The Catholic University of America

Security and Advice


Your account password is the first line of defense in protecting you and your data from intruders. It is important that you select a strong password. Click here to learn more about selecting a good password.

Protecting Your Computer

Each computer on the CUA network should

  • be running up-to-date antivirus software,
  • be configured to download and install operating system updates automatically and,
  • if available in the operating system, have a software firewall enabled.

Campus computers installed and administered by Technology Services for faculty and staff are configured this way by default. If you are a student who administers your own computer, make sure your computer is configured to do the same. Please read "Safe Computing Practices" for these and other important computer security practices.

Protecting Sensitive Data

The safest place to work on sensitive data is on your CUA staff or faculty computer, while on campus. The safest way to work on administrative data is through the administrative system interface, not by downloading it into a file or another program.

If you do need to work on sensitive data that is stored on your local hard drive or removable media, be sure that it is always encrypted.

Reading E-Mail Safely

Viruses and other malware are often delivered via e-mail messages. There are several steps you can take to reduce the chances of your computer being affected by these bad messages.

  • Avoid junk e-mail "phishing" attempts to steal your identity. If you receive e-mail asking you to confirm your username and password, or to provide personal or financial information, do not reply or click any links the message may contain. The message is a "phishing" (fishing) attempt to steal your identity or compromise computer systems.
  • Do not open unexpected e-mail attachments. Many viruses and malware are delivered as e-mail attachments. Unless the sender communicated to you in advance that he or she was sending you an attachment, do not open it. Instead, send e-mail to that person asking whether they really sent you an attachment. Or, just delete the entire message. Remember, malicious e-mail can appear to be from someone that you know.
  • Close the preview pane for each of your folders. This is particularly important to do for your Inbox, Deleted Items and Junk E-Mail folders. To do this in Microsoft Outlook, view the folder in question and then select the View tab in the ribbon. In the Layout section, select Reading Pane and choose Off. Other e-mail programs have a similar command. Doing this prevents e-mail messages that have invisible malware embedded from infecting your system just by your visiting the folder.

Avoiding Spyware

Spyware is software that generates advertisement pop-ups, collects information, tracks your web browsing or changes your computer configuration, usually without your knowledge. It is very important to keep your computer free of spyware. Following these steps can help.

  • Browse the web wisely. Visit only web sites of organizations and companies that you know and trust. Don't go to a web site just because someone says it is cool. Most spyware comes from visiting sites that contain malware. Often these are shopping sites.
  • Download and install software wisely. Install only software that you have purchased from a legitimate company, or freeware that is adware-free (be sure to read the User Agreement thoroughly). It is almost always not safe to install software such as browser toolbars or shopping site software.
  • Regularly scan your computer for spyware. Freeware program Spybot Search & Destroy can be used to scan your system for spyware that may already be installed and remove it.

Antivirus Software for Students

Students with computers running Microsoft Windows 8 and higher have Windows Defender already included. Students with Apple Mac computers can download Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition.

Safe Computing Practices

If you use your personally-owned computer from a dormitory or building connected to ResNet, follow these security hints. These hints are useful for your home computer as well.


If you are staff or faculty, and think you need to use Cardinal Station or other administrative systems from home, please read this first!