10-26-2016  4:09 pm      •     
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With college students already preparing for the fall semester, most will pack up a laptop computer for the trip. Whether that student brings an older family laptop or debuts a shiny new machine this semester, there are several critical steps that any student, or parent, should take to protect the computer, the data and even family privacy.
• Know the rules. Make sure your student has the required software for each class and the school's rules and requirements for using computers on campus. For example, most campuses won't allow computers without anti-virus software and ban file sharing sites for security reasons.
• Immediately update Windows when a new security patch is available. Don't ignore the pop-up in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen telling you that you need to install the latest security patch. Windows is providing you with a shield to protect your computer.
• Security. Make sure the student has a physical lock that denies access to the keyboard (great deterrent for thieves).
• Back it up! Before that eager student leaves for the semester back up all important files, including work/school documents, pictures and music. External hard drives and off-site daily back-up services are the most common and sensible solutions.
• What's the password? Protect all of your important papers, research or projects with a password. This can be done through Windows XP or other programs. Also, password-protect your computer so that a nosey roommate can't log on and delete your term paper; make sure to never use any personal identification when creating these passwords like your social security number, birth date or pet's name. Always use a number-letter combination and change it every month.
• Stay healthy. It is vital to have the most up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on your computer. Reputable software companies include MacAfee, Trend Micro and Symantec. The programs they provide often have anti-spyware tools built-in. Another great anti-spyware program is Webroot's Spysweeper.
• BYOR (Bring Your Own Router). Make sure you have you own router with a built-in firewall for added protection. Linksys, 3Com and Netgear offer mobile solutions and ensure the network is closed and protected. Also, if the laptop is able to connect to the school's network or your router from home wirelessly, it is important to disable your laptop's wireless radio when not in use. This is an added security measure to keep evildoers away.
• Be street smart, not just book smart. Don't open e-mails or files from unknown senders. You don't know Bill Gates and he wouldn't e-mail you directly, so don't open an e-mail that appears to be from him or anyone else with whom you are unfamiliar.
• Buy new. Older computers are less compatible with newer software and have a greater potential to freeze, lose data or waste hours of work.
• Invest in a printer. Proofreading is much easier on paper than on-screen, and the dean's list could be at stake.
• Bonus tip: Videophone home. Be sure and pick up a Webcam and a microphone because programs like Windows Messenger and Skype allow you to turn the college-bound genius's PC into a videophone so you can see them more than once a semester. Students should also be equipped with a back up hard drive and any accessories like a wireless mouse and keyboard.

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