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IT Service Status
IT Service Status

Thwarting Hackers and Social Engineers

Hackers and social engineers may gain access to your computer and your information.

At Northwestern, if your computer has been hacked, Northwestern Information Technology (IT) will turn off your network connection to protect the network. If your computer has been infected or your Ethernet port has been turned off, please contact the Northwestern IT Service Desk at 847-491-HELP (4357) or

Secure Your Computer

Make sure to follow Tips for Protecting Your Information.

Security Patches

  • Install the latest patches and security fixes. Many hacker attempts can be stopped if you keep your operating system up to date.


  • If you have a firewall, use it, because your machine can be hacked any time you're online. Firewall protection is built into Windows XP and Mac OS X (v10.2 or later). If your operating system does not have firewall protection or you would like more information on how to configure your built-in firewall visit Northwestern IT's Personal Firewall Software page.

Password Protection

  • Do not leave your computer unattended. If you can turn your computer off when you finish using it, do so. Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer "always on" Internet connections, which means others will be able to access your computer if you are not using it.
  • If you're unable to turn your computer off, be sure to lock it. Many operating systems allow users to log off even if the computer is still powered on. Some screen savers can make it necessary to enter a password to access the system if you step away from your computer.
  • You must change your NetID password every 365 days. However, if you feel your account has been compromised or if you use unsecured computers (Internet cafes, etc.), you should change your password more frequently.
  • Create a long password to increase its security. Passwords that use phrases, song lyrics or titles, or sentences make it harder for computer hackers to crack but easy for you to remember. Your password can be up to 31 characters long and should contain special characters and utilize both uppercase and lowercase characters — find out more about Password Security.
  • Many systems and programs come with vendor-installed user names and passwords, so make sure to change those passwords frequently as well.

File Sharing

  • Keep file sharing to a minimum. You do not want people to use your computer as a file server. If you can keep file sharing turned off, do so; otherwise, only share a single folder rather than the entire machine.
  • Only share files with those you know. Do not allow guest or anonymous access on your machine. When setting up users on your computer, do not give them the same access you have.

File Attachments

  • Never open attachments from people you don't know. Be cautious of opening attachments from those you do know. Many viruses spread in such a way that the sender and receiver may not even realize it.