If You Connect It, Protect It: Securing Your Personal Devices

Image: Cybersecurity

Published on Oct. 13, 2020

Leaves changing colors? Check. Pumpkin spice latte? Check. Cybersecurity Awareness Month? Check.

Each October, Computing and Technology Services (CTS) celebrates Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a global, month-long event that promotes best practices for protecting your online identity. This year's Cybersecurity Awareness Month themes include protecting any devices that connect to the internet and securing devices at home and work.

With many people still working and learning remotely, more computers and mobile devices are being connected to the internet than ever before. If your devices are not properly secured, cybercriminals can hack into them and steal your personal information or install infectious malware. So what are some ways you can protect your personal computer, tablet or smartphone?

Secure your devices with antivirus software

Think of antivirus software as a shield that protects your devices from unwanted spyware, malware and other online threats. These pieces of malicious software can be unintentionally downloaded onto your device, making it difficult to know if and when they were installed.

To protect your devices from these cyber threats, we recommend installing antivirus software. Duquesne students can download Sophos Home edition for free; faculty and staff can download Sophos Home Commercial edition for free by signing up with their University email address.

Install operating system updates

An operating system supports a computer's basic functionality, from opening and closing applications to adjusting the brightness of your display to creating folders to store documents. If this important piece of software is not kept up-to-date with patches and software updates, your device can become susceptible to bugs and security vulnerabilities. Follow these steps to check for operating system updates on your personal Windows OS, macOS and iOS devices.

Windows 10

  1. Click the search icon in the bottom left and type "settings" into the search box.
  2. Open the Settings app.
  3. Select Update & Security.
  4. Click Check for Updates.
  5. Install and apply recommended updates.

macOS (Mojave or later)

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Select Software Update. Your device will automatically check for updates.
  3. If an update is available, click Update Now.

iOS

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Go to General and then Software Update. Your device will automatically check for updates.
  3. If an update is available, click Download and Install.

Update third-party apps

Third-party apps are pieces of software made by a developer who is not the device's manufacturer. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Adobe Reader DC are just a few of the most frequently used third-party apps.

Just like your device's operating system, these pieces of software also need frequent updates to keep your computer secure. Third-party apps typically offer built-in updating options that can be set to install updates automatically or check for updates each time the software is opened.

Lock down your mobile devices

Mobile devices provide quick and convenient access to your banking account information, email account and any mobile payment options. With so much important information being a few taps away, you should take extra steps to make sure your device is as secure as possible.

Setting a six-digit passcode or using facial recognition to unlock your device is a great step to take. If you misplace your device or someone steals it, they can't access your accounts without your passcode or facial ID.

Another security measure to take is enabling the ability to remotely erase data on your device. Again, if your device is lost or stolen, you can delete all data on the device to ensure your personal information doesn't fall into a cybercriminal's hands. Some services, such as Find My iPhone, allow you to track the location of your device.