Cyber security tips for college students

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Colleges and universities are particularly susceptible to cyber threats and security breaches, as smartphones and tablets are more popular than ever for social media and for school work.

Protect yourself from cyber security threats. (Credit: CXO Today)

Protect yourself from cyber security threats. (Credit: CXO Today)

Here are cyber security tips to maintain computer security.

Colleges: A great place to hack

Educational institutions have more hacking incidents than you might think—more than banks, healthcare companies and retail stores. A vast array of information is vulnerable to hackers: such as your birthdate, Social Security information, healthcare insurance, grades, and credit history. In addition, through a college student’s school email or social media connection, a hacker can gain entry into the whole college’s electronic network, including administration, as well as vital research and laboratory work. Hackers break into the system, mine the information they find, and sell it to unscrupulous individuals and companies for identity theft and corporate espionage.

What hackers target

Students are also prime targets for identity theft. According to “Back-to-School Cybersecurity – Seven Things Every College Student Should Do,” by Jason Glassberg, posted August 5, 2015, on Huffington Post, “Large-scale breaches aren’t the only way college students get hacked. In many cases, hackers may target students more directly over the school’s email system, job boards, WiFi or websites, on social media platforms, and even by getting physical access to the device.” Glassberg suggests some tips for security:

  • Use a USB port blocker for laptops and tablets to help prevent against someone physically installing malware on your device.
  • Register for a Password Manager, which lets you create complex passwords of letters, numbers, and symbols for each of your online accounts, without having to remember them all.

More cyber security tips:

Use common sense. Think before you access sensitive and private information, such as logging into your bank account. Don’t do it over shared WiFi or in a crowd of people, like a café, where someone can watch over your shoulder to see your login and password, or even your bank’s name.

Don’t post private information. Don’t post birthdates, Social Security number, bank account information, PIN numbers.

Keep your equipment secure. Keep your electronic devices on your person or in a secure location that is not accessible to strangers. It’s not too crazy to suggest having a locked security box or safe that you keep your devices in for safety. In addition, “Kensington makes a security cable that enables you to lock (most) laptops to a desk or table. Make sure that any tablets and phones have the ‘find my phone’ feature turned on. Both Apple and Android equip their phones and tablets with software that enables you to locate the device remotely and cause it to ring or wipe the data,” suggested Larry Magid in “Privacy And Security Tips For Newly-Minted College Students,” posted in Forbes July 20, 2014.

Change your password often. Use a different password for each of your online accounts, and change your passwords every month or so. It sounds time-consuming, but it’s necessary. And definitely don’t share your passwords with anyone, not even your bestie or boy/girlfriend. “Sharing passwords is a big problem, and a definite ‘don’t’ on any data security checklist…That love of your life today may be your bitter ex-boyfriend tomorrow,” said Brian Mertz, chief communications officer for the technical services department at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, in “What college students need to know about fending off hackers,” by John Carpenter, posted in Chicago Tribune September 4, 2015.

Install firewall protection and anti-virus software. Use your computer’s firewall, and install—and always update—anti-virus software.

Monitor your accounts. Monitor information on your bank account, social media, and campus accounts for any strange activity. You can sign up for services, such as from your bank, that will help you do this.

What are some of your tips for cyber security? Share them with us in the comments.

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