Every fall, new students provide an annual bumper crop for internet deviants and hackers. Take heed.
Here is what students need to know in order to protect themselves, their data and their reputations.
- New students arrive on campuses every year and are prime targets for phishing scams. Learn to be skeptical and question every email you get that requests you to login to any of your accounts…no legitimate businesses or universities will ever use email with links to prompt you do this. And if in question, pause. Seek advice. Once compromised, your data and reputation are at risk, not to mention the major hassle to reset your account and password.
- Avoid opening attachments from unknown sources. Be skeptical. Attachments often are used by hackers to execute their invasive activities with a simple click. It’s far better to ‘share’ documents with others. Your university email account provides OneDrive, a safe and high-capacity online storage that allows you to share documents with a simple link.
- Never store all your schoolwork and personal data on a single USB key or computer. Always back up your files. Use OneDrive in Office 365, you have a terabyte of space (a lot!) and it is always protected. Too often, too many students get stung by this.
- Never assume absolute privacy with online services and social media. What may seem like private communications between you and friends today can be exposed tomorrow. That applies to text messages, email, Facebook groups and the like. Use the services, but it’s best to assume that what you put out there may someday be compromised or published by others. (think about those Ashley Madison clients)
- Protect your cell phones and mobile devices with a password. Sure, it’s a bit inconvenient, until you lose your device. And many do! Think for a minute, how would you feel if someone finds your phone and sees your pictures and online activity. You can add more security by going into settings and turning on ‘encryption.’
- Be careful at parties and in social settings. Everyone has cameras now and can post pictures and videos of you online. It may seem innocuous at the time, but once those recordings are posted on someone else’s Facebook or Instagram, the damage is done. And for goodness sake, don’t allow recordings of intimate moments. Those have a way of popping up months and years later, well after relationships may change and sour.
- Be careful with illegal TV and movie streaming sites. Many infest your computer with poison ads that will gum up your computer and put your documents and privacy at risk. Practice safe computing, you need your computer to remain in good working order.
- Wireless is available in coffee shops and many public places. That’s great for communicating and accessing information. But they are notoriously insecure. For online banking, making credit card purchases, etc, avoid those activities on public wireless. Wait until you are on a known and secure network. (tips for using public wireless)
- Avoid online communications to others when you are emotionally charged or after a night of partying. Things will seem different after a night’s sleep. Unfortunately, there is not an ‘undo’ button once you hit ‘send.’
- Your computers, devices and cell phone providers track of your internet activities. While you have a degree of privacy, there are any number of ways that privacy can be compromised. Police investigations, lost or stolen devices, or curious friends may find their way to these records. If you don’t want to be tracked, learn your settings and disable those features.
- If you really want to be secure, consider getting extra protection through virtual private networks, or VPNs.
Few of us like to think about these things. But caution and healthy skepticism is worth it.