As college campuses become a more and more common target for cyber thieves and hackers, college students need to be even more mindful about protecting themselves online. For students living and working on an open campus, the threat of identity theft is even more real. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to online safety in college.
1. Back Everything Up
Most students who care about their work will know how important it is to back up work consistently. Not only does it protect work from being accidentally lost or deleted, it protects important files from being stolen by “ransomware.” Some malware is designed to root out all a user’s important files and hold them ‘ransom’ until a payment is made. To avoid this fate, always be sure to have backup copies of important work and data.
2. Don’t Leave Your Computer Unattended
Many college campuses, like Cal Lutheran in California, have places set up for students to work publically. When working on campus, or even in the privacy of a dorm room, it can be tempting to leave your laptop open and without password protection. But even stepping away from your laptop for a minute can bring disastrous consequences. When working in a public area, always bring your laptop with you to the bathroom. If your dorm room is a place where many people tend to come and go unchecked, make sure your laptop is password-protected before leaving the room.
3. Don’t Access Personal Info on a Shared Network
When you’re off campus or in a place where the WiFi network is not secure, be extra careful about what sites you visit and what information you access. Networks that are shared are easy to break into, and any data accessed on these networks can become fair game. If you’re not absolutely positive about the safety of a WiFi network, hold off visiting sites or entering info that could be used to steal your identity.
4. Invest in Malware Protection
Many universities have excellent resources when it comes to learning more about cyber-crime. For instance, Maryville’s online cyber security degree program offers a number of courses on identity protection. However, if you’re not an expert, it’s always a good idea to invest in anti-virus or anti-malware protection software. Many programs will protect you from entering potentially unsafe or harmful sites, and will even work while you’re offline to protect your computer from being corrupted by viruses.
5. Choose Complex Passwords
When choosing a password, the name of your dog or your birth date simply won’t cut it. If you want to get the best cyber protection, always use a complex mix of numbers, letters, and cases. Your password should never be something that anyone who knows you–or even doesn’t know you–could easily guess. Update your passwords regularly, and try not to save them through a browser extension. It’s also a good idea to never use the same password twice.