Disease free: how students can protect their computers from digital infections

In a society where technology has become as necessary to everyday life as food, clothing and shelter, computer users are reminded to watch out for under toes while surfing the web.

With the growing popularity of downloading software such as iPods and MP3 players and the phenomenon of Web sites like Myspace.com and Facebook, students are more susceptible to online dangers.

Tim McGuffin, network security personnel for computer services said, “User education is the best way to get computer savvy. By knowing background information about the different viruses and how they operate is the first line of defense for having a clean hard drive.”

Aside from gaining knowledge about different viruses and other online malicious software, setting up a personal firewall and downloading free Microsoft anti-spyware or adware protection is recommended. Personal firewalls are set up by default if your computer is running Windows XP service package two for PC users.

Installing and running anti-virus applications such as Norton or McAfee, help to clean hard drives but because it is a reactive program, anti-virus software can only help after the fact, making it the second line of defense for computer users according to McGuffin.

Whether you choose Norton or Mcafee, both are reliable and provide roughly the same protection.

“Both companies provide descent coverage, are easily accessible, both are cost effective and both are good at providing virus protection updates,” said computer science professor, Karon Murff.

For those students wanting to add movies or music to their online library using downloading sites like WinMX or Limewire, should be more careful before double clicking for their favorite’s.

“You should know what you are downloading and do some research before downloading or sharing files from other users,” said McGuffin. “A user can be downloading a virus instead of songs in some cases.”

Murff said, “Downloading from a site like iTunes for example, a bigger company, would be safer rather than downloading from obscure sites.”

As far as blogging sites like Myspace and Facebook, which deal more with privacy issues, “you have to be particular with what you put on those Web sites. With search engines like Google, it is so easy to look up personal information without knowing too much about a person, masking users more susceptible to online danger,” said Murff.

There are 3,000 computers registered with the network on campus, and viruses can spread rather quickly. Computer Services provide general tools to help students who stumble across trouble on the SHSU local area network (LAN).

“We monitor the network, and we shutdown account access,” said McGuffin. “When students get viruses, we provide software to clean it up.”

Visit the computer services Web site at http://www.shsu.edu/~ucs_www/security/ for more information on viruses and security.

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