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Cornell University requires the following to protect yourself and the university. Keeping your computer and NetID secure takes vastly less time than recovering from a security problem. The following are Johnson recommended procedures, solutions, and tools that will help you protect your computer, yourself, and the university.

Always make sure you keep all recovery media provided by your PC’s manufacturer. Johnson Helpdesk does not guarantee that the recommended settings will prevent all virus or malware infections, poor computer performance, or computer crashes. Always make sure you keep your important data backed-up (see Recommended Backup Utilities).

Required Configuration

Virus protection

Johnson's recommended antivirus solutions (in order of recommendation):

Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Free to download and use
  • Easy to use, integrates with Microsoft Windows
  • Offers limited support

Symantec Endpoint Protection
  • Free to download and use from Cornell IT
  • Is available for Max OSX
  • Offers limited support
  • May slow down your PC


Windows and sofware updates

The complexity of an Operating System comes with its inherited vulnerabilities. Microsoft releases updates for Windows vulnerabilities and stability the second Tuesday of each month, or more frequently for critical updates. It is extremely imperative to keep Windows and all other software applications that connect to the internet up to date.

For more information go to:

NOTE: See "Useful Utilities" for a tool to discover needed software updates.

Safely Navigating the Internet

Choosing the right web browser

Each available web browser not only has its user preferred features, but some have better built in security or availa- ble security add-ons. Choosing the right browser will give an additional level of protection when you visit a website infected with malware. Malware infections on Windows computers have commonly come from even trusted sites. To help choose the best browser to meet your needs, visit

Free programs

Before you download a free program, make certain you know what is being bundled with it. Many free software pro-grams are bundled with other programs and sometimes adware or even other malicious software. Only install free programs if you know they’re trustworthy.


We have seen an influx of piggybacking when installing a program. You may see this with iTunes, Adobe, Java, and many others. Before you install the program, you have the ability to say yea or nay when it comes to adding other features or programs or even default search engines. Don't just casually let the application decide; decide for your- self.


Before you click on a link, especially from an email, make sure you are going where you want to go. Sometimes a link will say one thing and do another, like taking you to an infected web site. Just be curious and cautious – ‘hover’ the cursor over the link itself and you will be able to see and double check the destination in your status bar (bottom of browser or email application).

Attachments & files

It is just not a good idea to open an attachment without knowing who is sending it. And by all means do NOT accept a file from someone you don't know via an instant message.

Optional Configuration

The recommended configuration described below is based on common issues discovered with student PCs. These configuration settings are only a recommendation and not a requirement for computing at Cornell University. Third party links and utilities have no association with Johnson or Cornell and only serve as examples for best practices, easy to follow instruction, or tools found useful based on best practices. Suggested 3rd party utilities should only be used to your discretion and follow all license agreements. The Johnson Helpdesk does not provide support for 3rd party utilities.

Make your primary log-in a standard user

Create a secondary account as an Administrator for when you need to install software or make system changes. For more information, go to: how_to_manage_users_in_windows_7.html

Configure Java

Many websites use Java to interact with you. Java, however, is a common method for viruses to download to your computer.

To configure Java:

  • 1. Click Start / Control Panel / Java
  • 2. Click the General tab
  • 3. Under Temporary Internet Files, click Settings
  • 4. Un-check

Configure Flash

Many websites use Flash to display interactive content. Flash is another common method for viruses to download to your computer. Streaming media such as Pandora require this to be enabled.

To configure Flash:

  • 1. Go to
  • 2. Right-click the interactive content, click Global Settings...
  • 3. Click "Ask me before allowing sites to save information..."

Disable Autorun

Viruses have been known to infect Windows PCs by using the Autorun feature. To disable this feature, download this Microsoft Fix it utility:

Configure data execution prevention

DEP can help protect your computer by monitoring your programs to make sure that they use computer memory safely. If DEP notices a program on your computer using memory incorrectly, it closes the program and notifies you.

To configure DEP:

  • 1. Click Start / Control Panel / System / Advanced System Settings
  • 2. Under Performance, click Settings...
  • 3. Click Data Execution Tab
  • 4. Click "Turn on DEP or all programs and services except those I select:"


Useful Utilities

Software update checker

It is important to not only keep Windows up-to-date, but you should also ensure all software that con- nects to, and downloads resources from, the Internet is always updated. Anything that connects to the Internet can potentially have undiscovered vulnerabilities, and usually new patches address those vulnera- bilities as they are discovered. A free online utility that can help you discover software in need of updating is:

Driver update checker

Does your computer crash unexpectedly? Try using a driver search utility such as Driver Genius. It’ll search your computer for out-of-date drivers and give you a comprehensive list. You can then go to your computer manufacturer’s website to download those on the list, or you can pay for the software, which will help you download the drivers automatically.


Having a computer that’s operating efficiently will help computing be more enjoyable. Each application that we use, and that is running, can affect our computing efficiency. For each program that’s installed, we have to ensure that it only runs when we want to use it.
Many applications can be set to start when we start our computers without our knowledge. For each one that starts automatically, it can add to memory usage, so if we reduce what’s running at startup, our com- puters will be running most efficiently. For more information, go to:

Removing unwanted software

Are you getting errors trying to uninstall software you don’t want? Try the free trial of Your Uninstaller to cleanly remove all remnants of unwanted software.

Recommended Backup Utilities


Dropbox is software that syncs your files online and across your computers with a limit of 2GB for free.

Windows Live Mesh

Windows Live Mesh works like Dropbox, but with a 5GB limit for free.