Protecting the data on your computer


Disk failure, coffee accidents and cryptographic ransomware are a few things that can lead to the loss of data on your computer. The following are steps you can take to protect yourself against data loss:

  • Back up your data to a reliable back-up solution. This is the single most important thing you can do to prevent losing your data. A very popular backup solution for all operating systems is CrashplanTime Machine is also excellent for OSX. Consider paying for online backup solutions, or rotate backups so that at least one is always offsite. Rotating your backups mean you have more than one set of backup media and you use them in rotation (typically a week about). Keep the one that is not on the computer somewhere where it will be safe if the building burns down or (more likely) you get burgled and they take your backups along with your computer.
  • Setup your computer so that your operating system and as many other applications as possible are patched automatically.
  • Use programs such as Secunia Personal Software Inspector to notify you when new versions of your software are available to be installed.
  • Try to avoid (or uninstall if they are already running), vulnerable programs such as Flash and Java. While both flash and Java are widely installed, you may find that you can remove them with little to no inconvenience. Note that some online services still rely on flash (e.g. things like SkySports, TVNZ and TV3 on demand). If you need these, try accessing them through the Chrome browser which comes bundled with its own version of Flash.
  • Always use the newest browser versions - don’t get stuck using IE8!
  • Install ad-blockers on all your browsers.  A very popular ad-blocker is uBlock Origin and it’s available on Chrome and Firefox.
  • Install antivirus on your computer. The University provides a work-at-home license for ESET antivirus to staff who use their home computer for work purposes.
  • Be wary of emails that contain attachments.  Be especially wary of emails that prompt you to take urgent action or which provide links to what looks like the University's login page.  Be wary even if the email appears to be from someone you know because emails can be forged and email accounts can be hacked.
  • Not sure about a file or site - think it might be suspicious? Check it out on Google’s VirusTotal.  VirusTotal is a free service that analyses suspicious files and URLs and can help determine if a file or site is malicious. Note, new malware may not show up immediately.
  • Use Adobe Reader’s security features.  Adobe Reader is actually pretty safe if you make use of the available security settings. For Adobe Reader DC for Windows PC’s, use Protected View for files from potentially unsafe locations. When a PDF is opened in Protected View, you can view the PDF, but not do much else.  A yellow bar will display on top of the Reader DC window. Click "Enable All Features" to exit the Protected View.