Back To School: Keeping College Students Cyber Secure

August 22, 2019 

During the month of August, students are getting ready to go off to college. Whether it be far away or closer to home, it’s crucial teens feel safe and secure while enmeshed in a new environment. Did you know in 2016 over 1.9 million Americans aged 18-24 experienced an identity theft incident? Most of those years are spent in college - where cyber safety can often be forgotten about. Here are some tips to help you as a college student stay safe from any online harm.

 

Learn about online dangers and how to avoid them:

Identity theft, various viruses, phishing, malware, ransomware, and adware are all dangers to watch for as you navigate any online territory. Learn about each one, how they usually happen, and what precautions you can take to try and avoid becoming a victim of one. For example, phishing is done through email which should prompt you to take a closer look at your email accounts. Delete any accounts that you don’t use anymore, report strange emails as “spam” in your inbox, and remember to update your passwords every six months or so. Don’t use the same password for everything, and always add a variety of characters to ensure they are hard to crack for cyber criminals. Keep your passwords protected behind a passcode, in a locked app, or even on a piece of paper hidden in a safe or locked drawer.

 

Invest in extra security:

There are several ways to ensure your identity and personal information is protected. One is to enable two-factor authentication for your emails. This adds another layer of password protection to your account. Setting it up is easy and all you have to use is your phone (which we all have). Everytime you log in to your email, you’ll get a code sent to your phone that you will then type into the login box and that’s it! It’s a really simple way to keep your account protected.

There’s no better time than college to buy a VPN. You might be wondering...what is a VPN? This is a virtual private network that builds a secure connection off a public Internet connection. Not only are you surrounded by hundreds of people everyday in a dorm building, but you’re also visiting public places more frequently throughout the college year. This gives cyber criminals ample opportunities to hack into computers, obtain personal data, or even perform other online crimes. By downloading a virtual private network to your laptop, your data will be protected and not “up for grabs” for other people who might be connected to the same public Internet.

 

Limit your online appearance:

It’s very easy to post your daily life online, without even thinking about what you’re actually putting on the internet. In most cases, your age, location, name, and even occupation can quickly be found online. But it’s your job to control what information is linked to you online and what you want the public to see, versus your friends and family. While away at school, it’s easy to fall victim to scams while parents are away. Staying safe in college is imperative. Social media is the best way to find out personal information about someone, but only if they have it available for you to see. Here are some quick tips you can implement for a safer social media experience:

  • Don’t post your location until after you’ve already left there (or not at all).
  • Try to keep other family members off your social media so that people cannot target your family, or find you based off of other family members names, etc.
  • Keep specific accounts private and not for public viewing.
  • Block any accounts that follow you who you don’t know or look suspicious to you.
  • Use a different password for all of your social media accounts.
  • Never give out your home address or pictures of the outside of your home.

Use some of these tips as you move forward with your college education. Take cyber security seriously and teach some of your friends to do the same. If we take the time to learn and educate ourselves, we can come together as a stronger and safer community.