RESCUECOM Provides Help for College Students in Evansville Courier Press

Tips for Students Using Computer on Campus

By TOM RAITHEL
Courier Press, staff writer 464-7595
or raithel@evansville.net
Monday, August 14, 2006:


Securing student laptops; theft and damage, are just a few campus hazards

Students who head back to school with laptop computers this fall may want to also take along some security.

They should consider securing their laptop computers against theft, damage, data loss and the scores of dangers they can find on campus.

Laptop computers are increasingly the technology not just of choice, but of necessity on college campuses these days.

"It all depends on the major and what field you are getting into," said Andy Imlay, computer technician at PC Quest in Evansville. Some of these majors will now require students have laptops, he said.

Jeremy Jones, a sales associate at Computers Plus of Evansville, sees the same trend of requiring laptops in college and adds: "I wouldn't be surprised if you see a lot of high schools doing that as well."

Tab Smith, president of Computer Solutions of Evansville, said studentcomputers become "extremely vulnerable" when connected with campus networks, requiring owners to take thorough precautions.

One of the dangers of owning a laptop, as opposed to a desktop computer, is that they are more vulnerable to theft. Some precautions you can take are just common sense. "Don't leave it sitting on a table in a coffee shop," Smith said.

Imlay also recommends you get a combination lock that works like one that you see on many newer model cars. It prevents anyone from opening the computer without having the combination - a strong deterrent to thieves.

Jones says every laptop also has a small lock-hole, which you can use to chain lock your laptop to keep people from taking it from your room. He also recommends that you password protect your files and password protect your administrator name, which someone could use to get into your files.

Jones also recommends you carry your laptop in something that does not look like a laptop case, such as a backpack. If you use a backpack, however, make sure it has a hard spine in it to prevent the screen from bending and being ruined, Jones said.

Imlay recommends to prevent your laptop from damage, you get "a good quality laptop and a good leather case." Smith recommends that you keep it in that case even in your room. If a laptop screen is damaged, you normally need to buy a new laptop.

Jones and Imlay recommend that you can avoid a lot of damage just by using common sense. Don't place your computer someplace where someone may step on it, or knock it off a shelf.

Imlay and Smith also recommend frequent back-ups to protect your data from being lost. If a hard drive fails, it is often impossible to recover lost data.

Imlay said many laptops have CD burners that you can use to backup your files. Smith recommends spending another $100 to buy an external hard drive to back up important data because too often a burned CD can become garbled.

The most common problem, Smith said, is student computers getting viruses,worms and other problems that campus computer networks seem filled with. He recommends that students acquire a router, which provides a barrier between a laptop and a college network, restricting what goes in and out.

All experts interviewed say laptop owners need a good antivirus and a good spyware protection program to keep transferrable dangers off of their computers. Smith said Norton and McAfee are two well-known companies that provide antivirus protection.

However, Jones recommends that laptop owners seek out lesser known virusprograms, since the popular antivirus programs are more likely to be targeted by virus creators. Jones recommends sticking with a well-known spyware protection program and avoid those programs that masquerade as spyware protection, but are, in fact, spyware itself.

To protect against identity theft on campus, laptop users may also want toinvest in a firewall program, Jones said.

Rescuecom, a national computer repair and support company, also recommends those heading back to campus immediate update Windows when a new security patchis available, don't open emails or files from unknown senders and invest in a new computer that will work better with newer software and be less likely to freeze or lose data.

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