If You Connect It, Protect It

September 22, 2020

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All of us utilize devices that connect to a variety of networks. They each have differing levels of security protection whether we are working at home, or using a public Wi-Fi network in a coffee shop or the airport, in a mall, or at our place of work. Some of these networks are well protected, others may not be protected at all. And none of these networks are safe from being the target of a hacker, putting us and our sensitive information constantly at risk.

While these devices are doing wonders by making our lives easier, they’re also exposing us to all sorts of new threats. What can we do to reduce these threats? Regardless of where or why we’re connecting, we need to take adequate measures to ensure we’re protecting ourselves and our information.

If you are currently a student or employee of UCSC, and are using your device to access university data or connect to a campus network, make sure your device meets the minimum security standards. The mentioned controls and practices are UC’s systemwide baseline designed to protect UC’s Institutional Information and IT Resources.

So, how do you make sure your devices are secure?

ITS provides a free service to encrypt UC owned or managed  computers in order to protect the contents of the  hard drive from unauthorized access due to theft. The  system drive will be encrypted and a recovery key stored centrally so ITS can help unlock the  drive in the event of a malfunction.

You should turn on your firewall because it acts as a protective barrier between your computer and the internet, allowing only the network traffic you permit. Hackers search the Internet by sending out pings (calls) to random computers and wait for responses. Firewalls prevent your computer from responding to these calls.

Faculty and staff should consult with the ITS Support Center or your ITS Divisional Liaison before changing the firewall settings on a departmental computer. Students can contact the ITS Support Center for help and advice.

Unpatched computers are especially vulnerable to viruses and hackers. Install all critical and security-related updates when your programs tell you they are available. If you've never been prompted to do this, your computer and applications may not be configured to notify you when updates are available.

How many times have you left your device alone at the library or the coffee shop, completely at the mercy of a stranger you asked to watch over your stuff? How about those times when you had to run out of your dorm room to use the bathroom or throw out the trash, but was too lazy to lock up before you left?

All of these instances, and so much more, leave your devices and sensitive data at risk. There are numerous reports every year of stolen devices from dorm rooms and cafes, and in the end you’re the most reliable person to keep your devices secure.

To keep your devices physically secure, remember Lock before you Walk

  • Lock Your Doors and Never Leave Your Devices in the Car
  • Lock Up Your Laptop
  • Lock Your Screens

Your devices contain some of our most sensitive data, and hacking is not the only method of unauthorized access. Devices must be secure before connecting to a network, and should be physically secured at all times.