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Information Technology

Protect Against Viruses & Security Threats

Note: Under a new university-wide contract, Sophos Intercept X Advanced is replacing McAfee endpoint protection at UMass Amherst. More information will follow.
For questions, contact the IT professional in your department as applicable, or IT User Services.

Use Malware Removal Software

Malware is very difficult to uninstall. Protecting your computer against these types of malicious software is much easier than having to disinfect it. UMass Amherst IT has compiled a list of preventive steps to help you keep your computer free of malware. To learn more about malware, see our Malware pages.

Malware removal software allows you to detect and remove adware, spyware, and various other types of malicious software. Run these malware removal tools especially after installing free or sponsored software.

You have the option to use:

Sophos Anti-virus software: The latest versions of Sophos contain malware removal functionality and is pre-configured to detect malicious software on your computer.


Other Malware Removal Programs: Various vendors offer malware removal tools. Each tool has its own strengths for identifying and removing specific types of malware. To thoroughly check your computer, we recommend that you use more than one malware removal program. Don't forget to back up your data files before starting a scan!

Protect Your Computer from Unauthorized Access (Windows)

Configure User Account Security

User Accounts control access to your computer and limit the type of activity you can perform. Follow the tips below to secure your computer:

  • Create a Standard Account (Windows 7 & 8). Many users log in as 'Administrators' for every computer session. While administrative privileges are necessary for software installation, viruses and trojans are most harmful when entering via an Administrator Account. We recommend that you always log in with a Limited User Account or Standard Account for everyday use, even if you are the only person using your computer.
  • Set up a password for the Administrator Account. Most hacked computers have either a poor password or none at all on the Administrator Account.
  • Require a username and password for all users. Make sure everyone who uses your computer needs a username and password to log in.
  • Disable Guest Accounts. Intended for temporary users, Guest Accounts are an easy point of entry for hackers. We recommend that you permanently disable them.

The process for setting up User Accounts varies depending on your version of Windows. See the Windows Help documentation for specific instructions. To get started, go to Start > Control Panel > User Accounts.


Protect Your Computer from Unauthorized Access (Macintosh)

Create a Standard User Account

Macs come with a default Administrator Account that you may use for every computer session. Because viruses and trojans are most harmful when entering via an Administrative Account, we recommend that you have a Standard User Account for everyday use. To create a Standard User Account:

  1. Go to Apple Menu > System Preferences... In the System Preferences window, under System, click Users & Groups (Mac OS 10.7) or Accounts (Mac OS 10.6).
  2. The Users & Groups or Accounts window will display current users for your computer.
    Note: You may need to click the lock (lower left) to unlock it so that you can make changes to your System Preferences.
    Click + (Add a user account) (the plus sign at bottom, left). A pop-up screen where you can enter account information will appear:
    • From the drop-down menu next to New Account:, make sure Standard is selected.
    • In the Full name: field, enter the full username for your account. In the Account name: field, an account is automatically generated.
    • In the Password: field, enter your desired account password.
    • In the Verify: field, re-enter your new account password.
    • (optional) In the Password Hint: field, enter a reminder that can help you recall your password in case you forget it.
  3. When you finish entering the information above, click Create User. Your new account will appear listed at left in the Users & Groups or Accounts window.

Set up a Password for the Administrative Account

Most hacked computers have either a poor password or none at all on the Administrative Account. To create a password for your Administrative Account:

  1. Go to Apple Menu > System Preferences... In the System Preferences window, under System, click Users & Groups (Mac OS 10.7) or Accounts (Mac OS 10.6).
  2. In the Users & Groups or Accounts window, select the Administrative Account (usually labeled as Admin at left), then click Reset Password... (10.7) or Change password (10.6). A pop-up window will open.
  3. In the pop-up window, enter and verify your new password. Mac 10.6 & 10.7: Click the key icon to open the Password Assistant; you can use this to gauge the strength of your own password, or use it to suggest new passwords for you.

Configure Your System Preferences for Maximum Security

Your Mac's System Preferences control how your operating system functions. Follow the tips below to configure System Preferences for maximum security.

  1. Go to Apple Menu > System Preferences.... The System Preferences window will open.
  2. In the System Preferences window, click Security (Mac 10.6) or Security & Privacy (Mac 10.7). The Security window will open.
    Note: You may need to click the lock (lower left) to unlock it so that you can make changes to your System Preferences.
  3. In the Security window:
    • Check the box next to Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver to have your computer prompt you for your username and password when it returns from sleep or after the screen saver has been activated.
    • Check the box next to Disable automatic login to prevent your computer from automatically logging you in when you start it.
    • Check the box next to Require an administrative password to access system preferences with lock icons to prevent changes to your System Preferences without the Administrator Account password.
    • Mac OS 10.6: Check the box next to Use secure virtual memory to encrypt the temporary files that store your passwords, making them unreadable if your system is compromised.
    • Mac OS 10.7: Check the box next to Automatically update safe downloads list and Disable remote control infrared receiver.

Keep Your Operating Systems & Your Programs Up-to-date

  • Update Sophos: To detect the latest viruses, your anti-virus software must be updated daily. Set your virus definitions to update automatically.
  • Update your computer's operating system with the latest security patches from Windows Update (Windows) or Software Update (Macintosh). Enable automatic updates to receive security patches as soon as they are released.
  • Keep your software updated, especially your Web browser, Adobe Reader, Java, and Flash Player. Use Secunia PSI to scan and patch outdated programs.

Know What You're Installing

Check the source
To avoid malware, make sure your software comes from a reputable source. Be particularly suspicious of sponsored software (software that relies on advertising) or software that claims to speed up your Internet connection.

Read the End User License Agreement
Read the fine print! Read the terms of any End User License Agreement and identify additional software that comes with the application you wish to install. Click Cancel if it seems that malware could be installed.

Use Custom Install
If you feel comfortable with software installation, you can choose Custom Install (as opposed to Typical Install). Custom Install allows you select only the software components you wish to install, and leave out others (such as potential spyware).

Restrict Pop-up Ads

Be sure to turn on the pop-up blocker in your browser. Check the browser's Help to learn how.