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Security Spring Cleaning Top Five

Spring Flowers

By Christina Pomianek-Smith 

Spring has arrived, and with it, the age-old tradition of spring cleaning. Getting organized, cleaning up your computer, and checking on your security hygiene will make your life easier as you approach the end-of-semester push toward summer adventures! As you clear away the cobwebs and shake off the dust of winter, also remember to clean up your digital house.

The Office Information Security (OIS) Governance, Risk, and Compliance team offers this Security Spring Cleaning Top 5 to help you get started!

Securely Manage Protected and Sensitive Data

Many at WashU interact with various forms of protected and sensitive data, including student and medical records, personally identifiable information (PII), or payroll information. These data require special security safeguards under the law. You should never store them on your device or transmit them in unencrypted emails. As you sort through your folders and files, make sure you’re storing your protected and sensitive data using a secure method. Please visit the OIS website for more information about Secure Storage and Communication Services.  Also, check up on who has permission to access your files and folders in storage services such as Box and OneDrive. If someone still has access but no longer needs it, adjust the permissions as necessary. Refer to our Managing Access Policy for additional information.

Recycle E-Waste and Shred Confidential Papers 

WashU’s Office of Sustainability and Office of Information Security partner twice a year to host e-waste recycling and confidential paper shredding events on the Danforth and Medical School campuses. Bring your junk, clear the clutter, and improve your security hygiene! The most recent event was on March 29, 2022. If you missed it, another event is right around the corner in the fall. Please be aware that these recycling events do not accept university-owned items. If you need to dispose of university-owned e-waste, please contact Environmental Health and Safety.

Clean Up Your Accounts 

You probably have many online accounts for shopping, video streaming, file storage, social media, banking, and other tasks. Sharing these accounts, even with trusted family members, is risky. It’s especially risky if it means you need to share your password. Doing so puts your accounts at greater risk of compromise from phishing attacks and other credential-stealing cybercrime. Stay safe and keep your personal accounts personal. 

Use Strong and Unique Passwords and Passphrases 

While we’re on the topic of passwords, remember that it’s best to use a strong and unique password or passphrase for every account. If your password is easy to crack and it’s also shared across accounts, one compromise can spiral into a big problem! Consider using a  password manager, and you’ll never have to bother remembering dozens of long and complicated passwords again!

Make Everyone Happy with Guest Accounts and Networks 

Create guest accounts for others instead of sharing your device user account with household members or guests. Doing so will protect your data and device from intentional or unintentional tampering. You can create guest accounts by visiting your device settings options. You’ll find account options in “Users and Groups on a Mac.” On a Windows computer, go to “Accounts” in Settings. Similarly, avoid disseminating your home network password by creating a guest network for visitors. The user manual for your router should include detailed instructions. 

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