A short guide to safe computing

Computers have become, in recent years, consumer devices that are part of our everyday lives. However, they still need to be configured to meet the needs of the person using them: new software, the addition of a scanner etc. One area that often gets ignored is the security of the device and this is, in some ways, the most important aspect of their day to day use that needs to be considered.

This is a very short guide, by no means complete, of a number of simple things that people can do to reduce the risk of their information going missing or being victim to some computer-related crime.

Passwords

Pick a strong password. By "strong", we mean:

  • Not any derivative of your own name or anything related to you
  • Not the month we're currently in
  • Not anything relating to the LSE
  • Is at least 6 characters long
  • Does use upper and lower case letters
  • Does contain numbers
  • Does contain punctuation

Some ideas on password selection:

Pick a rhyme and use the first character from each word to generate a password.

"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" becomes:

Tqbfjotld

By substituting certain characters with numbers and adding uppercase characters, you get:

Tq6Fj0tlD

Add some punctuation to the password, so it becomes:

{- Tq6Fj0tlD-}

Passwords are important as they protect your online identity. In LSE For You, they control access to your course fees (or salary information), printer credits and also control access to e-mails, files stored in H: space; they can be used from anywhere in the world.  

The complexity of the password you choose reflects how important you feel this information is to you.

User Accounts

Don't share your passwords to your user id. You are responsible for actions that are taken in the context of your account and gives the other person to all of your personal details in LSE For You.

Screensavers

Staff: please lock your workstation when you walk away from it, even if it's for the shortest amount of time. The quickest way to do this is by pressing + L. Not doing this exposes your account to misuse and access to the details within LSE For You. For Macs and Linux devices, the screensaver can also be set to come on after a pre-determined period of inactivity and can be turned on interactively.

Anti Virus

If you have a laptop or desktop that supports it, please install anti-virus software. For Windows devices, Sophos is available for free from LSE. Please see our   Sophos anti-virus page for more details and installation instructions.

Firewall

Nearly all devices come with a firewall installed by default. Please ensure it is turned on.

Wireless

Whenever using wireless networks, please enable security wherever possible. LSE does not, as yet, provide an encrypted wireless connection. When using this, please ensure that no sensitive information is sent-received, unless it is encrypted separately (see below).

Encrypted websites

Whenever accessing sensitive information over any network, ensure that the website being accessed is using encryption. This can be determined by the address bar starting with "HTTPS" and a padlock appearing in the status bar at the bottom of the screen.

Backups

Hard disks fail and USB devices get lost. The best way to back up data is not to store it in one place but to have multiple copies, on external hard disks or writable DVDs. In addition, make sure that you store all copies of your data in a secure location. Others may be more interested in your data than you are.

Mobile devices

Where mobile devices support it, please enable PIN or password security. The information held in these devices is very valuable. Also, if it gets stolen, it reduces that chances that a thief will be able to run up bills on your account.

Laptop security

Encrypt laptop hard disks. They do get stolen and, in many cases, the information they contain is far more valuable than the device itself. Many people store their bank account and e-banking logon information locally: there's potential there to extract far more money than the laptop is worth. Mac and Linux laptops have this capability natively. Windows devices need a 3rd party add-in, but some are freely available. For more information contact the Laptop Surgery.

Also, put a power on password on every device. It not only prevents people from accessing the device if it's stolen, it will prevent others on the internet from logging on to your computer and stealing the data it contains remotely.

Patching

Make sure all of your devices are up-to-date with patches and service packs. Where possible, turn on automatic updates and check regularly. Microsoft tend to issue patches on the first Tuesday of every month, but do, on occasion, issue interim patches.

By keeping your machine up-to-date, you lessen the risk of viruses and worms infecting your operating system.

The value of information

Believe it or not,  all information has a value to someone. Please think about this when leaving papers or devices unattended in public areas: someone may want to have it who shouldn't. We've all scribbled telephone numbers or passwords on paper notes. Be safe and don't leave anything lying around.

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