IT Security

Marty Kunoff, IT Director, USCJ

Have a Backup Plan - Follow It & Test It

If your computer has valuable data, you must back up the data! Data might be business, educational, religious documents, music files, photos, correspondence, email, calendar, the list is endless. Computers break, software fails, systems get viruses; storms, power surges, fires or other disasters can damage your system. Without a backup, your data may be lost forever.

DVDs are no longer as practical backup media as they once were. External and mobile hard drives work for most synagogue office settings but they require a significant amount of human intervention.

Develop a written backup plan. Outline file organization, network structure, and a specific backup strategy. Diagram the plan to help assure all users understand it. Make a schedule for backups. One person should have the responsibility for backups with arrangements made to do the back up if the person responsible is not available for a scheduled backup.

Have multiple copies of backups and keep at least one stored offsite in the event of fire, flood, theft or other disaster – or even if one copy should fail.  A kehilla should have enough backup media to keep a rotation of at least two weeks. Clearly label each one to avoid accidentally overwriting last week's backup without knowing you have one just in case something was wrong with this week's backup.)

Full backups are the most reliable method of being sure everything is included in the backup. These should be done often; for most synagogues, once a week. Consider making a separate copy of just the data files in case you need to restore one file that is accidentally deleted or corrupted. Most backup software will allow you to restore a single file or folder.

The easiest way to backup offices is a subscription backup service. I suggest small offices consider Mozy Backup and larger offices (backing up multiple computers) should consider using Carbonite.

If you are not confident that your important data is not being backed up regularly, I urge you to sign up for one of these services immediately!

Test the backup at least quarterly to be sure the correct files are saved and that restoring them works. Upgrading? Always remove and save the old backup disks! A good backup program can restore anything from a single file to all of your data. If case of disk failure, you may have to reinstall the OS and applications, but the data is saved on your backups.

Windows System Restore Option

Windows XP thru Windows 7 have System Restore. This allows you to roll-back the system files (operating system and drivers) to a previous checkpoint. This feature however, should not be used as a backup strategy. (The data is stored on the same physical drive and restore points don’t always work.) Use System Restore in an emergency only, not as a backup plan.

Have a Firewall to Isolate Your Computers/LAN from the Public Network

High-speed always-on broadband networks are the source of both useful information and computer hackers. Your computer should be isolated from the network by a hardware firewall. WindowsXP, Vista and Windows 7 have a built-in software firewall. Anti-Virus programs often include firewalls as well. These firewalls are better than no firewall, but we recommend installing a hardware firewall as a far better solution.

Router Security

Have WiFi? Update your wireless router to a 802.11b/g/n wireless router, enable WPA encryption and select a secure password. Be sure to keep the password, since you will need to input into the router and each computer on your local network. Be sure to select and set a secure password for the administrator account on your router as well.

Try to keep the system within the firewall's secure defaults. If you must use Remote Desktop, Windows Messenger's, Exchange Email, File Sharing and/or other protocols that allow special connections from outside your network, enable them only when you need to use them. Firewalls are designed to block outside connections. The more holes you open up in any firewall, the less secure it is!

Update Your Operating System and Applications

Apply operating system and software patches as soon as possible. Most viruses are based on bugs that are known and have already been fixed. If your OS has automatic updates, we recommend using it. Applying a Windows major service pack? Do a full backup first. 

Have a Good Anti-Virus/Anti-Spyware Program - Update & Use It!

Microsoft Security Essentials is free and has been doing an excellent job lately. Remember, e-mail remains the number one way to spread viruses, spyware, and other attacks. Be sure your email provider has virus and spam filters and protection in place. Be sure to use a good spyware program like MalwareBytes which has a free version.

Have a Secure Password Strategy

Have a password strategy and stick with it. Passwords should be at least 8 characters, have both at least one uppercase letter and a number. Most passwords are case-sensitive. Set a timetable for passwords to be changed and follow that plan. The internal WiFi password, which presents the most risk, should be changed most often; the public WiFi [not connected to the office computers] does not need the same frequency.

Keep your written list of passwords in a secure place on paper locked up with your other important papers, not where others can find them. Password protect all office computers [even clergy!] even on computers in a physically secure location. A password adds one more thing for a hacker to have to defeat when entering via the network.

Don't Download Programs from Unknown Sources

Major hardware and software companies can assure virus-free and spyware-free software. If you don’t know and trust the source, then don’t download it! Be suspicious of attachments, even from your friends.

Have a Battery Backup UPS [uninterrupted power supply, not the shipping company] for your Server

Even if you don’t live in an area with frequent power spikes or outages be sure to have a battery backup unit for your file server. This will allow you to shut down the server power is out for 5 minutes. 

Consider a battery backup for the system router and VOIP phone adapter, so they don't go dead right away.  Check UPS systems quarterly, the batteries in the devices have a finite life and are in use, even when on standby.

Clean electricity makes for happy computers. Every desktop computer should be plugged into a surge protector.


Disk cleanup utilities can help keep your computer peppy. Defrag your hard drive periodically (Windows 7 does this automatically). cCleaner and Smart Defrag are available from Keep your computer clean, cool, well ventilated and physically secure. Do not leaving backup disks in an accessible location.

If you are getting a new system, don't trash the old one or reformat the old hard drive until you are sure that you have all the data you need from it. Before you give away or recycle your old system make sure that all of your personal data is removed. Physically destroying the old disk is the easiest way.

PCI Compliance

Safeguard your member’s data! Do not store member credit card numbers in your database.  If you must store that information, keep expiration dates and security codes in a different file and encrypt the data.

To download a copy of this information, please click here.

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