College students access open networks more often than any other online users. Unfortunately, some students are careless with managing online activities and personal information, which can make you more vulnerable to security threats, identity theft and malware attacks. Any time you log in to your social media accounts, you leave digital footprints that could be traced back to your identity. Having sensitive data, such as credit card or bank account data and passwords, fall into the wrong hands could result in major repercussions. Identity thieves can access payment information using your login credentials and make fraudulent transactions with your debit and/or credit cards. In addition, posting photos online and location check-ins or tags expose you to stalkers and cyberbullies who can use this information against you. Therefore, as a student, it is important for you to manage your privacy online. Below are some useful guidelines.
Avoid Downloading Free Media
Downloading media from direct download websites, torrents or streaming hosts opens your devices up to viruses and malware. Some of these websites contain malicious codes that can be used to steal your personal information. To prevent this from happening to you, avoid downloading illegal content from piracy websites.
Do Not Store Your Payment Information Online
Amazon and other popular online retailers give users the option of storing payment information on their sites for future use. Even though some of these sites are secure, cybercriminals can still hack and access this stored information and make unauthorized transactions. Avoid storing payment information online to improve your financial security.
Use Strong Passwords
Using your name, birth date, pet’s name or phone number as your password makes it easy for hackers to crack your account. The stronger your password is, the harder it is for hackers to crack. Make your password a sentence that’s at least 12 characters long – you can even use capital and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, punctuation and spaces!
If you have a lot of passwords to remember, you may opt to use a password manager that helps you manage all your passwords securely. With many password managers, you only need to remember one password that will enable you to log in to any website that has your login credentials.
Avoid Oversharing Personal Information
Since it’s hard for students to resist the urge to share everything online, cybercriminals can easily access their personal information and use it against them. To prevent this, avoid oversharing and review your privacy settings so that your status updates can be viewed only by the people you trust. Also, declining friend requests from strangers, since they may not be trustworthy, is best practice.
If what you are sharing involves your friends or family, make sure that you check with them to see if they are comfortable with you doing so. This will help you to avoid sharing their sensitive information. Posting about your neighborhood or place of residence could also make your home a target for robbery.
Install The Latest Antivirus Software
Antivirus software protects devices from trojans, worms, viruses and spyware. These malicious programs are capable of invading your privacy and stealing personal data; it is important to have your devices protected by the latest antivirus software.
Unique Account, Unique Password
Create different passwords for different accounts; if a criminal has your login information for one account, he/she will try to break in to your other accounts.
Delete or Clear Tracking Cookies
Tracking cookies are pieces of code that sites attach to your devices to store information concerning what you do while online. This information is then sold to various companies across the globe without you knowing about it.
In case you have concerns regarding the manner in which the data about you is both collected and used, remove or block all the unwanted cookies regularly on your browsers.
It is common for social media and banking login pages to use HTTPS encryption to scramble login information and help prevent identity theft. Prior to signing in to a social media platform or other website or app, ensure that you check for https at the beginning of the URL.
It is also possible for you to encrypt your whole hard drives via the use of BitLocker by Microsoft or FileVault by Apple. These two software programs are examples of some of the best current methods of protecting your documents in case you find yourself in a data theft quagmire.
Almost all browsers available today have built-in settings that assist in the prevention of pop-ups. In addition to this, you may find that others can allow you to modify the pop-up restrictions in order for you not to miss out on some legitimate data online. With these features available, it is possible for you to avoid accidentally stumbling upon malicious ads.
Be Careful on Public Networks and Computers
Cybercriminals can install malware on public computers and collect personal information from unsuspecting users. Alternatively, these criminals can set up free Wi-Fi hotspot stations and use phishing to collect information. To avoid becoming a victim to such scams, steer clear of using public networks for personal and financial matters.
It is still possible to use social networks to share and engage, but it’s important to be cautious and ensure that you keep your personal information from getting into the wrong hands. Identify the threats to which you’re most vulnerable, and take the necessary measures to protect yourself.