One aspect of protecting yourself from cybercriminals is learning to spot a scam—being very skeptical of too-good-to-be-true offers, urgent pleas for money, or warnings that your account is over quota or compromised.
If an email is at all suspicious, talk to an IT support person. You can also hover the mouse over links or drag messages to your “junk” folder to make sure they lead to actual university websites. But NEVER respond to email requests for your personal or financial information. (See Part I of the “It’s a Jungle in There” series.)
But it’s not just about user behavior. Another important aspect of warding off scammers is maintaining good physical security of your systems. The university IT support community continues to offer advice to strengthen your defenses against attacks, noting that it’s important to have your systems in good shape for tax season, especially when so many employees are accessing personal financial information online.
- Let the pros handle it. Thankfully today, most departmental (work) computing systems used are centrally managed. That means IT professionals handle all of the upgrades and install the appropriate patches on the system. These updates address security vulnerabilities and protect against new hacking tactics as criminals develop them. Having an IT professional centrally manage the machine and push out the updates takes the burden off of the end user.
- Keep up on the updates. Some users manage their own work computers, which is ok as long as you take time to run system (including application) updates and patches when they’re available. You can set up notifications to prompt you when new ones come out, or configure your machine to automatically run updates. If you manage your own machine and aren’t sure how to set it up, talk to your local tech support or contact the ITS Help Desk.
- Don’t forget the home computer. Often people have older computers at home, and those personally owned machines are not kept up to date with the necessary protections needed to survive a malware attack. That’s a big problem, considering the volume of personal information running through or stored on the system—everything from bank records and credit card transactions to tax and medical documents. This article on the UI’s Learn About Security website provides specific tips to secure home computers.
- Make sure you’re using a supported operating system. This spring Microsoft will discontinue support of the Windows XP operating system, which means machines still using this older system will be especially at risk because patches and updates will no longer be produced. If you are a current Windows XP home user, you are strongly encouraged to upgrade to a newer, supported operating system before April 8, 2014. To download and install a free operating system check to see whether your computer is compatible with a newer operating system, visit Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, or Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant. The UI has negotiated discounts on equipment for personal purchase, so if you discover that it’s time for a new computer, visit this site for details.