Firewall not enabled, viruses, spyware, behind on updates, not on the Unisa domain?... All these factors can contribute to a machine that is not well protected and vulnerable to infections or attacks. The final result possibly being a total loss of data and a re-install of your work station.

There are a few simple checks one can run to verify whether a Microsoft work station should be safe.

1. Is the firewall enabled on my Microsoft work station?

Every motor car and airplane has a thick steel pllate/wall between any of it's motors and the rest of it's structure. These walls are designed to stop any fire originating in the motor bays from spreading to the rest of the body. Any device or control that needs to get through these walls is given a hole as small as possible. The exact same principle applies to a computer firewall. It wraps your work station up and only allows network traffic in and out through holes that are selectively opened up by the operators.

To check whether the firewall is enabled on a Windows XP work station, you select the "start" button on the task bar and then "control panel". In the list you will find a "Windows Firewall" option. Double Click on the "Windows Firewall" icon and you will get a window as below.

Ensure that the "ON (Recommended)" Check box is selected and you should be fine. However, if you are part of the Unisa domain, these settings WILL be set and greyed out so that the user cannot change them. This is to ensure that the protection of data policy is enforced on all work-stations.

2. Is the work station in the Unisa AD domain?

Being part of the Unisa AD domain is actually not optional. If you have a Unisa work station to perform your day to day functions, it has to be part of the Unisa domain so that settings and updates can be sent to the station automatically.

To check if your work station is part of the Unisa domain, press Control-Alt-Delete? together after starting up the machine, it should ask for a username and password AND (if need be after pressing “options” ) you should get the choice of Log On To: Guest, your machine, Students and Unisa. If you do not see that choice (which should by default be showing Unisa), please notify helpdesk of this, they can then send someone to rectify the problem.

3. Is my antivirus up to date?

Anti-virus systems are a necessity on any Microsoft Windows machine. They are designed to scan files as they are accessed during normal operations. As the file is accessed, the contents are compared against a database containing definitions of all the known viruses. If this database is not kept up to date, then new viruses will not be detected.

To verify that your definitions and anti virus engie is up to date, perform the following steps... In your taskbar you should see a Green square with a white tick in it. If you keep your mouse pointer hovering over it, the text “Microsoft Forefront Client Security” should appear. If you click on it, the client opens and at the bottom of the opening screen it shows the dates of the latest updates of both the Antivirus definition and the Antispyware definition. Both dates should not be older than 1 week. To manually update the definitions, you can click on the little "down pointing" arrow right of the big question mark (help) in the header and select “Check for Updates” Microsoft Forefront Client Security will now access the network and check to see if there are new updates. You must of course have an network or Internet connection, otherwise this doesn’t work.

4. Are my Microsoft Updates up to date?

Operating system updates apply to any operating system. Vulnerabilities are detected and reported to the developers of these operating systems and new code is created to close any "holes" that may exist. It is therefore non-debatable that operating system updates be installed. By keeping your work-station updated, you can eliminate the possibility of being infected by thousands of viruses at a time.

If you see a yellow shield in your task bar, please click on it. It will most probably say that your machine has updates ready or that your machine needs to be rebooted after the installation of the last updates. You must install the updates and restart the machine if required. If your workstation is behind with its updates, several components of Windows may not work properly and your machine could be vulnerable.