Temple Times Online Edition
    DECEMBER 8, 2005
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Security Tip: Protect your new home computer

The holiday season is here, and many households will soon be opening boxes containing exciting new computers to use for Internet searching, shopping and other online business. An alarming percentage of home users will simply unplug old equipment and replace it with the new computer. Within a short time, many of these new machines will become infected with viruses, spyware and adware. Many will require expensive, time-consuming professional service.

The University has made a substantial investment of computing security resources so users at Temple can connect to the Internet in relative safety. But what about home computers? What can average home users do to protect their privacy and their data against a growing army of cyber criminals who are constantly trying to obtain their credit card numbers, account passwords and other important private information?

Generally, there are at least three things that every home computer user should do before connecting to the Internet:

1. Use the Internet connection firewall that comes with your new computer. Both Apple Macintosh OS X and Microsoft Windows XP operating systems now include this software device, which is designed to block incoming connections to your computer from other computers on the Internet. Windows users can get firewall setup instructions at www.microsoft.com/athome/security/protect/firewall.mspx. Mac users can learn more about the OS X Personal Firewall at www.apple.com/macosx/features/security.

2. Download and install the latest patches for your computer’s operating system and other software. As software vendors discover vulnerabilities to the constant attacks by cyber criminals, they issue patches that render the attacks harmless. These patches must be installed to keep your computer safe. Windows users should choose “Windows Update” from the Start menu; Mac users should select “Software Updates” from their System Preferences, and then put a check in the “Automatic Updates” box. Both Mac and Windows users should repeat this process weekly.

3. Purchase and use a good antivirus product to detect and remove virus infections. Temple offers Symantec AntiVirus software to its students, faculty and staff for home use at a minimal cost. This is a special home version of the same powerful antivirus software that protects all computers attached to Temple’s network. For details, go to www.temple.edu/cs/security/virusinfo.

Finally, the single most important thing you can do to protect your home computer is to follow the rules for safe computing:

• Protect your data with strong passwords and change them frequently.
• Don’t open e-mail messages or click on links in messages that come from strangers or an untrusted source.
• Don’t download “free” software, music or videos. These often contain spyware, adware or viruses.