Security Overview

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP and will no longer issue security patches and bug fixes for Windows XP. This will make computers running Windows XP vulnerable to malicious attacks and malware. For this reason, we strongly urge all Windows XP users to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.1 by April 8.

For more information, see itservices.usc.edu/news/windowsxpeol/.

Computer security is important for all computer users. Information Technology Services encourages all users to install and maintain security software.

To protect your computer from viruses, worms, hacking attempts, and data theft, ITS recommends that you follow the guidelines listed below. ITS will block network access for users whose equipment has been compromised and poses a security threat to the network. If your network access has been blocked, you will need to resolve the problem and apply any relevant security patches in order to restore access.

Keep Security Updates Current

Both Microsoft and Apple release regular security updates for their operating systems (Windows and OS X respectively). You should check for security updates once a week. You can also configure your system to check for updates automatically. See Windows Security or Mac OS X Security for more information on configuring your system.

Application Security Updates

Applications such as web browsers, email clients, JAVA, browser plugins and extensions such as Flash, and others also release regular security patches and updates. You should apply these patches and updates as soon as they become available.

Maintain Secure Passwords and Accounts

It is important to create secure passwords (also known as strong passwords). For more information, see the About Your USC Password page.

Use Caution with Email Links and Attachments

Scam artists and hackers often send infected email attachments or links to compromised websites. Make sure your email program automatically scans all email and attachments to keep your computer safe.

  • Do not open attachments or click links in email from people you do not know.
  • If the attachment looks suspicious, do not open the file. Save it to your computer and scan it for viruses. Make sure your antivirus software is up to date.

Install and Regularly Update Your Antivirus Software

USC provides free antivirus software for USC account holders on the software download page. If you already have an antivirus program, do not download another one, since these programs may interfere with each other. USC provides support and information on installing and maintaining Sophos Endpoint Security.

Although viruses written specifically for Mac OS X are uncommon, it is still a good idea to run antivirus software, especially to combat PC viruses attached to emails and cross-platform macro viruses, such as those aimed at attacking Microsoft Office programs. See Sophos Endpoint Security for more information.

Install and Maintain a Firewall Program

A firewall protects your computer from unwanted network intrusions by hackers or self-spreading worms that infiltrate your computer through open network ports. Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP and Mac OS X have built-in firewalls. See Windows Security or Mac OS X Security for more information on enabling these on your system.

Avoid and Remove Malware

Malware is a type of malicious program that runs invisibly and collects information about the person using that computer. For more information about avoiding and removing malware, see the malware documentation.

Ensure Secure Connections

Whenever you connect to the Internet or another computer on a network, data can be exchanged between your computer and the Web or your computer and another one on the same network.

Getting Help

ITS Customer Support Center provides support for software available on the software download page. Contact your software’s vendor or the vendor’s website for support for other programs.

For questions, please contact the Customer Support Center at 213-740-5555 or send an email to consult@usc.edu.