Protecting Your Computer

These instructions will help protect your computer from unauthorized access and thus help meet HIPAA security and privacy standards. These standards apply to computers in offices, labs, and clinical areas with some exceptions for computers in operatories as noted below.

  1. By policy, computers will automatically lock with a screen saver after 15 minutes of inactivity and require a password to log back into the computer. This prevents unauthorized access of an unattended computer.
  2. When you do leave your computer unattended, you should lock it as follows: Hold down both the CTRL and ALT keys and press the DEL key. Choose “Lock Computer” from the options screen that pops up.
  3. Computers should be restarted at least once per day so that you receive any security updates that are being sent out during the login process. The easiest way to meet this requirement is to shut down the computer each evening and restart it the next day. If the computer needs to be left on overnight then use “start/shut down/restart” once per day.
  4. Do not download screensavers, wallpaper, games, or any applications from the Internet. Such applications cannot be trusted and may allow undetected access to your computer. You can use your own photography for computer wallpaper. If there is other software you need, consult with OCIS as to the best software to download or purchase safely.

IMPORTANT EXCEPTION FOR COMPUTERS IN OPERATORIES: The UNC HIPAA security officer has exempted computers in operatories from the screen saver requirement since it could interfere with patient treatment. However, during periods when the operatory will be unattended, you should exit any clinical applications such as the EPR and then lock the computer per #2 above or, optionally for a laptop, close the laptop lid so it goes into standby mode.


Special Note for Laptops: Closing the lid of your laptop and re-opening is not the same as restarting and does not meet the requirements of #3 above. Also, you should always restart your laptop when moving from one location to another. All laptops should be set to go into standby when the laptop lid is closed with a password required when the lid is opened which is the default setting on most laptops (click here for a link to instructions on how to change this setting if needed).