Security

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UCLA Information security office maintains a list of 10 security recommendations: https://www.itsecurity.ucla.edu/resources.

Infection Status in the SON

Quarter Automatic Detections Manual Cleaning (4+ hours of labor)
2015 Fall 93 1
2015 Summer 1 6
2015 Spring 6 8
2015 Winter 22 5
2014 Fall 136 17
2014 Summer 33 3
2014 Spring 118 9
2014 Winter 74 9
2013 Fall 175 20

Why so much fuss about security?

Security in IT refers mainly to protecting our computers from hackers, who aim to control our mahcine or record out sensitive data. In the workplace, security is of much greater concern that home because one virus can affect all computers on the network. Let's say on average each person's computer gets infected only once every five years; in the SON, we have ~250 computers on the network, so at any one time, there will be likely to be one computer infected on our network, assuming a week to detect and clean up an infection. Depending on the virus, this one infection on someone else's computer could be recording all your passwords and gaining access to your data and emails. This high risk is why we nag you about security, and give you reduced control of your work computers.

To give you an example of the scale problem, in Fall 2013, we detected 175 computer viruses on the ~200 desktop computers the the School. These viruses were automatically detected and mostly removed by our antivirus software ("Lumension", the little blue box in the lower left corner of your screen; this software also performs Windows updates). We also had more than 20 computers which needed to be manually cleaned to remove viruses; this process takes several hours and requires IT staff to spend time running software and removing the infected files. Furthermore, this does not account for those viruses that are as yet unknown.

Why should you care? Again, because if one computer on our network is infected, every other computer is at risk. The risks include having another virus or "malware" software put on your machine. The more nefarious malware can record your keystrokes, and gain access to account logins and passwords. This means that if one computer on the network is infected, any time you access personal or sensitive information such as online banking, patient information, or student records, you are putting that information at risk. Based on the numbers I report above, every day has an average of 1-2 computers on our network having an infection.

A common type of infection is one which gains control of your computer without you knowing, and uses it to send spam messages. This problem is so bad at UCLA that major email providers (hotmail, Google) periodically block all emails from ucla.edu.

Actions to reduce the risk of infections

How can you reduce the risk of infections? The most common ways viruses get installed are a combination of 1) not having the latest software updates, and 2) copying or downloading files or going to websites that try to install malware. Therefore, we recommend keeping all your software updated (use Windows Update) and being cautious about going to unknown websites, or accidentally going to a fake website (often from clicking on links in emails - check URL addresses to make sure they are legitimate). Copying files on USB flash drives would be the next most common way for viruses to get transferred. While the School computers have their software kept uptodate, you should do the same for your laptop and home computer.

If you want guidance with keeping your computer and information secure, the IT staff are here to help. For assistance, please submit a request via the help desk: helpdesk.sonnet.ucla.edu.

A final thought: as with washing hands to reduce the spread of disease, the steps you take to reduce security risks are as much for the benefit of others as for yourself. 

Further information

UCLA IT Security

Verizon data breach

University emails blocked