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Keeping Your Computer Secure

by Linc Nesheim

The WWU Campus Community has been relatively lucky in regard to many of the recent worm and virus attacks that have been making headlines. This is in large part due to the use of standard security configurations for computers that are connected to the campus network.

There are two primary areas of interest in maintaining a high level of security for campus workstations: virus protection and operating system patches.

Virus protection is actually handled at multiple levels of the campus network - this makes it very difficult for viruses to get to the point where they become problems on your desktop.

First, the Exchange/Outlook email server used for most faculty/staff email scans all incoming messages and attachments for potential viruses. The database that the Exchange server checks against for known viruses is updated every few hours. Also, all central Novell file servers check for viruses as files are written to shared areas such as your P: and U: drives. Next, all campus workstations have a local install of virus software that constantly monitors for virus activity as you work with documents - it will notify you if it finds any suspicious activity and then clean any files it finds. Last, you can tell this virus software to scan your hard drive for virus any time you would like.

All campus machines must have virus scanning software installed. Since viruses look for the weakest link in the network chain, even having one unprotected computer can compromise the entire campus. If you find that you do not have virus scanning software installed, you can check the Virus Protection web page for information on how to get this software.

We recommend that you run a virus check of your local hard drive on a regular basis - monthly or weekly, depending on the amount of activity your computer gets. You can setup and initiate these periodic scans by launching VirusScan from your Start menu:

Windows 2000 & XP
Start->All Programs->Network Associates->VirusScan On-Demand Scan

Windows 98
Start->Programs->Network Associates->VirusScan

As more security vulnerabilities are made public and various programs begin to take advantage of these 'holes' in popular Microsoft programs, it has become necessary to make sure your computer has all of the current updates and patches.

The simplest way to do a quick check is to go to http://www.windowsupdate.com from Internet Explorer. You can follow the instructions on this web page to scan your machine and install any needed updates. As with viruses, hackers look for unprotected computers to launch attacks. Western has experienced cases where a single individual computer or server has been attacked in such a way as to make the entire campus network unavailable to anyone!

To ensure proper updates, if you are running Windows XP or Windows 2000 you should also set your machine to automatically check for updates and install them each day. Most desktop configurations are set this way already, but you should check to make sure.

Windows XP
Right-click My Computer, select Properties and check the Automatic Updates tab

Windows 2000
Check the Automatic Updates control panel

Windows 98
Automatic Updates are not available in Windows 98

These instructions are also available at www.wwu.edu/windowsupdate (PDF).

If you have any questions regarding this information, please call the ATUS Help Desk at 650-3333, or contact your technical support staff.

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