University of Wisconsin–Madison
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Securing your computer

5 minutes to read | Last updated March 12, 2020

UW–Madison’s Electronic Devices Policy requires all campus users to run anti-virus software, keep security patches updated and, whenever possible, maintain a dedicated firewall. Follow the best practices in this guide to protect yourself — and to contribute to a safer computing environment for everyone.

Important!

If you work on a computer owned by UW–Madison, check with your department IT administrator before installing software or reconfiguring it.

If you are a student or you access UW resources from a home or other computer, please follow the steps below.

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Keep your operating system and versions up-to-date

Keep your operating system up to date

Hackers are constantly looking for ways to access your computer. If you don’t keep your operating system (OS) up to date, hackers can create malicious software (e.g. malware, virus, ransomware, bots, adware, worms, Trojans, etc.) to infect your computer and steal your personal information.  That’s why it’s important that you keep your operating system and security patches up-to-date. Simply running an anti-virus program is not enough.

How do I keep my computer updated?

It’s easy to configure your computer to automatically seek out security updates so that you don’t have to remember to do it manually. Then, when you get that little message that says “new updates ready to install,” all you have to do is install them.

How to update Windows Security Patches

How to update Mac Security Patches

Install and run free Symantec Antivirus software

UW-Madison recommends you use the free Symantec Antivirus software. Unlike your existing antivirus software, it provides you with DoIT HelpDesk support. 

  • Install only one antivirus program on your computer. Having multiple antivirus programs on one computer can cause conflicts.
  • Always uninstall the antivirus software that came on your computer before installing the University’s Symantec Antivirus.
  • If you choose to keep the antivirus that came with your computer, verify that your antivirus software version is up to date. Versions expire and stop providing updates which leave you vulnerable to virus threats.
  • Install and run Symantec Antivirus, free for UW–Madison for faculty, staff, and students. It helps protect your computer and detects and removes existing malicious software.
  • If you have already downloaded and installed Symantec AntiVirus, you simply need to do a scan of your files; you do not need to download additional software. See Symantec Endpoint Protection – Detecting and Removing Spyware for more details.

Use a firewall

A firewall is software that runs directly on a computer (i.e. the host) and protects that host against attack from the network by controlling incoming and/or outgoing network traffic. Most operating systems have built-in firewalls, but you need to make sure they are turned on.

Instructions for enabling your firewall

Protect your NetID & password and multi-factor authentication credentials

Use strong passwords

Passwords are like passports or a blank check; if lost or stolen they give hackers a world of opportunity by providing access to your personal, financial and work data. The campus Password Policy helps you be proactive in selecting a strong passwords and managing them, to protect your identity and University resources. Once you’ve read and understood the password policy, you should change your NetID password and other campus passwords that do not meet the standards.

A few don’ts

  • Never share your password or multi-factor authentication credentials with anyone. Not your boss. Not your family. Not your co-workers. Doing so is against UW System Acceptable Use of Information Technology Resources policy and violating it could result in suspension or criminal prosecution.
  • Never use your NetID password on any other website (if you have done so, change your NetID password immediately).
  • Don’t reveal a password in an email message
  • Don’t talk about a password in front of others
  • Don’t hint at the format of a password (e.g., “my family name”)
  • Don’t reveal a password on questionnaires or security forms
  • Avoid writing passwords down, but if you must, store them in a secure place (e.g., a locked file cabinet)
  • Passwords should never be stored unencrypted on-line
  • Do not use the “Remember Password” feature of applications (e.g., Outlook, Thunderbird, Evolution)
  • Don’t use the default password, if one is provided. Change it immediately to a new, stronger password.
  • Don’t reuse old passwords. NetID passwords cannot be reused within a 12-month period, and passwords cannot be changed to any of the previous three passwords.

Get help!

The DoIT Help Desk can answer your questions or connect you with the right group.

Email the help desk

Report phishing and other abuse

If you encounter a suspicious email that claims to be from UW‑Madison and requests any personal information, do not respond to it or click any links! Instead, click on the “Report Spam” or “Report Phish” located on the top right-hand corner of your O365 email account.

 

Questions?

Email the DoIT Help Desk or call 608‑264‑HELP (4357).