Safe Computing Essentials

There are many ways a computer could be at risk, including unwanted intrusions and accidents. Fortunately, there are several simple steps you can follow to make sure your information is safe and your computer is secure.

Protecting Your Computer from Intrusions

Viruses and spyware can easily infect your computer, particularly if you are running Windows, threatening not only your computer’s security but also your own identity and financial information. There are a few simple steps that you can — and should — take to keep your computer safe and secure.

1. Keep your system up to date

  • Windows 7 and Vista
    Select Start > All Programs > Windows Update. You may need to RE-RUN the program to assure that you have loaded ALL available critical updates.
  • Windows XP
    Launch Internet Explorer and visit the Microsoft Update site. Follow the on-screen instructions to update your computer. You may need to RE-RUN the program to assure that you have loaded ALL available critical updates.
  • Mac OS X 10.4+
    Select Apple > Software Update. The program automatically checks for and downloads any available updates.

2. Run anti-virus software

BU has site-licensed McAfee VirusScan software for both PCs and Macs; download and install it for free. You may run other anti-virus software instead, but running this licensed version will save you from having to pay for annual maintenance contracts.

3. Run a spyware removal program (Windows Only)

Spyware is at least as prevalent as viruses and can be even more dangerous. Along with your anti-virus program, we recommend you use an anti-spyware program. We recommend that you download and install and run  free anti-malware software to protect your computer.

4. Install a firewall

A firewall helps protect you against unwanted outside connections to your computer. Everyone on the Internet should use a firewall in addition to anti-virus and spyware removal software. A firewall helps you block unwanted connections to open network ports on your computer. You might open a port on purpose, but a port can also be opened by a virus or worm, without your knowledge. Once a port is opened, a stranger may be able to take control of your computer, or your computer may be used to spread viruses and other malware. Learn more about firewalls and how to get one.

5.  Install security patches

Vulnerabilities in software are constantly being discovered and they don’t discriminate by vendor or platform. Every month, check for and apply software updates for your operating system and all software you use.

6. Choose a strong password

Using a strong password is an extremely important security measure. Many people use passwords that are based on personal information, however, that also makes it easier for an attacker to crack them. Longer passwords are more secure than shorter ones because there are more characters to guess, so consider using a passphrase. Use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. It helps to include both lowercase and capital letters. Avoid writing your password down. Never give your password to anyone and watch out for e-mails requesting that you reveal your passwords. Boston University will never ask you for your password.

E-mail Precautions

No one at Boston University will ever ask you for your password in e-mail! Don’t become a victim of identity theft. You may occasionally receive messages that claim that BU will delete your account (or similar) unless you respond and supply your password. These dangerous phishing scams are attempts to steal your identity. Responding to such scams gives away access to your account and personal information. 

If you receive suspicious e-mail asking you to reply or go to a website to provide information about your BU, Bank of America, eBay, PayPal, Chase Bank or other account, don’t do it!

  1. Be skeptical of unexpected e-mail, even if it appears to be from a BU address or someone you know, and especially if it requests you to provide or verify personal or financial details or information about an account. “From” addresses are easy to fake. “Phishing” scams often appear to come from your bank, or services such as PayPal or eBay. They may say that they’ve observed suspicious activity on your account, and threaten to disable your access if you don’t click on a link and provide verifying information about your account.
  2. Avoid opening or previewing e-mails from an unknown sender
  3. Don’t open unexpected e-mail attachments. They can infect your computer with a virus or spyware, or install a keystroke logger on your system, allowing criminals to collect information about your online banking accounts, your passwords, and your credit card numbers. Clicking on a link to visit a malicious webpage can also install viruses, spyware, and keystroke loggers on your computer.
  4. Filter out spam. Spam is always annoying, and it can be dangerous too: spam e-mail often contains virus, spyware, or phishing exploits. You can protect yourself from many of these hazards by filtering spam.

*NOTE: If you are unsure about the legitimacy of an e-mail you have received, report it to If possible, when you are forwarding a sample message, it is helpful if you include full headers using these instructions.


Accidents such as hard drive crashes and spills happen all of the time and it is extremely important to back up your data.

If you think you are infected…

  1. If you suspect your computer has a virus, contact the BUMC IT Service Desk at (617) 638-5914 or
  2. Protect against regular, old fashioned theft by registering your notebook computer with the BUPD.