Security on the Network and Internet

Revised February 20, 2008

General information about how your data is protected at HCC:

  • All Harford Community College computers are patched and protected as antivirus software is released.
  • Members of CTS have been trained in computer forensics and there are documented procedures to help with law enforcement investigations, should the college be hit by any form of cyber crime.
  • The college has established and tested security configurations for all of our campus computers.
  • The college has implemented firewall defenses at several levels, thus creating several independent layers of protection.
  • All college computers are protected from variations of viruses and any computer that fails to pass antivirus scans is isolated on the network.
  • Full-Time college employees undergo manditory information security training.
  • College employees do not send any sensitive information in e-mails.

The college collects information on who, where, what, and when anyone accesses sensitive data files. Software can alert if abnormalities (unauthorized access) occur. All sensitive college data is protected and periodic security audits are performed by outside consultants to insure that we are protecting data in conformance with various federal and state laws.

Harford Community College takes security on the network very seriously. All computers on campus are patched and protected with new updates/antivirus software as they are released. The college also has security devices and procedures in place to ensure that your information is safe, and systems are protected.

However - YOUR HOME COMPUTER COULD BE AT GREAT RISK. According to Swedish security company Sophos, 50% of unpatched and unprotected systems will be infected with malicious code within 12 minutes of being connected to the Internet.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to help protect your computer at home:

  • Patch your operating system.

Download and install all available patches and service packs by connecting to Windows Update.

  • Install a firewall.

Windows XP comes with a basic firewall, and if you are running Windows Vista, it does come with a more robust firewall (Windows Firewall) than XP, as well as anti-spyware utilities (Windows Defender). However, the consensus is; third party applications are usually more effective. Keep in mind that the XP firewall offers only minimal protection.

There are a number of free firewalls that are worth considering. The following are two that do the job particularly well.

Comodo Firewall (www.comodogroup.com)
The definitive free firewall, Comodo Firewall protects your system by defeating hackers and restricting unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet.

ZoneAlarm (www.zonelabs.com)
The free version of ZoneAlarm lacks the features of ZoneAlarm Pro’s firewall. Its program control asks you regularly whether to allow programs; for some this can be intrusive and annoying. But it’s been around forever it seems, and it can’t be shut down, or out, by mal-ware.

  • Install anti-virus software.

There is no doubt that an unprotected computer will become infected by viruses and malware within minutes of first being connected to the internet. There are many free versions of anti-virus software available and the programs that have a well justified reputation are listed below.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition (www.free.grisoft.com)
Similarly, this program scans files on access, on demand, and on schedule. Scans email; incoming and outgoing. For those on Vista, your in luck, it’s Vista-ready.

avast! 4 Home Edition (http://www.avast.com/)
This anti virus app is a real fighter, scanning files on demand and on access, including email attachments. Let’s you know when it detects mal-ware through its shield function. An important feature is a boot-time scan option which removes mal-ware that can’t be remove any other way.

  • Install Spyware and Adware Software.

It’s not only a virus that can put your computer down for the count, but a multitude of nasties freely floating on the Internet. Listed below are a number of free programs that offer very good protection against malware.

SpyCatcher Express (www.tenebril.com)
SpyCatcher does a good job of cleaning out spy-ware and at stopping further infestation.

Ad-Aware 2007 (www.lavasoftusa.com)
Many software reviewers consider Ad-Aware 2007 Free as the best free spyware and adware remover available. It does a relatively good job of protecting against known data-mining, Trojans, dialers, malware, browser hijackers and tracking components. The only downside with the free version is real-time protection is not included.

WinPatrol (www.winpatrol.com)
Do you want to get a better understanding of what programs are being added to your computer? Then WinPatrol is the program for you. With WinPatrol, in your system tray, you can monitor system areas that are often changed by malicious programs. You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.

ThreatFire 3 (www.threatfire.com)
ThreatFire 3 blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job.

If you are now on the Internet, and you have not yet taking the precautions as outlined above, you are extremely vulnerable and it is critical that you take the following precautions:

Stop surfing the Web and patch your operating system. Only then download the protective software as noted above, or software that you are familiar with that will do an appropriate job of protecting your computer.

Do not visit any other websites until you have done this!


Additional security precautions:

Establish a password for the administrator account. Only you should have access to the administrator settings on your PC. Unfortunately, XP installs with open access to the administrator’s account. Be sure to change this.

Create a new password protected user account. Using this account for your general day-to-day activities adds another layer of protection to your computer. A user account does not have the same all-access permissions as your administrator account, and in many cases this extra layer of protection will restrict malware from gaining a foothold on your PC.

Good luck and safe surfing.

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