Desktop Secruity for Your Office or ResHall


If your office or residence hall room is in an open suite, or if you use a laptop in more than one location, consider protecting sensitive data with a password-protected screen saver. Most desktop computers ship with this as a standard feature. Activate your screen saver or screen lock whenever you leave your computer, even if only for a few moments. For better protection, consider encrypting sensitive files. Leaving your computer unattended and unsecured also affords an opportunity to install viruses, trojans or other damaging software. It is also possible for an unattended machine to be rebooted to a different operating system that can bypass existing security settings and access your data.

Especially when using computers in public labs, be alert to “shoulder surfers” — people who look over your shoulder while you type in your user name and password or other sensitive information. It is very easy to decipher the keys that you are typing for your password, no matter how fast you type. Be sure to log out when your session is completed.

Again, this is especially important when using public labs. If you print out confidential or sensitive information, keep it in a secure location when you are not actually using it. Do not leave confidential printouts on your desk, even if you are only away a few moments. If the printouts are no longer needed, do not simply throw them away – shred them. “Dumpster Diving” is a well-known activity by which hackers obtain sensitive and confidential information from improperly discarded documents. Personal, home-use/small office-use shredders are inexpensive and readily available. “Cross-cut” models are preferable to “strip” models. Before selling or donating old computers, make sure that sensitive data is removed. Files that are simply “dragged to the trash” can be easily recovered, so use a secure delete utility (such as those included with PGP and Norton Utilities) to wipe all hard drives in the system. It is best to set it for multiple wipes, at least three passes.