Three security essentials for your PC

OIT Security and Compliance investigated in February 128 individual PC infections or attacks, the highest monthly volume and three to four times the typical monthly volume. Campus users could have avoided almost all of these computer infections by making sure three essential security items were active and up-to-date on their PCs: software firewalls, antivirus software and automatic security updates.


A software firewall prevents unauthorized users from gaining real-time access to your computer through a network or via the Internet. University-maintained PCs typically use the Windows firewall provided with the operating system by Microsoft, but this must be turned on and left on.


Antivirus software detects and removes various kinds of malware such as computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, most rootkits, spyware, dishonest adware, crimeware and other malicious and unwanted software. Your antivirus software must be installed, active and up-to-date in order to be effective. The antivirus software should also be set up to periodically scan storage such as hard drives in order to detect and remove stored copies of malware. It is also important that the antivirus software be configured to use automatic processes to update the antivirus software as well as the signature files for detecting viruses, as these may change several times a day in response to newly detected malware. NC State provides free antivirus software. To download the latest version, visit the NC State Antivirus Resources Web site.


Automatic security updates keep operating systems (and other software products) version level and patches up to date. Software vendors release security fixes (“patches”) for their software on a regular basis. Microsoft Windows provides a tool called Microsoft Update, which generally may be accessed from the “Start – All_Programs” button, to keep Windows and Office software patches current. It is also particularly important to patch other vendor provided software. Patching processes for these products are typically provided from a tools menu option within each product. These update options should be set to automatically update your computer when new patches are available, unless the computers are maintained by OIT Client Services (CS). CS uses a product called Patchlink to keep most software products current with tested patches on the PCs they maintain, including Microsoft Windows and Office products.

You can check the status of these three security essentials on your Windows computer by going to the Windows Security Center. To open the Security Center, click Start, select Settings and choose Control Panel, and then double-click Security Center. If you have a network administrator who manages your security settings, then the Security Center does not display your security status or send you alerts.