Tips To Stay Safe Online
Today’s students are often considered experts on all things technology because they grew up in an online, tech-savvy world.
These digital natives have a comfort level with – and even a fearlessness about – anything technology-related and they view the Internet as a familiar playground for much of their day-to-day activities. Unfortunately, it has also made them highly de-sensitized about online security and that can get them into significant trouble.
Compounding their risks online is today’s culture of sharing personal information in very public forums such as social media.
From one’s interests and habits to highly personal information, this over-sharing tells hackers and other “bad actors,” everything they need to know to exploit them, as well as their friends and families.
Students as Targets: The Dangers Posed
Unfortunately, students are at risk for attacks – online and offline – from not only anonymous hackers, but people they know. The dangers posed fall into two categories:
- Theft and fraud
- Stalking or harassment
In the case of theft or fraud, cybercriminals target students based on lax security measures: using public Wi-Fi, forgoing password protections or using easy-to-break passwords, storing passwords and other personal information online, failing to keep security software and other programs updated, leaving laptops or mobile devices unattended in public settings like the library or coffee shops.
Phishing scams and other methods for manipulating students into revealing personal information or providing access to bank accounts and credit card information are other ways that students are falling victim to financial crimes and identity theft.
Stalking and harassment are sweeping college campuses and many of these crimes begin online, thanks to the wild frontier of social media and the breadth of personal information being shared there. In posting personal photos, checking into locations and providing constant updates on their activities, family, friends, shopping habits, purchases and more, students are providing a comprehensive dossier for those with bad intent.
Students and others believe (falsely) that they can screen those who have access to their social media accounts, but hackers have ready access through a variety of tools to breach these networks. The result is a sharp rise in online stalking and harassment that often moves into the offline world where significant harm can occur.
7 Ways To Step Up Your Online Protection
The first step in preventing online threats is to understand how they occur and what you are doing to contribute to your risk. Some ways to protect yourself:
- Get smart on the subject. Read up on cybersecurity threats, such as phishing scams and ransomware, and then research ways to shore up your own protections against these very real threats.
- Don’t download free media. Downloading free apps and software expose you to a wide range of malware and viruses. These Trojan viruses can install software-like keyloggers, which can record everything you type on your computer, including usernames and passwords. This exposes the student to identity theft and ransomware.
- Keep software up to date. Often, these updates are designed to improve system operations and secure access points in the system.
- Read the fine print. Look at privacy policies for applications you intend to download, as many of them have significant exposures for exploitation of your data buried in the fine print.
- Change your passwords regularly. It can be a headache to remember multiple passwords but this is the easiest gateway for hackers. In fact, 90% of online hacks begin with breaking a user’s password. Change them frequently, use separate passwords for different accounts, and don’t keep them stored online.
- Avoid public Wi-Fi. Consider purchasing a “hot spot” device for situations where you do not have access to your own Wi-Fi, in order to avoid the hacking risks associated with public Wi-Fi.
- Don’t store your payment info online. When making purchases online, avoid the convenience of “saving” your preferred payment method, which can make your credit card and bank information immediately accessible to cyber thieves. They can then use this information to make fraudulent purchases or steal your personal data.
Students cannot afford to become victims of cyber attacks.
The loss of money, time and reputation can be devastating. By taking a few precautions and being more mindful of the vulnerabilities and risk for exploitation, students can protect themselves from the crimes playing out online every day.
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