. UNR or a banking or other institution won't ask for a Social Security Number, birthdate, password, or other personal information in an email. Avoid untrustworthy (often free) downloads from freeware or shareware sites, and only download files from reputable sites, because files on the internet that you download can contain viruses.

    Email can also be used to provide off-site backups - email papers to yourself.

  7. Use secure connections

    When connected to the Internet, your data can be vulnerable while in transit. Look at remote connectivity and secure file transfer options when off campus. Campus webmail clients use secure access, which means that your password and content are encrypted. Most email clients have settings that secure email transfer. IT Support can help you activate those settings.

  8. Protect sensitive data

    One of the biggest (and often overlooked) sources for sensitive data is your own computer or workstation. At the very least, your computer contains sensitive data about you (the user) and stored passwords in key chains and on Web browsers. Depending on your job or clearance, you might also have access to the sensitive data of others. Do you store this data on your computer or on storage devices nearby? It may be disastrous (and expensive) if this information falls into the wrong hands.

    Reduce the risk of identity theft. Securely remove sensitive data files from your hard drive, especially when recycling or repurposing your computer.

    Information Technology at the University has a policy in place to assist with data protection.

  9. Use desktop firewalls

    Macintosh and Windows computers have basic desktop firewalls as part of their operating systems. When set up properly, these firewalls protect your computer files from being scanned.

  10. Stay informed

    To stay current with the latest developments for Windows, Macs, Linux and Unix systems, watch the UNR IT website for known problems on campus. Technology advances and changes happen frequently, so staying informed helps you adapt in accordance.

You can help keep your computer and your personal information safe by following safe computing practices. Keep your computer up to date and protected with Windows Updates and Antivirus Software. Back up your data in case it becomes compromised in some way. Use the internet safely by avoiding phishing scams and by only downloading files from reputable sources. And keep your computer safe by using a strong password and controlling access to your computer.

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University of Nevada, Reno
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