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Avoid the Burn: Practical Security Advice to Protect You and Your Computer during the Summer

Posted on: June 4th, 2015 by

In IT, we frequently answer questions concerning online security topics like email phishing scams attempting to steal your passwords, computer viruses and even sophisticated denial of service attacks. We must remember that the physical security of computers, tablets, and phones also remains a major concern.

Recently, an individual attempted to gain access to a vital computer on the Oxford campus, posing as an associate with the IT Helpdesk.  Thankful to some attentive UM employees, the impersonator was not granted access.  If these individuals had not been alert to the potential threat, private data for many individuals could have been compromised.

So, what would you do if a stranger requested access to a computer in your office? Here are a few tips.

  • Question any unexpected computer consultant. If you or your supervisor didn’t ask for assistance, call the appropriate manager to determine if IT scheduled a visit for repair. It would also be wise to ask wandering guests if they need assistance finding someone. In short, trust but verify.
  • Request to see an ID. For example, when Teresa McCarver sends an IT Helpdesk student employee to pick up, deliver, or address a computer issue, students are required to wear an ID to identify their association with IT.   If you don’t see it or you want to verify, please call the IT Helpdesk at 915-5222 and ask to speak to Teresa.

The tips above work when an attendant is present. At times, you must step away from your office for hours or days at a time. So, take these additional precautions to protect you from identity theft, computer theft and other data or financial loss.

  • Lock your door.   That’s the easiest solution to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Make a habit of locking your computer screen.   As long as you have a complex password, locking your screen helps defend against an office intruder using a thumb drive to steal your files in a matter of minutes.  To immediately lock your Windows computer screen, hit the Windows key, followed by the letter l (Win-l).   This should work on Windows 7/8. For the Mac, check out these instructions.
  • Protect your workspace. Avoid sticky notes; commit passwords to memory.   When possible, avoid printing out documents that you would not want disclosed.  Tidy up and secure sensitive documents when leaving for extended periods of time.
  • When ready to discard, shred paper, CDs, and DVDs containing sensitive data.
  • Never leave laptops, tablets or cell phones unattended.
  • Promptly pick up documents at the printer and fax machine. Any number of documents from third party sources may contain unanticipated private or sensitive data.
  • Back up your data. Take the added precaution of backing up your data. UM Box is a great resource for University faculty, staff and students. Request a departmental or individual training session covering UM Box today.

If you have questions about these security tips, please contact the IT Helpdesk at 662-915-5222 or   Their hours of operation are 8 a.m – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.

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