Preventing Virus Infection

The most important actions you should take to avoid viruses and malware:
  1. Install the current version of an anti-virus software program  WITS recommends using Sophos, the same application used on our campus systems.
  2. Keep up with your Operating System Updates. For Windows users this means doing your Windows Updates. For Macintosh users, this means checking your Software Updater. Many viruses come in through security holes or vulnerabilities in your OS. The makers of the OS (e.g. Microsoft) are always finding new holes that need to be plugged up. By keeping up with your updates, you are severely limiting the number of viruses that can even make it to your computer, much less do any harm. Almost all of the infected computers that come by the Help Desk are not current with their updates. Protect yourself, do your updates.
  3. Exercise reasonable caution when opening e-mail attachments, even if they seem to come from a friend of yours - in fact, especially if they seem to come from a friend, since most recent viruses have exploited the power of some e-mail programs by sending themselves to everyone in an infected machine's address book. If you're not expecting to receive an attachment from someone or if the nature of the message seems odd (the dean will not be sending you her favorite list of jokes), then don't open the attachment until you have confirmed that it is legitimate.
  4. Turn off File Sharing. At home, file sharing can make life easier.  On a campus network, however, it's quite risky.  If you have your computer set up for local file and printer sharing you'll want to disable the feature.  Contact our Help Desk if you need assistance disabling file sharing.
  5. Watch for Phishing Attempts.  Phishing, tricking people into giving away their passwords, is one of the most common threats out there.  If someone has your WU username and password they can do irreparable damage to your computer and the files on it; they can also access any of our internal systems to which you have access and change vital data...including where your paycheck is deposited!

You need all of these actions to protect your computer fully. AV software will fend off most viruses and malware, including those arriving in a downloaded program, a compromised website, or an email attachment.  If you didn't expect it, don't click on it, don't download it.

There is one other thing that you can do to protect yourself.

It requires more effort on your part than the two crucial actions listed above, but it has the advantage of protecting you not only in the event of a virus attack, but also from hardware failures, badly written software, theft, fire, flood, spilled soft drinks, and your own crazed actions after a sleepless night spent writing a paper ahead of a looming deadline.  Backup your critical files.

Google Drive, included with your Willamette email account, is free, unlimited, and secure.  If you are in the midst of a big, important project like a final paper, take-home exam, or senior thesis, any of the above scenarios can prove catastrophic.  Creating important files in a Google Doc or Sheet ensures they are backed up automatically and constantly, with the ability to go back and undo major modifications or accidental deletion.


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