Enable Security Features on Your Device
Older or unpatched software increases exposure to vulnerabilities in the operating system, application software, and apps that can allow attackers to control your system or steal your private data.
You have private data (i.e., academic records, your tax information, your family's information) stored on your personal device. If your device is lost or stolen, the private information could be accessed by whoever has your device.
How can you protect private data stored on your device or transmitted to others from your device?
Use Automatic Updates to Always Apply Updates When Notified
To keep your computer or device current, enable automatic updates.
The automatic updates feature included with the operating system is usually on by default. Choose the automatic update setting option when installing software or apps.
Some updates require a restart of the software application or the computer/device to complete the installation.
You can also download individual updates if one fails or if the auto-update did not include it.
Use a Firewall
Firewalls provide some protection from others on the internet who are attempting to obtain unauthorized access to your computer or device.
Use the firewall included with your computer/device operating system. It will provide basic firewall functionality and protection. This is usually enabled by default. Check with the operating system vendor for information on how to customize the host-based firewall.
Caution: Misconfiguration of a firewall can prevent all Internet access on your computer/device.
Use Anti-virus/Malware Detection Software
Anti-virus software provides protection from getting infected with malicious software also known as malware. It can never protect you from all malware.
Use the anti-virus software included with your computer/device operating system. This is usually enabled by default. Another option is to purchase and install anti-virus software from a reputable vendor. In either case, actively use the anti-virus software.
Caution: When switching anti-virus software, begin by uninstalling other anti-virus programs that may be installed on your computer.
Use Encryption on the Device or Storage Media
Use the full disk encryption, which is usually included with the computer/device operating system. Sometimes you need to enable this feature, and sometimes it is on by default. When full disk encryption is turned on, everything stored on the device is automatically encrypted; you do not have to decide what or what not to encrypt.
Use encryption on USB devices and external hard drives.
Some important reminders:
- Encryption is dependent on using a strong password (or passphrase), protecting the password (or passphrase), and using a screen saver lock with authentication.
- Encryption does not protect data if someone else uses your password associated with the encryption.
- Periodically check that encryption is still enabled.
- Do not decrypt a file and store in a temporary file someplace. If this occurs, be sure to securely wipe/erase the temporary file from disk.
- All encrypted data can be permanently lost if you forget the encryption password (or passphrase). If you decide to save them, decryption key should be locked in a a safe location.
Note: When traveling abroad, some foreign countries do not allow encryption. To learn more, see Technology Guidance for International Travel.