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Device Security
Author: Michelle Malkasian, Office of Information Technology
Posted: December 30, 2013

Computers are essential work and study tools for most of us. However, they're also vulnerable to both electronic and physical attackers unless strong protective measures are taken. Without good device security, unauthorized users can easily gain access to sensitive information stored on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device, which can result in disastrous personal data loss and exposure of University data.

Good device security can minimize these risks and only requires following a few basic guidelines:

  • Remove unnecessary data
    The best way to protect sensitive information is to remove it from your device altogether. Delete files that contain private data if you don't need them or store them on your network drive.

  • Set a password/passcode
    Set up your computer to require a password when it's locked or woken from a sleep state. For mobile devices, set a passcode to be entered to unlock the device. Be sure to then lock or log off your device whenever you're not using it.

  • Use an anti-virus program
    Use an anti-virus program on any computer that is connected to the internet to protect it from viruses, malware, and spyware. The PSU community can download McAfee AntiVirus for free.

  • Set up safeguards in case you lose your device
    Many mobile devices, such as laptops and smartphones, have services that can be enabled to track your device, set messages to be displayed on its screen, and/or wipe it of all data, in the event that it is lost or stolen.
    • Apple devices (iOS, iPad, Mac) can use the Find My iPhone app.
    • Android devices can use the Android Device Manager app.
    • Windows laptops can use numerous programs. LoJack is a popular paid app, while Prey is one of the most popular free apps.

  • Encrypt your data
    Encrypt all sensitive data on your computer to prevent it from being read by a hacker. PSU Windows laptop users will soon be able to set up automatic encryption of their entire hard drive.

  • Choose apps carefully
    Be cautious about what software and apps you install on your computers and mobile devices. Many criminals hide viruses and other malware in program files on the internet. Only download from reputable sources and if you have an anti-virus program, scan the program before running it the first time.

  • Dispose of equipment safely
    When it's time to retire your mobile device or computer, make sure that any sensitive information on the device has been completely erased. PSU-owned computers and laptops are wiped of all data before being reused or sent off-site for disposal, but your personally owned devices should be wiped using data destruction software before you sell or recycle it.

It can take as little as a few seconds for someone to access your files if your device isn't properly protected. To avoid the possibility of unauthorized access, follow the guidelines above and use common sense with portable devices. Don't leave mobile devices unattended, even for a moment, and avoid making them tempting targets for thieves (such as leaving them in your car or in your hotel room while travelling).

Although it's impossible to completely eliminate the risks of unauthorized access or theft in our increasingly computerized world, you can avoid giving criminals any easy opportunities. With some basic planning, you'll be on your way to having good device security.

Photo attribution: [Flickr]