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General Security Practices
Secure Your Devices
We use our devices for so many important tasks today. It is important that we secure these devices. Whether it be a laptop, desktop, mobile phone or tablet, it can be secured so that if it is lost, stolen, misplaced, or just accessed the data is protected. Many of the best practices outlined below are required for your University computer or mobile device when working with sensitive data. For more information visit our Data Classification page. Using these recommendations will help secure both your personal and university devices.
In general, the easiest thing you can do to secure your device is to set a password. All devices have some type of password or PIN code protection. It is recommended that your PIN code be 4 or more characters and your password be 8 or more characters. You should also avoid using easily guessed passwords and PIN codes. A password of “Pass1234” and a PIN of “1234” are not good security.
Your device should always be set to auto-lock when you are not using it. This prevents someone from accessing the information on your device by just walking up to it. It is recommended to have your smartphone or tablet auto-lock after no longer than 2 minutes and have your desktop or laptop computer enable an auto-locking screensaver after no longer than 10 minutes. You can find instructions online or at the links below.
Update your device and the apps
Another important step in securing your device is keeping it up-to-date. The software and hardware manufactures routinely update their systems to add new features and to patch holes that may be used to exploit your device. So, you should update your core operating system, like Windows, IOS or Android, as well as any applications you may be running.
Most systems have a way to update the core operating system in the general settings or control panel. If you are updating applications, that can be done in the applications store of your mobile device or Apple computer.
To update applications on a Windows computer, it is not that simple. Windows 8 and 10 have an application store to update apps. However, some applications have their own settings for updates and others you just have to visit the vendor’s website and check.
Malware and viruses can run on any system. (Yes, even your cellphone and Macintosh.) At UMSL we use an Antivirus program produced by Microsoft but there are many others you can use. For personal use, there are good free antivirus tools you can get from Avast, AVG, Panda and Sophos. Malwarebytes is another good tool for finding and removing Malware on Windows systems. If you are looking for a tool for your mobile device, you can try an application called LookOut.
Encrypting data on your computer or mobile device is a great way to safeguard your data should your device get lost or stolen. Encryption is the process of encoding information so that only authorized persons can read it. So, if someone steals your device, they have to have a special “key” to see the data. That key can be a passcode, PIN or a smart card. (Never store your passcode, PIN or smart card with your device.)
WARNING!! If you encrypt a device and forget or lose your passcode, PIN or smart card, you will not be able to get the data back!
IPhones and IPads have built in encryption; it is activated when you set a PIN or passcode. On the Passcode screen in settings you will see “Data Protection Enabled” at the bottom and that lets you know it is encrypted.
Android devices have options to encrypt; it just depends on your version. These options on most Android devices are available by going to your settings, then to security.
The University has established polices and tools for University owned systems. If you are working with sensitive data and need it to be encrypted or have policy questions, please contact the Technology Support Center at 314-516-6034.