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Safe Computing

Risky Practices

The costs and complexity of technology can make it tempting to engage in risky behavior. File sharing networks and the variety of free software available online pose large risks, and are not to be used without considerable caution if at all. While most free apps work well and won't make your computer vulnerable to security issues, there are also a lot that add "features" that you probably don't want and that could easily damage your system, snoop on your data, or even make you a victim of identity theft.

Don't use file sharing
Peer-to-peer programs are prohibited on systems that contain sensitive date. Programs like Vuze, uTorrent and other peer-to-peer or bittorrent networks allow anyone with an Internet connection to upload whatever files they'd like. This can include worms and trojans that allow hackers to access infected computers without detection. The file sharing programs themselves often come bundled with spyware, so even if you don't download anything from the network your computer is compromised as soon as you install the program.

You also must be sure that any files you share or download are not copyright protected, as specified by federal law and CUMC Copyright Compliance Requirements. This is very difficult to ascertain when using file sharing networks, since a work is protected from the moment it is created and does not have to contain a copyright notice to qualify for protection.

Research any programs you install
As mentioned above, there are a number of good free and shareware programs that are available to download. Many of these are safe and do not contain spyware or other malicious programs, but unless you do research to verify this there's no way to tell. App stores do not always verify that what they offer is completely safe, so it is very important to make sure they come from a reputable developer before installing on your phone or tablet. Software that has been licensed or recommended by Columbia, the Medical Center and CUMC IT does not require research since we have done the work for you.

If you find other programs that you'd like to install, look for information and ratings from reputable web sites to verify that it has not caused problems on other systems. Beware of overly zealous ratings that don't offer much concrete information, since developers may rate and review their own programs to make them appear more credible. If you don't find good information, don't install!

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Last updated 10/10/2018