Over the past few years we have all become increasingly dependent on technology for communication, education, entertainment, shopping, and a wide array of everyday activities. Unfortunately, there has also been a simultaneous increase in threats to our individual privacy, security, and to the stability of our computers and networks from computer viruses, worms, and spyware. While there have been legislative attempts to address these widespread problems, their effect is limited to non-existent, and both the technology and the threats will continue to outpace attempts to regulate them for the foreseeable future.
Therefore, it is essential that each of us take responsibility for securing our own computers to the fullest extent. Our failure to do so jeopardizes not only our own machines and ability to communicate; it also impacts the ability of others who share the networks that our machines are on. Purchase College employs various tools that minimize the impact of viruses, and monitors our network for other threats. The College provides high-speed network access for residents, who bring their own computers to campus and connect them to the College's network. With the proliferation of DSL and Cable access, many student computers have been unknowingly infected before they are brought here, and when they are connected to the campus network, instantly start spreading harmful applications to other unprotected computers on the ResNet network.
To secure your own computing environment, it is essential that you take three basic steps to protect yourself from viruses, worms, and spyware. All active students must have up to date Antivirus Software located on the Downloads page. Patches are free, and there are free spyware tools as well – so none of these measures are going to cost you anything.
Viruses are commonly spread as e-mail attachments. Do not even try to open attachments sent to you – even from people that you know (viruses often fake the sender's address to trick you) - without checking with the sender to verify that the attachment is legitimate. Students at Purchase College are entitled to a free copy of Anti-virus software for as long as they are active students at the College. You can download your free copy of Microsoft Security Essentials anti-virus software from the Downloads page. Once you have downloaded and installed the software, you must also regularly update the anti-virus profiles to protect against new viruses (the configuration settings will do this for you automatically.)
Computer viruses are a constant threat for anyone using the Internet. These small programs can be quite destructive and can cause system-wide outages. You can help protect yourself from computer viruses by taking three simple steps:
1) Back-up important files
If your files are backed up, then you can revert to these backed-up files in the event that a virus "attacks" your system. Even if these files contain the virus, the very fact that the files are backed up means that the data is preserved so that the user can at least try to "clean" the virus from these files in an attempt to preserve the data (see below).
2) Install Anti-virus software on your personal computer
Anti-virus software is a program which helps to protect your computer from viruses. This software consults a database of "virus definitions", which can be thought of as a collection of "digital fingerprints" for viruses. These numerical fingerprints can be used to detect-and even remove viruses from your system, before they have the chance to "spread" or "attack".
Modern anti-virus software will pro-actively scan your system for viruses, attempting to detect one before allowing you to download a file or document to your system. The software will sometimes "scan" documents and programs before you open them, and will commonly perform regular "complete scans" of your system. If a virus is detected, the software will ask you if you would like to remove it from the infected files.
Students currently enrolled at the College are eligible to use same Anti-virus that the College uses on its computers, free of charge. Students are encouraged to download, install, and run Anti-virus on their personally owned computer.
You can download your free copy of Anti-virus Software from the Technology Partners page.
3) Update your Anti-virus Software database regularly
There are new and increasingly deadly viruses created every day. Each new virus that is created has a unique "digital fingerprint." If you do not have the fingerprint for a new virus in your virus definition database, then your software cannot detect it, and your system is NOT protected. If you are running anti-virus software on your personal computer, then you must make sure that you are using the current "virus definitions" in order to effectively protect yourself from the most dangerous computer viruses (the NEW ones!!!).
Some types of anti-virus software automatically update the anti-virus definitions monthly, by downloading them from the anti-virus software manufacturer. Older anti-virus software requires that a user manually download the definitions from the software company's Web site or FTP server. Whatever method you may use, it is recommended that each user download anti-virus definitions immediately upon being alerted of a new virus. Please visit the ResNet Downloads page for a list of popular anti-virus applications.
Worms are programs that exploit known flaws in your computer's operating system. Worms creep into your machine silently as soon as you connect it to a network – without you having to open anything or do anything. Worms typically use your computer to spread themselves to other machines, and many of them turn your machine into mail server relays for spammers to use. Worms can also turn your machine into a remote control zombie - lying dormant and waiting for a particular time or command from its creator – and then launching an attack against a particular Web site or anything else its creator had in mind. They can also collect personal information, banking passwords and accounts, etc., and report the information to their creator. To protect your computer against worms you need to regularly apply the system patches that are issued by the operating system vendor. Microsoft provides a "Windows Update" service that makes this relatively simple. It can also be configured to apply patches automatically. The security updates that protect you against worms are categorized as "Critical Updates." It is important that you do this regularly – recent worms have spread throughout the Internet in as little as 15 minutes, though they typically exploit OS flaws that have been discovered months earlier. While patching your machine regularly provides no guarantees, it gets you out of the 'easy pickings' category.
Spyware is a relatively recent addition to the arsenal of cyber-threats, and is typically more of a threat to your privacy than to your machine's performance or data. Most spyware consists of "tracking cookies" deposited onto your computer by Web sites that you visit, or by running P2P (person-to-person) sharing tools like Kazaa, Limewire, etc that are commonly used to share files, many of which are infected with various cyber-threats. While tracking cookies invade your privacy by recording and reporting on what Web sites you visit, they are considered relatively harmless. However, spyware can also contain far more harmful programs that record your keystrokes to capture IDs, passwords and credit card numbers, or worms and viruses that sap your machines performance. Please visit the ResNet Downloads page for a list of popular anti-spyware applications.
Phishing is another common threat - think of it as trickery via e-mail. Do NOT respond to requests to verify your passwords, IDs, account numbers or any other information requested by e-mail – even if it seems to be from a company that you are doing business with or someone you know (source addresses and links contained in e-mail can all be faked). Call them to verify the request – which they really shouldn't be making since they already have all of this information on file. Social Engineering has existed long before computers did, and it is always a good idea to verify the identities of those seeking information whether it is by e-mail, telephone, or in person (did you call to make an appointment with the service representative standing in front of you?)
Intellectual Property: As a community of artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers and scholars whose careers will be spent creating intellectual property, we encourage our entire community to respect the property of others. Downloading anything onto your machine from untrustworthy P2P (person-to person) sources or Web sites not only exposes you to all the threats above, but often violates the Copyright laws, and can lead to suspension of network privileges, or to lawsuits from Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) or the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Please remember that theft is a crime, and that nothing in cyberspace is truly anonymous. The RIAA and the MPAA both employ agencies that prowl the Internet and P2P sites looking for violations, and both have increasingly been targeting individuals – which often results in heavy fines. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) also stipulates that upon notification, as an Internet Service Provider, the College must suspend internet access – jeopardizing your academic standing – which increasingly depends on e-mail communication and Web access to Library resources and research materials.
We strongly encourage you to take these issues seriously – identity theft and financial fraud are rapidly becoming epidemic problems - 3 million people and $15 billion last year – and are crimes that have substantial long-term impact on their victims.
For more information or assistance, please call (914) 251-6465.
February 1st through May 10th:
Mon-Thur 8am-7:45pm, Fri 8am-4:45pm
When classes are not in session:
(basement of Social Sciences Bldg)
Tel (914) 251-6465
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