By Zachary Amos, Features Editor at ReHack
Summer is almost over, which means college students are flocking back to their campuses and preparing for another year. One preparation they should take more seriously is cybersecurity.
Those going to college or university often use multiple devices around campus, so maintaining online privacy can be a real challenge. Here are five essential back-to-school cybersecurity tips for college students.
1. Keep Personal Information Private
The fall semester is a difficult time for college students’ cybersecurity. They meet many people in a short period and want to be accepted, which means they might be eager to overshare their personal information. Rather than telling everyone about themselves, they should be extra diligent as they get used to their new schedules.
Suppose a faculty member or another student starts asking strange questions about emails, passwords, or other sensitive online information. The best course of action is to stop talking with the person and contact a trusted university official.
Many young people also have a bad habit of revealing sensitive details such as their current location through social media posts. A thief can easily see one of these posts and determine they’re not in their dorm.
Social media is meant for connecting with friends, not revealing locations and life stories to thousands of strangers. Students need to be smarter online and not show anything personal criminals could use against them.
2. Watch Out for Common Phishing Attempts
University students’ email inboxes fill up quickly during the first few weeks of classes. A few back-to-school scams are bound to get past the spam folder. College attendees should keep a close eye out for these suspicious emails throughout the year:
- Urgent action involving their university accounts
- Fake tuition payment processors
- Tech support scams
- Textbook rental or buying scams
- IRS impersonators
- Social media friend requests from unknown accounts
- Fake alerts from OneDrive, GoogleDocs and other cloud services
They should also look out for other telltale phishing signs such as bad grammar, obscure greetings and non-university affiliated email addresses. At this point in the digital age, all universities should have training seminars to help recognize the signs of phishing and other cyber attacks.
3. Take Advantage of Secure School Wi-Fi
All colleges and universities have private Wi-Fi networks for people to use on campus. Students should take full advantage of these networks and the computers around campus. They’re password-protected and only provide internet access throughout the campus’s grounds, acting as a secure internet bubble for attendees and faculty to peacefully do their work.
Mobile hotspots and public Wi-Fi networks are usually not password-protected, meaning a cybercriminal can snoop on other people without much effort. Public Wi-Fi is safer than it used to be but is not yet safe enough to use like a private network.
School computers are also more likely to have up-to-date software solutions than a student’s laptop. If their device doesn’t have VPNs, firewalls, and other security measures, they should use the university’s computers as much as possible.
4. Browse Encrypted Websites
Research for schoolwork can take college students to many obscure websites. That’s why it’s crucial for them to only browse sites with HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) encryption. When a website is encrypted, only authorized users can track the person’s activity and read information like passwords and account numbers.
An encrypted website’s URL starts with “https://” and has a padlock icon next to it. Sticking to these websites can reduce the chance of encountering a malicious site and help them use more legitimate sources.
5. Log Out and Lock Up
Whenever students finish their work, they should log out of their devices and put them in a secure place. Theft and burglary make up over one-third of crimes reported on college campuses, so leaving a digital device unattended is asking for trouble.
Mult-factor authentication is a great way to ensure that criminals can’t log into stolen devices. Students should also consider buying a cable lock to secure their devices to desks and tables. They can’t be too careful when it comes to sensitive online information.
Stay Safe This School Year
The fall semester on a college campus is a hectic time for incoming college attendees, so it’s easy to forget cybersecurity fundamentals. Students must remember these five crucial tips before returning to campus to protect their data and ensure online safety for the rest of the school year.
As the Features Editor at ReHack, Zac Amos writes about cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and other tech topics. He is a frequent contributor to Brilliance Security Magazine.
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