CSI: UW The Scene of the Crime

Today’s post – all about desktop security in a not so obvious way. What happens when you get up for a split second to take a call in the union and someone jumps on and steals your files or just messes with your computer so you’re locked out indefinitely? Read on!

The Scene of the Desktop Crime

Scenario 1 : You’re in your office. You leave to get a cup of coffee and when you return you notice that sensitive information that you have access to is up on your computer. Anyone could have come in and retrieved it.

Scenario 2 : You’re in your room at home or in the residence halls. You leave to visit the restroom and when you return you notice that sensitive information that you have access to is up on your computer. Anyone could have come in and retrieved it.

Scenario 3 : You’re in the lab working on a paper. You leave to answer a cell phone call and a few minutes later when you return your paper is gone and it looks like your files have been accessed.

These are just 3 possible scenarios in which thieves or unauthorized users could get access to sensitive and/or personal information on your computer. How could access to your information be prevented? Here are some tips for keeping your desktop computer more secure and preventing unauthorized access to your data.

The Desktop Computer in Your Office or Home

  • Lock up your office or your room when you are out
    If you are out of the office or your room, it should be closed and locked. Even if you think the area is safe, keep in mind that others may have keys and could gain access to your computer.
  • Lock your computer
    In your office or room – always use CTRL-ALT-DEL in Microsoft™ Windows and select “Lock Computer”. This will prevent someone from coming in and accessing information on your machine. To unlock your computer, press CTRL-ALT-DEL, type your password and press enter.
  • Use a strong password and keep it to yourself
    A strong password can stop others from accessing your files and hard drive. Use a mixture of at least 8 characters including uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Do not have your browser remember passwords
    If your browser remembers them, anyone who gains access to your computer can gain access to the sites you visit.
  • Configure a screen saver password
    This will require you to unlock your computer to stop the screen saver from running and allow you to access your computer. The screensaver and password can be set in the Control Panel Display settings or System Preferences.
  • Remove the guest account
    This will prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to your machine.
  • Use a strong password on the administrator account
    This password should be different from your personal account.

The Desktop Computers in the Computer Labs

In the computer labs on campus, the computers cannot be locked. Never leave your computer unattended. If you must leave for a short time, log off of the machine. Inform Lab Assistants if you have problems logging off.


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