Resources for Educators

Teaching Tip

From the Teacher’s Aide Newsletter

2005 Summer

Computer Savvy Tips

Computer security is preventing outside influences, such as viruses and hackers, from fooling with your files, as well as protecting files from accidental damage. (If unprotected, in as little as five minutes from the moment your computer is connected to the Internet, you can expect it to be infected!) Research how the following tips can help secure your particular operating system, (e.g., Windows, Mac OS X, Linux). The good news is, your computer may already include most of these features!

Anti-Virus Programs: Cleaning Out Viruses, Malware, and Trojans

An infected computer often runs slowly, becomes plagued with pop-ups or crashes frequently. Here are some options to cure your computer:

  • Commercial anti-virus programs: Norton’s Anti-Virus or McAfee
  • Freeware programs (free download from the Web): Spybot or AdAware
  • Take your computer to your local trusted computer shop

Encryption: Coding Private Data

Encryption is the process of saving documents and other files which contain private information in coded form. Client information, for instance, should certainly be kept in encrypted form. You enter a (secret) password and the encryption program uses this password to scramble the bits of the document, or a whole drive; the document cannot be unscrambled without the password. Encryption can be applied at different levels: single files; multiple directories; and whole disks.

Backing Up: Data Loss Prevention

Data backup is making sure your information is safe even if there’s a system crash or some other equipment failure. You can lose a document in lots of ways, such as accidentally deleting it; your hard drive failing for some reason; or you mess it up while moving it from one disk to another. There are several different ways of backing up: full backup; daily backup; specific backup; disaster backup; and automatic scheduled backup.

Firewalls: Protecting against Viruses and Trojans

A firewall is like a force field for your computer. Though Windows XP has a built-in firewall, it isn’t necessarily enabled when you first get your computer. You can switch on the built-in firewall yourself by following the instructions on one of the following websites:

  • XP, Vista, 7, and beyond have the firewall enabled by default.
  • Windows 2000, unfortunately, does not include a software firewall at all.
  • Other operating systems (OSX, linux) have firewalls that are enabled by default.

User Accounts: Access Control

Most operating systems allow you to setup several user accounts on the same computer. Each user is assigned a name and a password, so that he or she can have the computer set up differently. Some programs can be made available to everyone, as needed.

Among these accounts, there is a pre-defined account called “Administrator” that allows unfettered access to all aspects of the system. It cannot be emphasized enough that the Administrator account is used only for system maintenance (e.g., installing programs, setting up firewalls, running anti-virus programs). A separate ordinary account should be created even for the principal user of the computer, with reduced privileges for general use.