Protecting Desktops and Laptops

In this Article

General Security Practices For All Systems

Know who logs in to your system

Be aware of all of the people who log in to your system and log all of their activities. Take time to carefully plan groups and their permissions. Only grant access rights to users who need to perform their duties.

Use good password practices

See the Password/Authentication SAP and Tips for Creating Passwords.

Keep your system updated

Apply patches, fixes, and service packs, when available. Keep your systems upgraded to the latest versions of software.

Use antivirus software

McAfee antivirus software is no longer available to Texas A&M students, faculty and staff through the Texas A&M Software Center. 

You can learn about free antivirus software options with this helpful guide

AVG is another free Antivirus software option. Learn more about downloading this software in Knowledge Base

Use your computer's firewall

A firewall blocks hackers, viruses and other potential malicious traffic on the internet. Most computers have a built-in firewall that is designed to protect it from attack. To keep your computer protected, you should make sure your firewall is always turned on. You can check the firewall status of most computers by accessing the Control Panel (or “System Preferences” for iOS users) and checking the security settings.

Eliminate all extra services

Only allow services to run on your machine if you absolutely need them. For example, unless you have a reason to have a web server on your host, do not install or turn one on. Also, remove any demonstration copies of software that came with your operating system. Know what services should be running on your host.

What are three ways I can make my computer run faster?

1. Keep your antivirus software and operating system updated.
Stop hitting the “skip” or “remind me later” button when your computer asks to install updates. Updates often fix security issues and optimize certain aspects of your operation system. Because of this, you should install updates as soon as they become available, and check for new updates at least once a month.

2. Delete cookies and temporary files from your internet browser frequently.
Temporary web data slows down internet speeds and often causes other internet problems. Follow these instructions to delete cookies and other temporary files from the following web browsers:

3. Limit the programs that run automatically when you start your computer.
Even if you are not using the programs, having 20+ programs run automatically will slow down your computer. This occurs because the programs are still using resources to run in the background. Learn how to limit startup programs for Windows and Mac computers.

What is malware, and how do I know if my computer has it?

Malware includes everything from adware (how does every website know that I want to buy a My Little Pony electric toothbrush?!), Trojan viruses, worms, spyware and other malicious programs that are often received from downloaded files, such as illegal music, games and software. You should install and update antivirus software (learn about free antivirus tools) to block and detect malware on your computer.

Key indicators that your computer might be infected with malware:

  • Popup ads even when you don’t have a browser open
  • Browser toolbar malfunctions
  • Slower-than-normal browser connections
  • URLs that redirect

For more information on malware diagnosis and removal, contact Help Desk Central.

NSA Operating System Configuration Guides

The NSA provides configuration guides for operating systems. These are an excellent source of detailed information about protecting specific operating systems.

For Windows 7, the NSA recommends the Microsoft Security Compliance Manager.

Avoiding Laptop Theft

Use common sense. Don't leave your laptop unattended. This includes using your backpack (with laptop in it) to "save a table" for lunch or leaving your laptop to go use the restroom in the library or lab.

Keep your laptop out of sight when you're not using it. Don't leave your laptop on the seat of your car.

Be sure your laptop is identifiable. Write down the make, model, and serial number of your laptop, and take a photo of it for insurance purposes.

Disposing of Computers

Erase your hard drive before discarding your computer. Even though deleting files in your file manager prevents you from seeing them, the data remains on your hard drive. Commonly available forensic tools can easily gain access to this data.  

For personal hard drives, you can gain an extra level of protection by "zeroing out" your data. Apple computers provide a tool for this. For Windows users, DBAN is a free, though slightly complex, software for this purpose. (Tip: Make sure you create a bootable CD when using DBAN)

For Texas A&M hard drives, Surplus Property provides a hard drive shredding service. See the Property Transfer Procedures for additional information.