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Safe Web Browsing

Your computer is a goldmine to hackers. If they can get their cyber-hands on your data they can find personal information; if they can steal keystrokes they can steal money; if they can steal personal connections they can go on to a whole new round of hacking. Even if they aren't interested in stealing, they can slow down your computer, cause damage to your files, and use your computer to infect others.

Use Common Sense and Be Savvy

There's no substitute for common sense and vigilance. When you browse the web, don't download from sites with which you are not familiar. One common practice is for hackers to create supposed spyware removal tools that actually download spyware onto your computer. Don't fall for fake sweepstakes or rewards; don't believe that you actually are the millionth customer to visit a site and are eligible to win a fantastic prize. And don't let emails guide you to websites: Type in the addresses of websites yourself to make sure you're going where you expect.

Update your Web Browser

It is a good idea to keep your web browser up to date to enhance security. Security updates are automatically installed for Safari when you run the Mac or Apple Software Updates. Firefox has an automatic update option built in, but there are times when it fails to update, particulary on a Mac. If you need help upgrading Firefox, call the help desk (x5418) for guidance.

Don't Store Passwords

While storing passwords and form information can be convenient, it is not a good idea to do so. For example, if you store your password for logging into TheHub, anyone who gains access to your computer can also gain access to any confidential data that your account can view and edit. This is also a concern if you use your computer to do any personal financial banking or purchasing. To be safe, turn off the save password and store form information options.

  • Firefox
    Locate Firefox-->Preferences (Mac) or Tools-->Options (PC). Click on the Privacy icon, and select "Use custom settings for history" from the "Firefox will:" drop-down. Clear the checkmark in the box to "Remember search and form history." Also go to the "Security" tab and uncheck "Remember passwords for sites".
  • Safari
    From the "Safari" menu, select "Preferences." Click on the "Autofill" icon, and, at a minimum, uncheck the "Usernames and passwords" box.

Public Wireless Security

You can send emails and access the web from almost any public place these days. But should you? Public wireless networks are public because they do not require passwords to log in. They transport your bits and bytes of data in clear text, which means that anyone who has a mind to can intercept and access any of the information you are sending on the airwaves. The article Coffee shop WiFi for dummies provides lots of details.

Here are the key points in a nutshell:

  1. Use a secure web browser. That means either Firefox or Safari, NOT Internet Explorer.
  2. Do not log into web pages that contain personal data such as financial accounts with your credit card, bank account, or social security numbers.
  3. If you do surf to these type of sites, make sure their addresses begin with https:// NOT http://. You will also see a locked padlock in the lower right corner of the browser window frame.
  4. Checking email should be done through SSL. That's a setting that we configure in Thunderbird here at Hampshire. To confirm that your Thunderbird is properly configured, see the Thunderbird settings quick reference guideWebmail also uses encryption. If you use a different email client, look around in the Preferences or Options to find where to set it to SSL.
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Information Technology
Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002
Phone + Email
413.559.5418
Fax: 413.559.5419
helpdesk@hampshire.edu