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Back to January 2013 Newsletter

Love Your Neighbor, Lock Your Workstation

by Ryan Coyle

My wife has worked at the YMCA for many years.  While it is an organization that espouses its Christian values, such as honesty, caring, respect and responsibility, it also deals with quite a bit of theft.  To this end they have a slogan at the Y, called “Love your neighbor, lock your locker.”

Does Everybody Know Your Name?

While I’m sure that Res Life has a similar motto, it’s one that appy to the computers and workstations we use across campus.  There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 people on and around the Hamilton campus at any given time throughout the school year.  While there are some of us who know quite a few people across campus, we have about 500+ new faces each year.  This of course, does not include the alumni, friends, parents, and relatives of people, much less the contractors who are on campus working on all of the construction and systems we have.

Is Your Computer and Data at Risk?

So we know that there are lots and lots of people who work at the College and many of whom we don’t know, which is fine.  We can’t be expected to know everyone.  This is normal and while we would like to think that everyone we see across campus are on the up and up, sometimes they’re not.  To compound the problem, the people who aren’t on the up and up rarely wear signs stating that they’re not.  It would make all of our jobs easier if identity thieves and information thieves wore signs or special orange hunting jackets.  Sadly they do not.  They look much like our friends and neighbors.

What Can You Do?

Given the number of people in and out of our offices everyday and as Hamilton looks to increase its information security, one of the things that you can do is to lock your workstation when you leave your desk for any period of time. 

What does locking my workstation Do? 

ITS didn’t give you any keys and there’s no padlock on your computer.  Locking your workstation is simply suspending your active session and placing a lock screen on your monitor while you are away from your desk.  This prevents people who may have wandering eyes from looking at what’s on your screen or using your machine while you’re not at your desk.

Locking Your Windows Computer

To lock screen quickly, press the shortcut Windows Key and the letter L on your keyboard.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezey. 

To unlock the machine, Ctrl+Alt+Delete, and enter your Network password to bring the machine back to the desktop. 

In this manner the machine is never shut off or suspended, so unlocking it is instantaneous.

Locking Your Macintosh Computer

If you’re a Macintosh user, things are a little more difficult.  You can achieve the same functionality as locking the workstation on the PC, but it takes a little more effort. 

  1. Make sure that your computer is set to prompt you for a password when it goes to sleep or goes to the screen saver.
    1. ITS sets this by default, but you can verify it by going to Apple Icon > System Preferences > Security & Privacy and making sure the box is checked to require a password after sleep or screen saver begins. 
  2. Once you’ve done that, go back to System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver and select Hot Corners.
    1. Pick a corner (I like the upper left), and click the drop down, selecting Start Screen Saver. 
    2. This will automatically launch the screen saver for you and prevent unauthorized users from accessing your machine as it will require your password to turn the screen saver off.

Good Habits are Hard to Break

It doesn’t take much to get into the habit of locking your screen when you’re away from your computer.  It’s a simple thing and once it becomes habit, you won’t notice the effort needed to do it. 

There are, I’m sure, people who are reading this who are saying to themselves that “Hey, I don’t work with any sensitive information, this doesn’t apply to me.  This is silly.”  To that end I say, yes, you’re right.  You may not work with SSNs and credit card numbers, but chances are there is information that passes your desk that you probably don’t want the wrong people to have.  Whether it’s a bill reminder, an email telling people that you’re going on vacation, or some inappropriate pics from the office Christmas party, you might not want these items going out to the wrong person. Until we have an app that tells us who all the bad people are, it’s better to be safe than sorry!