Every year, millions of students go off to college, but not all of them are prepared to take on the challenges of living on their own for the first time.
While students likely receive lessons from their parents on basics like doing laundry or cooking basic food, many never receive any training in cybersecurity, an increasingly important aspect of modern college life.
Don’t trust your cybersecurity solely to your college or university. Too many cases where data leaks have created problems for students prove that the only person you can trust with your cybersecurity is you.
To help you develop a strong cybersecurity plan, we’ve put together a list of seven tips to help you stay safe.
Start Out on the Right Foot With Fresh Credentials.
Have you ever seen a TV show where a villain can crack the hero’s password because it’s “password”? Well, don’t let something similar happen to you. When you arrive on campus, chances are that you received new cyber credentials including a username and password for your college or university’s website.
Many students never bother to change the default password. This is a big mistake. Start off on the right foot by changing the default password to something more secure.
This will make your account harder to hack but also will help deter anyone who knows the temporary passwords that the school gives out.
Limit Your Exposure at the College Library
Most college libraries have public computers so students can work while studying, but these computers can often harbor spyware, viruses, and other dangerous things that can compromise your data.
When using the library computers, use the privacy mode in any web browser to avoid having the computer record your login credentials and passwords for sites you visit.
Try to avoid using a flash drive to store saved files from a public computer. These can become infected with viruses.
Instead, consider using a cloud storage service to transfer files from a public computer to your own laptop. This will help to limit exposure to spyware and viruses.
Protect Your Identity At School
College students’ identities are often targeted for theft because they are generally clean, have few debts, and can be resold to bad actors at a premium.
Protect your identity at school by remaining aware of the information you are providing and to whom.
Limit how much personal data you provide on forms. If there isn’t a clear reason to provide specific data, such as government identification numbers, don’t do it.
Limit the number of forms you fill out for credit cards or other third parties.
Shred any forms or offers you receive that you don’t fill out so no one can fill them out for you.
Create Email and Social Media accounts just for School
Many students consider their school lives to be an extension of their private lives, but this shouldn’t extend to your online presence.
If you give out your personal email or personal social media profiles for school projects and other collaborative ventures, you are inviting identity thieves in.
You can’t always know who your classmates really are—or whom they are friends with—so create school-only profiles and direct your school email address to a school-based or disposable email account to keep your school interactions separate from where you conduct sensitive business, such as paying bills.
Keep Backups For All Your Data
When you’re working with a tight deadline, you might not think to back up your data, but you never know when a malware attack, a hard drive failure, or a simple human error might destroy days or weeks of work.
Protect your data with regular backups to external storage and use a cloud-based service to automatically back up essential files offsite to protect your data from physical harm.
If the worst happens and your computer dies on you and your essay disappears, remember that you can always turn to an essay writing service to have a professional replace your paper with custom content while you work on getting your machine fixed.
Protect your devices from your roommates
In the best-case scenario, your roommate and your floormates will become your best friends for life. In the worst-case scenario, you might return from class to find your new roommate is on your laptop downloading illegal content while stealing your identity.
Protect all of your electronics with strong passwords and two-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized access.
If you want to share your device with friends, create a separate guest profile with limited permissions so they can use it without gaining access to your most sensitive data.
Consider using a VPN
College towns are full of wi-fi hotspots, but public internet access tends to have very low security.
Never send important data such as banking login information over a public wi-fi connection, but to make sure that thieves don’t use public wi-fi to access your system, consider using a virtual private network to add an extra layer of security to stop unwanted intrusions into and monitoring of your data.