Passwords & Safe Practices

Passwords

Passwords provide restricted access to computer systems, e-mail, and other electronic resources. Do NOT share your password with anyone. Sharing your password with another user could result in the loss of your engineering account. When you have accounts to multiple resources be safe and avoid using the same password for every computer/e-mail account that you might have -- make them different! Be sure to create a password that would be hard to be guessed or "cracked" by others. Using a strong password is the best line of defense against keeping unauthorized users out.

A strong password is defined by the following criteria:

  • Is an 8 characters minimum.
  • Is a combination of upper and lower case letters.
  • Is at least 2 alphanumeric or special characters. (0-9, !, @, #, $, %, ^, etc.)
  • Can not be found in any (English or foreign) dictionary or is not any permutation of your username.
  • Passwords should NOT contain any easily guessable information about the user. For example, date of birth, child or spouse's name, telephone, or social security number.
  • Examples:

Bad: GetSmart or getsmart or GETSMART
Better: Get>Sm@rt
Even better: g3t>$M@r^z 

Web Site Encryption

It is very important that a web site be encrypted when sensitive or private information is involved. You should feel more confident about online banking, transactions and entering personal information when using a SSL enabled web site. The best way to check for this is in the address bar of your browser. A SSL enabled web site will start with "https://" rather than "http://". Keep in mind that SSL encryption isn't necessary for everything, i.e. a news site.

Updating Office, Home & Mobile Devices

Windows

DECS has an WSUS server for Windows updates which is available to any computer on the Engineering network.

  • When possible, computers should be configured to download and install updates automatically. This should be scheduled at a time when the computer is powered on and on the network.
  • The computer needs to be on the network at the time that it is scheduled to receive the updates.
  • PCs and laptops which are in the building and are turned on should be configured to automatically download and install the updates.
  • Laptops which are available on the network at the time of automatic updates should also be set to automatically download and install the updates.
  • Computers that belong to the EGR domain will automatically receive updates from the WSUS server. The updates are set to download and install daily at 3:00 am.
  • Laptops which are left off or are not on the network on a regular basis should be set to automatically download updates and users should make sure to install these updates regularly.
  • The most effective use is to logoff of the computers at night while keeping them powered on and on the network, thus enabling automatic updates to complete.
  • Any computer which is not in the building should be configured to use Microsoft's update servers.
  • All Windows computers on the engineering network can be configured to use wsus.egr.msu.edu for automatic updates.


Mac OS X

It is always important to keep your system up to date. Updates will generally improve system security, boost system performance, update a feature set, and/or other beneficial results. To update your system in Mac OS X please follow the instructions below.

  1. Open the Apple menu by clicking the Apple in the upper, right corner of the operating system.
  2. From the menu that appears click "Software Update..."
  3. A new window will appear.
  4. The system will automatically determine the updates that are available for you system and display a list of them within the window. From this list, select the updates that you would like to install by clicking the checkbox next to them and then click "Install".
  5. You will be prompted for an administrative account name and password. Enter this information and click "Ok".
  6. The requested updates will then be installed. At this point, the system may ask you to restart.
  7. Once the system has restarted, it is recommended that this process be repeated until all updates have been installed.

Notes:

  • By default, Mac OS X is set to automatically check for updates over a certain interval of time. These settings can be changed by clicking the Apple, selecting "System Preferences...", in the System Preferences window select "Software Update". This will display the Software Update Preferences which may be set to the desired settings.
  • At some point, an update that you do not want may appear. Rather than having this update displayed everytime you update your system, you have the option to hide the update. To do this, select the update(s) that are not desired by clicking the checkbox next to them, then click on "Update" in the Apple menu bar and select "Ignore Update...". A messagebox will then appear asking you to confirm the ignore, click "Ok" and the update will not appear until the ignore list has been reset.
  • To reset the ignored updates list, with the Software Update window open click on "Software Update" in the Apple menu bar and then click "Reset Ignored Updates". The ignored updates list will be reset and the system will automatically check for updates again, this time displaying the previously ignored updates.

Privileged Accounts

It is not a good practice to use privileged (administrative) accounts for daily tasks. On a Windows computer, for example, logging into the "administrator" account or another local admin account when it is necessary in order to make system changes, install software, etc. is fine. The same applies for Mac OS X and Linux installed computers. When you are finished doing the tasks which required administrative privileges log off and then log in with your non-administrative account.