Office of Information Technology

Securing Computer Systems

Security is a multi-layered endeavor these days. Please take the following steps to avoid suffering the complications of computer break-ins or virus infections:
  1. Back Up Data

    Ensure that you have a recent backup of your data.

    Data can disappear with a heartbreaking suddenness. If your data is being backed up via the network or you have made at least two copies of your data, then you should consider it safe. Otherwise the risk is high that you may lose data.

    We offer backup for Windows, Mac and Unix systems.
    For Windows and Mac systems see
    For Unix, please send e-mail to

  2. Install Operating System Patches

    Ensure that your operating system has the current set of operating system patches installed. New vulnerabilities are routinely found that can allow remote intruders to gain control of a computer system via the Internet.

    For Windows 7 and Vista, use Windows Update in Control Panels.
    For Windows XP and earlier, connect to the Windows Update web site using Internet Explorer.
    For Mac OS X, use Software Update from System Preferences.

  3. Install Anti-Virus Software

    Ensure that you have anti-virus software installed on your systems. McAfee VirusScan for Windows is available without cost via a UIUC site license.

    Installation Instructions

    Mac users can purchase Sophos Endpoint Security and Control for $5 via the webstore.

  4. Install Anti-Spyware Software

    Spyware is the name for programs that invade your computer and try to steal information, take control of the computer or redirect your web browsing. It is not self-replicating and so it isn't a virus, per se. The latest version of VirusScan has some anti-spyware capabilities, but we recommend also running one of these anti-spyware applications on your Windows computer:

    Available without cost.
    Spybot - Search & Destroy
    Available without cost.

  5. Install Secunia PSI for Windows

    Secunia PSI is an application which will scan your Windows computer for out-of-date software. It is free for personal use and the campus has purchased a site-license for University systems. It is used by downloading & installing the Secunia PSI client.

    Download Secunia PSI
    Available without cost.

    The client will periodically download new information about security patches available for Windows & and your applications, then scan your system and alert you to any updates needed via an icon in the system tray (lower right corner - near the clock). It then offers links and advice to update your system.

  6. Don't Reveal your Password

    A common scam these days involves receiving a message that states there is some problem with your account and you must reply with your account name and password to resolve the situation. No one should ever ask for your password, so you can be sure that all messages of this type are fraudulent.

  7. Use Strong Passwords

    Use complex passwords for accounts used to access your computer. A good rule of thumb would be to use a password that is at least 8 characters long, and contains lowercase and uppercase letters and also digits or punctuation. Avoid dictionary words in your password.

  8. Limit Network Shares

    Do not share data from your computer unless necessary. If not properly managed, network shares can allow an intruder to take control of the system.

    If you decide to open a network share on your computer to copy files to and from the computer, take care not to share the operating system directory. For instance, do not share the entire drive C: on a Windows system.

  9. Use Mozilla Firefox

    Consider using the Mozilla Firefox web browser instead of Internet Explorer. Firefox's security track record is better than Internet Explorer's, and updates are provided more quickly. It is available for Mac, Windows and Unix from

    Apple's web browser, Safari, and the Opera web browser are both nice nice alternatives. Both are available for Macs and Windows.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

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