Protecting Your Computer

Many software programs help you protect your computer from attack and damage.

By far, one of the best things you can do to stay safe is to update your programs. Promptly installing updates for your operating system, browser, and other software makes your computer and your information less vulnerable to attacks.


The first step in protecting a computer is having anti-virus software installed and kept up-to-date. Anti-virus software is a class of program that searches the computer for any known or potential viruses. Ithaca College and Apogee ResNet require that all computers have anti-virus software on them. College owned computers are protected with Microsoft's System Center Endpoint Protection (SCEP) set to scan automatically once a week. If a virus is found, the software will prompt the user to do something typically "remove" or "quarantine" the virus.

There is a large variety of free anti-virus software available, with many good products out there for Windows machines. Rather than recommending one solution in particular, here are some links to reviews of free anti-virus software: PC Magazine, PC Advisor, Tom's Guide. Computers that are running Windows 8 and greater come with a built in anti-virus call "Windows Defender". Defender is the home version of the SCEP software used for college computers.

Although Macs have the reputation of not having viruses, this is not the case. Here are links to reviews of antivirus programs for OS X and MacOS: Tom's Guide, Digital Trends.

Personal Firewalls

A personal firewall is computer application which controls network traffic to and from a computer. With personal firewalls, the security policies are managed by the computer user. Personal firewalls may also provide some level of intrusion detection, allowing the software to terminate or block connectivity where it suspects an intrusion is being attempted. The latest Windows operating systems come with personal firewalls.

Common personal firewall features include:

  • Alert the user about outgoing connection attempts
  • Allows the user to control which programs can and cannot access the local network and/or Internet
  • Hide the computer from port scans by not responding to unsolicited network traffic
  • Monitor applications that are listening for incoming connections
  • Monitor and regulate all incoming and outgoing Internet users
  • Prevent unwanted network traffic from locally installed applications
  • Provide the user with information about an application that makes a connection attempt
  • Provide information about the destination server with which an application is attempting to communicate

Laptop Security

Lockdown Kits

Because of the portability of laptops, it is important to secure the hardware so it is not stolen. Lockdown kits provide this security. For college-owned equipment, contact IT for assistance. For personal laptops, these kits can be purchased from the IC Bookstore or through an online vendor.

Tracking Software

Monitoring software is available that tracks a computer and if the computer is reported lost or stolen, the vendor will work with local law enforcement agencies to track down the computer based on specific details provided by the software. Data can also be remotely deleted by the data owner. This data could include files and applications containing personal photos, internet bookmarks, browser cookies, financial information, and stored passwords. Several vendors sell this type of software including Lo/Jack for Laptops and Adeona, Prey or Pombo. Apple computers linked to your iCloud can be tracked with the "Find My Mac" feature. Computers running Windows 10 can track their device after linking their computer to their personal Microsoft Account. Once linked use the "Find my device" feature in your account to track your laptops location.


Virus: A computer virus is a computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer without the permission or knowledge of the owner.

Malware: Malicious software designed to infiltrate a computer without the owner's informed consent.

Spyware: Spyware is a type of malware that is installed on computers and that collects information about users without their knowledge.