Protect your computer with up to date operating system and application software to prevent the exploitation of known security weaknesses. Verify that the auto-update setting is turned on when available.
Operating systems: Current Macintosh and Windows operating systems have an auto-update setting that should be turned on. The auto-update feature can be set to automatically download and install updates or it can be set to download and ask the user if they would like to install the updates. Starting with Microsoft Windows Vista and service pack 2 (SP2) for Windows XP the auto-update feature is on by default. Microsoft is no longer releasing security updates for Windows XP, 95, 98, ME or NT4; therefore, upgrading to a newer operating system is recommended.
Microsoft Office: Microsoft periodically releases updates and security patches for the Microsoft Office suite. Certain Office programs, particularly Microsoft Outlook, have many known security holes. It is strongly recommended to upgrade to Microsoft Office 2010 or 2013 for Windows or Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac and install all Office updates to prevent malicious attacks. Automatic updates can be enabled during install or through the program's Options/Preferences menu.
Web browsers: Web browsers are by nature prone to security breaches. The most commonly used browsers are Internet Explorer (IE) on Windows, Safari on Mac OS X, and Mozilla/Firefox or Google Chrome on both. Updates are regularly provided for them as new vulerabilities are discovered. IE and Safari are automatically updated along with operating system updates; current versions of Firefox automatically update themselves. If you use a different browser make certain it is being updated regularly.
Check browsers for Vulnerabilities and Patches: Due to the popularity of the world wide web, hackers are increasingly resorting to browser based attack also known as "drive by attacks". The greater breadth of functionality, browser complexity, and programming errors mean hackers can compromise the security of the computer running the browser or the server that interacts with web page content. Specially prepared and malicious web pages can then be used to write files onto the hard disk, manipulate the system or install viruses and other malware. Often, these vulnerabilities can be eliminated by installing the current browser patches. The CSU is currently licensing software from Qualys is available at https://browsercheck.qualys.com/ and is free.
Other Applications: Any application can have security vulnerabilities. Updates should be installed as soon as they are available to fix security holes. Many applications check for updates automatically, but not all do. Keep all of your application up-to-date.
Check VersionTracker for the latest versions of common applications.
The best way to way to protect against loss of data is to make regular backups of files to removable media (disks, CDs, memory sticks) or to a network drive. Backup software can be used to automate a regular back-up process. Store backups in a safe place, off-site if possible. Backups containing confidential data must be encrypted.