How do I protect my data? (#4461)


To understand how to protect your data, we must look at the threats against your data and your privacy. Some of the most common threats are:

Virus / Malware infection

Virus and malware infection is one of the most prominent threats faced by computer users today. Cybercriminals are fueled by lucrative profits and are highly motivated to steal your identity information, financial information, proprietary intellectual information, or even just simply your computer processing power and bandwidth.

  • Attackers: Technically savvy cybercriminals, some are with organized crime
  • Methods: Deliver malware through infected websites, malicious websites, or other infected computers
  • What are they after? Your computer's processing power, your network connection, your personal and financial information.
  • How do I defend my self?
    • Use Antivirus on both Macs and PCs (Get VCU Antivirus here)
    • Enable firewall on your computer
    • Update your computer operating system (Windows, Mac OS, etc.) and applications (including Java, Adobe PDF, flash player, etc.)
    • Use safe browsing tools such as WOT or McAfee SiteAdvisor
    • Be careful of the websites you visit.
    • Use a nice and long password or passphrase. In the world of passwords, Length is always greater than complexity.

Theft of electronic or non-electronic device

Theft of electronic devices can not only cost you your computer or phone, but it can also allow the thieves to access your personal information on your devices. Typical thieves are usually not after your data, but when your data is not well protected, the thieves can easily take the opportunity to steal your financial information, account credentials, and other sensitive personal information that can cause embarrassment or identity theft.

  • Attackers: Opportunistic criminals who are out to make a "quick buck," could be technically savvy.
  • Methods: Locate valuables left unattended and quickly snatch them, as opportunity calls.
  • What are they after?: Usually your valuables, such as a computer. In some cases, also your data, if they are not properly secured.
  • How do I defend my self?
    • Do not leave your valuables unattended and unsecured in plain sight.
    • Consider using cable locks to physically secure your laptops
    • Always use a nice and long passphrase to protect the data on your computer or phone.
    • Encrypt the data that are most important to you. You can use tools such as TrueCrypt to accomplish this.
    • Make backups of your data and store them safely

Phishing / Vishing / Smishing

Phishing scams involve criminals sending you scam emails in an attempt to acquire money or certain information from you. Variations on Phishing are Vishing and Smishing, where the criminals can call you with a scam over the phone, or send a scam to you via an SMS text message.

  • Attackers: Tech-savvy criminals, can be organized crime, have access to large distribution networks.
  • Methods: Scam emails, phone calls, or SMS text messages, pray on the unsuspecting and trusting victims.
  • What are they after?: Usually money, your account credentials, or your social security numbers and other personal information
  • How do I defend my self?
    • Please visit our Phishing page for detailed information on defensive tactics against phishing.


Accidental disclosure and Human Error

We all make mistakes. Sometimes, we may send an email or a letter to an unintended recipient, and other times we may lose a piece of an important document on the bus. If there are accidental disclosures of private and sensitive corporate information through error, then please contact the VCU Information Security Office and let us know. We are maybe able to help in the retrieval of the information, and advise you on how to properly handle this situation.