University of Wisconsin–Madison
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Securing your computer

5 minutes to read | Last updated Sept 29, 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.


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 antivirus software

Faculty or staff: UW–Madison recommends you use Windows Defender (automatically installed/running on Windows) for personal Windows devices, and Trend Micro for personal macOS devices.

Students or emeritus: UW–Madison recommends you use Windows Defender (automatically installed/running on Windows) for personal Windows devices, and use freely available antivirus software for personal macOS devices.

  • Instructions for checking that Windows Defender is enabled are available here, and instructions for Installing Trend Micro on your Mac are available here.
  • 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 recommended antivirus (uninstalling your antivirus software on your Windows PC will automatically enable Windows Defender).

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.



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