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Safe Computing

Many people who have their own computers often connect to the Internet, browse websites, and use email, facebook, twitter and online shopping sites, etc.

However, when we connect to the Internet, not all users can be trusted in the same way as when we interact online with friends or companies. Some users have malicious intentions and may wish to infect computers with viruses or spyware or try to gain access to others’ computers. If we are the target of such users, our computers may behave strangely or our personal information may be stolen.

* Security measures are necessary even for computers that are not used to connect to the Internet. Such computers can still be infected by viruses, for example, when sharing files through USB devices.

To use the computer safely, it is essential to know about computer security.
Please be sure to check the following seven contents.

■ Update operating system & application

Sometimes bugs are found in operating systems or other software after they are released. When there are security-related bugs which are called “security holes”, there is a possibility of viruses or malicious users gaining entrance to a computer’s system. In general, when a security hole is found, the software’s manufacturer will release a program to fix it. Therefore, it is recommended that you use software’s latest versions through regular updates.

In the case of Windows, please perform the necessary “Windows Updates,” and for Mac “Software Updates.” Updates are not only necessary for Windows and Mac’s operating systems (“OS”) but also for all software installed on your computer. Therefore, please check regularly that the software you are using is the latest version.

■ Install Anti-virus software

Viruses are illegal programs that infect and cause damage to computers. There are various ways viruses can infect and damage computers, but in general, computers become infected when users open attachments to suspicious emails or browse questionable websites when the computer has a security hole.

When a computer becomes infected with a virus, its operations can become unstable, files can become damaged,strange messages can appear on screen, and other various symptoms can occur. Other viruses can infect computers and present no noticeable symptoms, but find files and users’ personal information and transmit them over the Internet.

Therefore, it is vital to install anti-virus software and periodically scan your computer to check whether it has been infected with a virus or not.

Among the most well-known types of anti-virus software are Norton, MacAfee and VirusBuster. Many (but not all) of these are purchased with one-year contracts, so be sure to purchase them again after one year. (Anti-virus software does nothing after the contract period has expired.)
Anti-virus software releases(almost daily) “pattern files” for identifying viruses so that the software is able to protect computers from the latest types of viruses. If pattern files are old, then the software is unable to identify new types of viruses. Do not forget to update these files.

There are also types of anti-virus software that can be used free of charge, such as Microsoft SecurityEssentials. These types of software, basically, are to be used at the user’sown discretion. Therefore, users should be fully aware that their manufacturers offer no guarantees that their software will not cause a computer to malfunction.
Scanning computers for viruses should be done at least once a month, or, if possible, once a week.

■ Enable your computer's firewall

A firewall is a barrier between computers (internal) and the Internet (external). It helps protect your computer from viruses and malicious users. Although a firewall and anti-virus software are not the same thing and they must both be used, recent anti-virus software often comes with firewall capabilities. If your anti-virus software comes with firewall capabilities, then be sure to switch the firewall on. If there is no firewall function included with your anti-virus software, then use a firewall program compatible with your OS.

If you use Windows, your OS comes with the firewall function switched on. If you use a Mac, firewall settings can be somewhat complicated. Simply switching on the firewall on a Mac can sometimes affect how other applications operate.Please refer to the following website when adjusting your firewall settings.

■ Take a backup

Backing up your computer regularly can protect you from the unexpected such as hardware failures and computer virus infections. 

Your valuable data cannot be retrieved once it has been erased. We recommend you to back up important data (including photos, video, documents) on an external hard drive or cloud storage like Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox, etc.
*Computers can often become broken without doing or touching anything. Since it is not unusual for a computer to become broken without warning, in particular with older computers, it is important to back up your computer and not simply assume your computer will not have any problems.

■ Choose strong passwords

When using the Internet, there are many times when you use passwords. They serve an important role in verifying that users are who they say they are. When passwords become known to others, it is possible for them read your email, use your social networking accounts, etc. Never tell others what your passwords are and closely manage your passwords with the following in mind.

1. Set your passwords so that they are difficult to guess. This can be done by making your passwords 14 characters or more (at least eight characters) and by using a combination of upper case and lower case letters as well as numbers and other symbols.
2. Memorize your passwords. If they are difficult to memorize, make sure they are in a place where others will not see them.
3. Periodically change your passwords.

Microsoft offers a website that will test the strength of your passwords. 
Change the password, if the website says it is “weak.”

■ Use email and the Internet safely

Email is an important way to exchange information on the Internet. It is something many people use every day. However, viruses can sometimes be sent as email attachments and emails can also take users to phishing sites that seek to trick users into revealing their personal information.

Just like junk mail that is sent to mobile phones, do not open email from people you do not know and definitely do not open attachments sent with such emails.
It is also necessary to be careful about emails even from people you do know. It is easy for people to misrepresent themselves over email. Therefore, be cautious of emails and if you notice anything unusual it is perhaps better to inquire with the sender through some method other than email.
Phishing emails also sometimes come to people using ICU email and there have been cases of passwords being stolen. Please note that ICU never asks students by email for their passwords or sends emails that take you to websites that urge you to change your passwords.

■ Don't access to suspicious websites

There are many online services where users can easily enter information such as product reviews and comments on bulletin boards and blogs. Some of these have URLs entered that may take users to sites for phishing scams or where viruses can infect users’ computers. This can be especially prevalent on sites where postings can be made anonymously and without registration. Therefore, be careful about clicking through to sites with links on such pages.

There are services such as McAfee SiteAdvisor that can check whether a site is safe or not. When you are unsure if a site is safe, you may wish to use these services.

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