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I am sure I’m not the only USF student who remembers playing my fair share of Oregon Trail as a kid on Apple computers when they were bulky gray boxes with green screens. I’m not trying to be nostalgic here; I’m trying to make a point. Computers have always been a part of our lives and because of this, we see them as a learning tool, a way to stay connected with family and friends, and a source of entertainment. It is true that they are all of this, but let’s remember that they’re secret keepers, too.

They store personal information like passwords, social security numbers, bank records and other documents. These are things that I don’t want anyone to know (yes, that even means my boyfriend and best friend—sorry guys) . Since we are familiar and comfortable with computers, we live in a world filled with a false sense of security. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m often careless with my computer habits and forget how dangerous and devastating an attack on my computer would be.

In honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, I am asking you to take a second and consider how bad it would be if someone tapped into your bank account and spent all of your tuition money in a matter of a few minutes.  Or if someone hacked into your USFconnect account and dropped you from all of your classes. We all know people who have had something stolen or hacked into. It doesn’t just happen, it happens often.  I hope you will consider taking a few seconds to learn how to protect yourself with tips from OnGuard Online:

  1. Protect your personal information. It’s valuable. Do not share your personal information unless you know how it will be used and protected. Don’t reply to or click on links in any e-mail asking for your personal information.
  2. Know who you’re dealing with. When shopping online, look for a seller’s physical address and a working telephone number. Before downloading free software, read the fine print; some downloads come with spyware. You can download a free AVG link security scanner from the USF e-Store at estore.usfca.edu.
  3. Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall. Even if your old version works fine, update it regularly. By doing this, you have the most up-to-date version which means fewer scams will be able to break through it. This also applies to updating other programs, like Firefox or iTunes. Make sure your firewall is on and set up properly. Use caution on wireless networks and secure your own wireless networks. You can download Sophos AntiVirus for free at antivirus.usfca.edu.
  4. Be sure to set up your operating system and Web browser software properly, and update them regularly. Select security settings high enough to reduce your risk of being hacked. Make sure to regularly update your system with the latest patches. PC users can download Secunia PSI for free from the e-store at estore.usfca.edu. Mac users just need to run their Apple Software Updates.
  5. Protect your passwords. Don’t share them on the internet, over e-mail or on the phone. If you need to write down passwords, keep them in a secure location away from your computer. Consider not sharing your passwords with anyone. Use different passwords for all online accounts.
  6. Back up important files. If you have important files stored on your computer, copy them onto a removable disc, and store it in a safe place. You can visit Mozy to learn how to back up your data at https://mozy.com/?mcr=1&ref=451c76aa.
  7. Learn who to contact if something goes wrong. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov and click on “File a Complaint” to learn how to respond if problems occur when you’re online. You can also subscribe to the ITS “Security Alerts” via Twitter (@USFInfoSec).

If you have questions or problems downloading any of these programs, please stop by the ITS Help Desk. To learn more on computer security. You can also visit OnGuard Online, which provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information.

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