Thousands of students will head off to college later this summer and fall and take with them laptops, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and myriad other electronic devices.
But they are probably not taking the proper precautions against the risks posed by the use of those devices. Whether it’s having someone walk off with an unattended device, being the victim of a phishing scheme, or having credentials stolen off public wi-fi, college students can be among those most vulnerable to cyber crimes.
An estimated 20 million Americans are enrolled in college, many of those attending school away from home. Here are some tips those students should heed when they are away from home and off at school.
1) Keep it to yourself. While sharing might have gotten you bonus points when you were in pre-school, it’s not recommended in college. When it comes to social media, sharing your every activity gives potential thieves insight into when you’re not in your dorm room, and provides ammunition for phishing. Think before you post, tweet, or vine and be sure to set privacy settings so posts aren’t public. Another word of warning: think about life after college. Is that something a future boss would be impressed with?
2) Play hard to get. Don’t respond to requests for personal information through email, instant messages, texts, phone calls or other types of communication. Don’t disclose your passwords. Period. Mystery links often lead to malware, so do attachments. Use strong passwords or passphrases. We know, this is old news, but weak passwords or the same password on multiple sites can compromise your identity. A password manager can help keep track of all your passwords, we recommend Password Safe. If you choose to use a password manager, don’t allow it to autofill – take the extra few seconds to copy and paste directly from the tool.
3) Lost your phone? Hopefully, you’ve enabled the lock feature with something stronger than 1234. Setting a passcode to access prevents someone from accessing your personal information or messing with your Tinder account. It’s also a good idea to make sure you can wipe or remotely disable the phone if it’s lost. Do the same for your laptop.
4) Don’t bank at Starbucks. Limit your sensitive account access on open public wi-fi. If you’re near a college campus, odds are there’s at least a few comp sci majors testing out hacking tools that sniff network traffic.
5) Stay current. Software updates and patches address flaws in security and attacks often happen through unpatched products. Install the fixes and keep your computer software secure.
6) Backing up the important data on your computer is like wearing sunscreen. Get used to it while you’re young and you’ll thank us later.
7) Go old school. Sometimes the best cybersecurity is low-tech. Invest in a cable lock to secure your laptop. Lock your doors when you leave your room. It’s relatively easy to activate webcams and microphones remotely, so put a sticker over your webcam when it’s not in use.
College is all about learning to think for yourself. We echo Mom’s advice when it comes to cybersecurity – make good choices.
Originally posted: June 24, 2015