CIT 591 Computer Safety
Fall 2005, David Matuszek

This is a small collection of things that you should already know, but are worth repeating.

Make backups

All computer storage media eventually fail. This is a fact; the only question is when it will fail.

Hard drives crash, floppies become unuseable, flash RAM breaks, and even CDs and DVDs can become unreadable.

You should never have only a single copy of anything important. Always back up your work. The more important it is, the more backups you should have, and the more secure they should be. For really important things, you should have a offsite backup (for example, in case your house or apartment burns down).

Don't be scammed

Never send money to Nigeria.

Never respond to any bank, credit union, Paypal, etc. email that asks you to enter your credit information. This is called "phishing." Legitimate places never do this--it is always an illegal attempt to access your money.

If you have a web-accessible bank account, never use a link to it other than one you have typed in yourself, or typed in and saved as a bookmark. Links can be faked to take you somewhere other than it appears.

It's fine to buy goods online, but only buy from reputable companies, and always use a credit card, not a debit card. Credit cards give you far more legal protection than do debit cards.

Avoid spyware

Spyware is software that monitors what you do on your computer, sends the information (without your permission) to others, and pops up unwanted advertisements on your computer. Examples are Gator, Claria

Don't download software from the Web until you have researched it and convinced yourself that it is "clean." Never download programs advertised in spam email.

Windows users should download and use Spybot Search and Destroy (http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html) and Ad-Aware (http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/). Macintosh users have many fewer problems, but should still exercise reasonable care.

Minimize spam

Spam is unwanted email. While it is virtually impossible to avoid spam entirely, you can take some steps to minimize the amount you get.

Please do not put my email address on any Web page you may create. To be sure to get past my spam filters, include the course number (591, 594, or 597) or MCIT as part of the Subject: line of any email you send me.