Safe Computing Practices

  1. Social Networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  2. Downloading Content (Legal and Illegal)
  3. Criminal Acts
  4. Securing Your Computer
  5. Avoid Being Hacked
  1. Social Networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
    Social networking through the use of such services as Facebook have become part of everyday life for members of the campus community. These types of networks can be used to find others with common interests, share personal information, and communicate with friends. While cyber communities can be used in positive ways, it is important to use common sense and keep several key thoughts in mind:
    • The information you place online can influence your future. Pictures that may demonstrate behaviors that are questionable or suggestive can be viewed by anyone on the Internet, including possible future employers. There have been instances where graduates have had their Facebook page called up during the interview process.
    • Making your information private does not mean that others are unable to view the material. Hackers have many tricks that enable them to view what is thought by you to be off limits. You should also remember that pictures or other information posted for a short period of time and then removed by you may have been downloaded by others and exist in cyberspace for years to come. This includes services such as Snapchat as well as platforms that offer a story feature such as Instagram. 
    • Be safe. Use common sense when entering information on Web sites. There is the illusion that your information is there for only your friends to view but realize that your information can be passed on to others that may not have your well-being in mind. It is strongly suggested that you do not post information such as phone numbers or your place of residence.
    • Think about how you represent yourself and others. It is not only important to take note of what you say about yourself online but equally important are the comments you make about others. You do not want to face alleged violations that claim inappropriate behavior on your part.
    • Cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying are stricktly prohibited by the Winthrop Student Coduct Code. Online activities that violate the Student Conduct Code may be reported to the Office of the Dean of Students. 
  2. Downloading Content
    Knowing how to use your computer responsibly is important to protect both yourself and the University. P2P or peer-to-peer programs have made news recently on campuses across the nation. Lawsuits are being filed against students regarding illegal activity such as improper music downloads. The University strongly suggests that you do not use peer-to-peer programs.

    Always respect copyright laws.  This includes printed and digital material.  Do not engage in illicit music, video, or movie downloads.  Please be aware that the infringement of copyrighted music, videos, or movies can be punished by up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Repeat offenders can be imprisoned up to ten years. Individuals also may be held civilly liable, regardless of whether the activity is for profit, for actual damages or lost profits, or for statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed copyright. Please be advised that Winthrop's IT department will notify the appropriate authorities whenever requests are made by the Recording Industry Association of America or any other legitimate enforcement or monitoring entity.  Offenders are also reported to the Dean of Students office for disciplinary action.

    For additional information regarding these and other matters, please refer to the Wintrop University Copyright Policy.
  3. Criminal Acts
    • Computer Crime Act
      Chapter 16 of the South Carolina Code of Laws addresses computer crime acts. It details computer crime offenses and the penalties for committing such acts. For details regarding specific computer crimes, refer to Section 16-16-20 of the following site:
    • Digital Rights Act
      The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) represents the U.S. recording industry and protects the rights of artists. The anti-piracy section of the following Web site specifically addresses computer crimes and explains online piracy as the illegal uploading, downloading, and streaming of sound recordings.
    • Stalking/Harassment
      The Winthrop University Police Department website clearly defines harassment and stalking and provides safety tips for persons to avoid such situations that may result in these crimes. Please refer to the following site for more information: /police/harassment.aspx

  4. Securing Your Computer and Personal Information
    • Passwords
      Students, faculty, and staff need passwords for numerous applications, Web sites, and even to log on to computers. Passwords help keep your data from being stolen by others. One of the easiest ways for someone to get to your data is to figure out your password(s). Here are some suggestions for creating a distinct password:
      • Make your password at least 11 characters long.
      • Include letters, numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and special characters such as @ or $.
      • Do not use information relevant to you such as names of relatives, pets, or special dates like birthdays and anniversaries.
      • Change your password every 3 to 6 months.
      • Do not write down your password. Memorize it.
      • Do not use the same password for multiple accounts.
      • Do not give your password to anyone. If you give your password to another person, you may be held responsible for any actions they commit. Please refer to "section 2.3.2 Responsibility for security of accounts" under the Winthrop University Policy on the Appropriate Use of Information Technology Resources at the following website: /guide/appropri.html
    • Protecting Your Data
      At some point, you have probably lost a document that you really needed. It is a good idea to make back-ups of your data from time to time in case you have the misfortune of losing a document. There are several ways you can do this without spending much time, effort, or money:
      • Backup to Removable Media
        You can store documents on removable media such as USB drives (also known as thumb drives, flash drives, etc.) as a backup solution. These are good places to store your data, and since they are portable, you can take your data with you.
      • Cloud Storage
         Students are encouraged to use their Google Drives (G Drives) for storing files/documents in the Cloud. Faculty and Staff should take advantage of their OneDrive for Business which comes with Office 365.
    • When Not In Use
      If you have to step away from your computer for a short period of time or if you are finished for the day, make sure that you secure the computer. There are three ways to do this:
      • Log off
        Logging off of your computer is especially important in public areas such as computer labs. Logging off prevents anyone from using the computer under your username.
      • Lock your computer
        When you are leaving your computer for a short period of time, locking the computer will keep someone else from using it. To carry out this function in MS Windows press CTRL-ALT-DEL and click the "Lock Computer" button. 
      • Turn off your computer
        Turning off the computer is the most secure way to prevent unauthorized access. If the computer is not on, no one will be able to connect to it remotely and carry out any malicious actions.
        Faculty and staff, please remember that if you are running a Winthrop owned computer on campus, you must leave it on during the week and turn it off over the weekend. This allows IT technicians to perform maintenance as needed during weeknights.
    • Protecting Your Property (Operation C.L.A.W.)
      In an attempt to recover your property if it is stolen, you may register your computer with the Winthrop University Police Department. 
    • Identify Theft
      You should adopt sound practices when using e-mail and other forms of communication on your computer to protect yourself from identity theft. Never give out personal information such as your social security number, bank account numbers, or passwords. You are strongly advised against providing other personal information such as your home address and phone number.

  5. Avoid Being Hacked
    Hacking is a major issue, and hackers use many tricks in an attempt to access your data. There are steps you can take to help protect yourself and your data from the most common hacking methods.
    • Anti-virus software (Norton, McAfee, Sophos, etc.)
      One of the most important steps you can take is to run an anti-virus program. All faculty and staff computers and computer labs are protected. An anti-virus program is required on all computers connecting to the Winthrop University network. (see items 9 and 10 of the Winthrop University Campus Network Guidelines)  If cost is a concern, there are free anti-virus programs available. Refer to the FAQ page for examples. You must make sure that you keep your anti-virus program updated by downloading the latest virus definitions. It is important to remember that you should only run one anti-virus program on any given computer.
    • SPAM
      Most spam will not cause harm, however the best practice is to delete e-mails from unknown sources and those with attachments. If you reply or attempt to unsubscribe, this will confirm to the spammer that your account is active and in use. If you are suspicious of an e-mail, call the Help Desk to ask for assistance in evaluating the e-mail's legitimacy. 
    • Anti-spyware
      "Malware" or "spyware" are terms used to describe malicious software that can be used to cause denial of service attacks or harvest sensitive data (credit card numbers, etc.) from your computer. These programs can cause you to receive pop-up ads and/or track your web surfing habits. Attachments can be harmful to your computer and can carry malicious viruses and malware. There are tools available, such as Ad-Aware, that scan your computer and identify malware and other harmful items. Once found, these programs give you the option to delete the items. These programs also need to be updated so that you have the most current versions.
    • Patches, security updates, etc.
      Virus writers and hackers will exploit holes in programs to gain access to your computer. To keep your computer up to date with the latest security fixes and patches, be sure to run Windows Updates on a routine basis. If are you running an Apple or Linux machine, be sure to check routinely for updates also.

    Revised October 2019