15 Online Security and Privacy Tips for College Students

The internet was developed on university campuses, and it revolutionized education. As a student, you probably don’t have access to a highly secured campus network that restricts and regulates the traffic and new devices. You’re responsible for your own online security, so here are some tips to help you be safe and privacy-savvy on campus. 1. Keep Security Systems Up to Date All of your connected devices should have updated antivirus, operating software and apps. Turn the auto updates on! It’s important to have the latest protection against viruses, malware and other threats to which you’re exposed.

2. Check Your Bank Statements Frequently This should become a habit. Aim to check your statements once a day, so you’ll make sure all transactions are legitimate.

3. Only Shop on Secure Sites Online shopping is great but you have to make sure you’re doing it from a secure network. Avoid sensitive transactions like shopping and banking when using a public campus network; instead, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or your smartphone’s hotspot for more secure browsing.

Pay attention to the websites, too. Check to make sure the URL starts with https:// and search for reviews to make sure it’s safe.

4. Back Everything Up What if you’re working on an important research project and you lose everything right before the deadline? Store your work safely on the cloud or on an external hard drive.

5. Get Informed About Ransomware Hackers can remotely lock your computer and keep your private files encrypted until you pay them. Do not pay the ransom! Get informed so you’ll know what to do in such a situation. To protect your files from this, be wary about clicking links or opening attachments in emails.

6. Improve Your Passwords Do not use the same password for different services. Avoid passwords that are easy to guess, such as those that include your name, birthday or address. Make your password a sentence that is at least 12 characters long – focus on positive sentences that are easy to remember – on many sites you can even use spaces!

7. Never Share Passwords So you’re expecting an important email and you thought your roommate could check it for you? Do not do that! It doesn’t mean you don’t trust them. Do not share your passwords!

8. Keep Your Passwords Safe How do you remember all those passwords? Do not keep them in a note on your phone. If someone gets their hands on it, they will have access to everything. Write the passwords in your diary, a notebook or a piece of paper that you’ll keep in a safe place away from your computer – or consider using a password manager that will store them for you.

9. Learn What to Do in Case of a Data Breach Campus networks and servers are at risk of a data breach, meaning hackers can break in to computer accounts. You can’t do much to protect yourself against these practices, but if there is a breach impacting your accounts, immediately change all passwords. Check and control your bank statements, too!

10. Use Public Computers Very Carefully You’re using a computer in the library? Never save your passwords on the websites you visit. Always log out before leaving a website. Delete all files you may have downloaded or saved from the device.

11. Don’t Fall for a Phishing Scam If a suspicious site or email or other message asks for sensitive information like your credit card number, Social Security number or phone number, do not provide it.

12. Protect Your Devices Protecting your devices includes keeping them safe from physical theft. Never leave devices unattended in public. When you leave your devices in your room on campus, don’t leave them in a visible spot. You can use a cable lock for laptops and other devices to keep them secure.

13. Manage Your – and Others’ – Privacy No one should post photos of you on social media without your permission. Unflattering content – or photos of you under the influence or engaging in risky behavior – could present disciplinary risks and/or impact your ability to get jobs in the future. Ask friends to get your permission before posting about you, and do the same for them. The golden rule applies online as well.

14. Think Before You Click Before you open any email or click any link you’re not sure about, stop and think. Make sure your antivirus is updated. Think: do you really need to click? When in doubt about a link or attachment, throw it out.

15. Share With Care Social media is all about sharing, but it doesn’t mean you should make your whole life public. Do not make your personal information public. You don’t have to inform the world when you’re leaving the dorm room and leaving your belongings unattended.