Computer Security and Maintenance Checklist

Maintaining your devices is essential to keep them running smoothly and securely, but sometimes you just don't remember what tasks are necessary. Use the checklist below to help you keep a safe and problem-free device. Add the items on this checklist to your calendar or print the PDF for students PDF or faculty and staff PDF next to your computer.

First, be sure you've installed the following tools:

  • Symantec Endpoint Protection—Protects against viruses, spyware, and more, and is provided at no additional cost to all Northwestern faculty, staff, and students for work and personal use.
  • Spybot Search & Destroy—NUIT recommends this free antispyware application to detect spyware on your Windows computer. It is safe to use this tool with other antispyware or antimalware applications.

Before significantly changing your computer habits, check with your local technical support team or NUIT to avoid conflicts with departmental computer maintenance or security.

Protect Your Data

  • Create a secure NetID password (remember, longer is stronger!) to protect your paychecks, banking information, personal information, and more; don’t share it with friends, family, coworkers, instructors, or managers.
  • Lock your screen when you step away to keep others from accessing information on your computer. Secure sensitive data with encryption software.
  • Beware what you share on social media. Could someone find the answers to your security questions (birthdate and town, mother’s maiden name, model of your first car, name of your grade school)? Choose security questions with hard-to-guess answers, or use answers that don't match the question.
  • Back up data regularly to a secure offsite or cloud-based location. Ask your local technical support staff or call NUIT at 847-491-4357 (1-HELP) for more details on backup solutions.

Protect Your Devices

  • Lock your phone with a strong passcode to protect personal information like email accounts, contacts, calendar, bank information, social media, etc. Use a cable lock and strong password to secure computers and other equipment.
  • Install antivirus software on computers and set it to run weekly scans.
  • Check weekly for updates to software or apps you use regularly on computers, smartphones, or tablets, including:
    • Operating system
    • Security software (antivirus, antispyware, firewall, etc.)
    • Productivity suites (Microsoft Office)
    • Internet browsers
    • Email client
    • iTunes and Quicktime
    • Adobe software (Reader, Flash Player)
    • Java
  • Download apps with caution; when possible, only install reviewed apps from reputable sources.
  • Uninstall or delete unused apps, photos, music, etc. regularly to save space and improve performance.
  • Use a tracking service, if available, to find or remotely wipe your phone if it’s lost or stolen.

Protect Your Northwestern

  • Learn the key identifiers of email scams to avoid sharing login information to secure University resources. Always check the URLs of sites that ask for personal information; if you receive an email claiming to be from Northwestern that asks you to enter personal data on a site, be sure the URL ends with northwestern.edu.
  • Connect to a secure wireless network like Northwestern VPN from off campus; avoid public Wi-Fi if you can't connect to VPN at libraries, coffee shops, hotels, airports, etc. to protect sensitive information.
  • Browse wisely; use common sense to avoid websites that seem questionable.

Practice general safe computing habits every day: keep your NetID password private, stay aware of email scam attempts, and report any suspected security compromises to the NUIT Support Center at 847-491-4357 (1-HELP).

Additional Information

Support Contacts

Support Contact:

NUIT Information and Systems Security/Compliance

security@northwestern.edu