Securing Your Devices

It’s important these days to make sure our devices are secure – thank you for taking the time to learn more about that!

Boston University has policies–the Minimum Security Standards that provide the security requirements for devices being used to access sensitive information.  This page is a supplemental guide that we hope will help make it easier to secure all of your devices.  BMC Security policies can be accessed on any BMC computer or on BMC wireless by visiting Section 40 on the Policy & Procedure website.

In general, the easiest and most important thing you can do to secure each of your devices is to set a password. If you do not already have a password on your device, put one on right now. Many of the security features that come with your device are not activated until a password is set.  Here are a few tips on how to come up with a strong password that is easy to remember.  Also, never share your password with anyone.  Every person needs to have their own account and their own password.  If something occurs and your password was used, you are responsible.  Don’t share your password with your students or research assistants; don’t post your password on a piece of paper next to the computer.

What are you securing?

Smartphones and Tablets

The most important thing you can do to make your phone more secure is to put a password on it. Below you’ll find instructions on how to do so along with a few other tips to make good security decisions.

Here are the top things you can do to secure your phone and tablet:

  1. Back up your device. It is important to back up your device to prevent any data lost in the event that it is lost or stolen.
  2. Set a passcode. This is the easiest way to prevent an unwanted visitor from accessing all of those pictures, messages, apps and notes that you hold so dearly.  For many modern smart phones and tablets, simply setting a password, automatically encrypts much of the most sensitive contents.
    [Instructions for: iPhone and iPadAndroidWindowsBlackBerryMicrosoft Surface RT]
  3. Keep your system up to date. Check to see that your device is up to date, then set it to update automatically. This is the quickest way for the developer of your phone or tablet to provide you with the most up-to-date protection and can patch security holes that leave you vulnerable.
    [Instructions for: iPhone and iPadAndroidWindowsBlackBerryMicrosoft Surface RT]
  4. Download Apps from trusted sources sources only. If an app looks like it’s coming from a suspicious source, that’s probably because it is.  Pay attention to permissions and rights that the app requests. When an app asks for permission to make changes to your device, take the time to read through the changes.  The original app may have been tested for malware by the app store, but updates come straight from the author, not from the app store. This is a commonly used way to compromise phones and tablets.
  5. Install antimalware. Yes, even on your phone  …even if it is an iPhone.  According to a number of reports, there are more proportionally more iPhones out there that are compromised than their are Androids or Windows phones.  There are a number of trusted vendors available online, one example being Lookout.
  6. Use the VPN. Be wary of connecting to insecure WiFi hotspots. The WiFi you might use to check your email or your bank account balance at your local cafe is likely not protected and is transmitting information to you without encryption. For a more secure option, choose to connect through a VPN like the one offered here at BU. For instructions on installing and using a VPN on your device look here.
    Boston Medical Center also has a secure remote connection option; for details, contact the BMC Service Center at 617-414-4500

Laptops

Mac, PC, Surface Pro.  Like all your devices, the most important thing you can do to make your phone more secure is to put a password on it. It’s also very important to lock your computer so that every time you step away from it no one else will be able to get in without your password.  Instructions on how to do so can be found here.

Here are the top things you can do to secure your laptop:

  1. Use a password. Every time you step away from your computer, put it in sleep mode, or start it up you should be locking it and waking it back up with a password that only you know. Avoid passwords that are commonly guessed and try to pick a strong one. Look here for some ideas on creating a strong password.
    [Instructions for setting a password: Windows XPWindows Vista/7Windows 8Mac]
  2. Encrypt your hard drive. If you work with medical information, financial account information, or social security numbers belonging to other people your device needs to be encrypted.  Encryption is available for free from BU with SecureDoc but if you want encryption on your personal device you may also choose from free commercial offerings like FileVault which is natively built into Mac, or BitLocker which is natively built into Windows.
    Encryption is also available for free from Boston Medical Center.  You can request the software using the BMC Service Request System  or by contacting the Service Center at 617-414-4500
  3. Use a secure connection (often called a “VPN”) to connect to the internet. Secure connections provide a protected encryption tunnel for information to travel through between your computer and the network. This is particularly important when you connect to WiFi hotspots in public areas, where any information you send across the internet can otherwias be easily read by only else on that same network.  [Connect to the BU VPN, For more information on BMC Secure Remote Access, please contact Boston Medical Center’s Service Desk at 617-414-4500.]
  4. Keep your software updated. Patches are delivered through updates to help close any vulnerable holes you might have on your system, protecting you from malicious attempts to corrupt your computer. Though the updates may seem like a nuisance, pick a convenient time to perform them or have them installed automatically at a time when you aren’t typically using your device.
    [Instructions for: Windows XPWindows Vista/7Windows 8MacJavaAdobe AcrobatFlash]
  5. Make sure you have installed and updated antimalware software on your computer. These types of software will help you in catching potential bugs before they reach you, keeping you safe from known and suspicious threats. McAfee VirusScan is available for free from BU for both Mac and Windows computers, but there are other trusted vendors such as Malwarebytes that are available for free online.
    For more information on security software for BMC owned devices, please contact Boston Medical Center’s Service Desk  using the BMC Service Request System  or calling 617-414-4500.

USB Sticks and CDs

Securing the devices you use for backup or file transfer is just as important as securing the devices you use for everyday activity, USBs and CDs are significantly easier to lose or have stolen because of their portability. It is very important to make sure that the information you keep on these devices is protected by encryption.

Here are the top things you can do to secure your USBs and CDs:

  1. Choose a device with hardware encryption built-in. Though typically a little more expensive, hardware encryption offers a high level of security at the core of your device. Consider this option if you’re looking for the best protection.
    – Or  –
    Set up encryption for your device. If  your device does not have built-in encryption, you can encrypt it yourself. Once your device is encrypted a password will be required to access all files and folders, making it that much more difficult for someone else to gain access. One trusted solution for encryption includes SecureDoc
  2. Store your password safely. Resist the urge to write the password to your device directly on the CD or attached to the USB. Should you need to share the password, it should be provided via a secure network like DataMotion SecureMail
    Secure Email and secure file transfer solutions are also available from Boston Medical Center.  For details, contact  the Service Center at 617-414-4500 or by using the BMC Service Request System.

Email

Just as important as securing your devices is using secure e-mail for communications when sensitive information is involved. Regular e-mail is not encrypted or protected in any way. If a message is ever sent across the public Internet (for example as will happen if your mobile device downloads the e-mail message), the message may be intercepted and read by someone else.

Secure e-mail solutions are available from both BU and BMC: