Safe computing habits for students

We recommend checking out the Get Cyber Safe public awareness campaign created by the Government of Canada. Their resource hub is regularly updated with useful information about safe computing and protecting yourself online; we'll link to specific topics below.

While most of this advice is specific to laptop or desktop computers, many of the tips are relevant for mobile devices as well.

  • Keep your operating system up to date; new features, bug fixes, new hardware drivers, and security updates are included in operating system updates. Visit Get Cyber Safe - System updates for more information.
  • If your device is running an unsupported operating system, consider upgrading it. As of February 2021:
    • All versions of Windows 10 and 11 are in mainstream support. Windows 8.1 is now in extended support for limited security fixes until 2023. All previous versions of Windows are no longer supported. Visit Microsoft's release health article for more information.
    • macOS 10.14 (Mojave), macOS 10.15 (Catalina), and macOS 11.6 (Big Sur) are currently supported. All previous versions of macOS and OS X are no longer supported. Visit Find out which macOS your Mac is using for more information.
    • iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch are currently using iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. Visit Update to iOS 15 or iPadOS 15 to get the latest version. Older devices running iOS 12 and iOS 13 are moving into limited support.
    • Android support lifecycles are more specific to device manufacturers and your cellular service provider. Generally speaking, devices running Android 8.0 or newer should be eligible for security fixes. You may have to research your device model to determine if it's still receiving updates.
  • Create strong passphrases to protect your online accounts, enable multi-factor authentication, and consider using a password manager. Visit Get Cyber Safe - Secure your accounts for more information about how to secure your online presence. 
  • Make your computer's administrator password different than your regular login password. Don't forget to keep track of the administrator password somewhere safe, like a password manager.
  • Use security extensions or add-ons in your web browsers. Remember to practice safe browsing habits as these only reduce your chances of seeing malicious web content. Visit Get Cyber Aware - Laptops and computers for more information about how to secure your web browser.
  • Backup your data regularly. There's only so much troubleshooting you can do on a device, particularly if it's been damaged or no longer powers on. The best way to safeguard your important data is with frequent backups. There are many ways to back up your data; both Windows 10 and 11, and macOS have built-in backup features. Visit Get Cyber Safe - Storage and backup for more information about protecting your data. 
  • Install a trusted antivirus program and schedule regular scans. Important: make sure to only install one antivirus product, as multiple applications will cause significant issues on your computer.
    • Windows 10 and Windows 11 have a built-in antivirus protection called Microsoft Defender Antivirus. It's maintained by the Windows update service and is designed for compatibility with the operating system. Visit Windows 10 and 11 security for more information.
    • macOS has built-in security features but does not include antivirus protection.