College may be the time for college students to break out of their comfort zone and experience new things. But with freedom and independence comes personal responsibility, especially in scenarios regarding safety and security. While nearly one-third have no safety concerns, seven out of 10 college students say they worry about various safety-related situations like excessive drinking, walking alone on campus, theft, etc.
Many students now use smart devices such as tablets and smartphones to study. Schools are places of education and learning, but they can also be a haven for cybercriminals looking to steal money or personal information such as usernames and passwords. This means risks are involved if these devices aren’t correctly secured.
As a student today, you probably don’t have access to a highly-secured campus network that restricts and controls the traffic and new devices connected to it. You’re responsible for protecting your online presence.
- Excessive Drinking:
Alcohol is an integral part of most college social activities. Over half of college students drink alcohol each week. However, this doesn’t mean that drinking has become entirely normalized and accepted on campus and within the community. When consumed responsibly, alcohol can be beneficial. Unfortunately, when it becomes abuse, drinking can lead to dangerous behaviour. College students need to make sure they know where to go for support in cases of excessive alcohol issues, including mental health support services and counseling centres.
- Theft and Financial Fraud:
There are numerous ways people commit financial fraud, including identity theft and fraudulent transactions. Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s identity without permission to obtain goods and services. A scammer will often pretend to be from a bank or other financial institution to defraud unsuspecting victims. If you suspect that you’ve been the victim of identity theft, contact your school’s ID protection team or the local police immediately.
- Sexual Assault:
Sexual assault is a violent crime committed against individuals who do not freely consent to sexual activity. The National Institute of Justice reports that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men are sexually assaulted during their lifetime. Because assaults occur outside the home, colleges are obligated to provide a safe environment for all students. Colleges must work with law enforcement agencies and provide training to staff and faculty on what constitutes sexual harassment and sexual violence. Additionally, colleges must train staff on policies and procedures related to reporting incidents of sexual misconduct and provide additional assistance to survivors of sexual assault.
Bullying, defined by Merriam Webster as “the practice of harassing or attacking physically and mentally through actions such as hitting, teasing, spreading rumours, and excluding him/her from groups and activities”, is one of the biggest struggles for young adults today. Fortunately, schools are working hard to combat bullying and address its effects on the lives of those affected.
College Student Security
Here are eight ways you can make sure you stay secure while still accessing all the resources available at school:
To protect yourself from identity theft, hacking, and other online threats, knowing what kind of information is shared when using the Internet is essential. Take time to understand how your school handles different types of communication over the Internet. Do you communicate confidential information like grades? If yes, then consider using an anonymous proxy server. It simply encrypts your connection and hides your IP address. For example, if your school uses a wireless connection, you should only connect wirelessly if you know it will not threaten your computer or mobile device. It’s wise to read privacy policies before connecting to Wi-Fi. Ask an administrator about potential risks and how the school protects its users if in doubt.
It would be best to learn how to defend yourself against cyberbullying. Cyberbullying occurs when someone uses email or social networking to harass another person. This type of behaviour is hard to stop once it starts, but you can do things in advance to avoid becoming a victim.
First, educate yourself on the subject. When you start receiving nasty comments, please note who they came from. Then, report them to a higher authority. Also, try to get support from friends. The goal is not necessarily to let the bullies win but to stop the situation immediately.
Then create a password policy. Ensure all students use unique passwords. This means no reused passwords across your accounts. Passwords should contain letters, numbers, and symbols. The password policy must be made clear to students who work out their classes schedules and take exams online. Students should never write down passwords.
Check Your Email Carefully
Suppose you receive an email containing links to malicious websites or attachments from people you do not recognize, delete or block these messages immediately. Look for signs of phishing attempts such as fake login pages, pop-ups or suspicious links in emails. To avoid malware infections, always install software updates from the developer website for your operating system and web browser. Make sure your antivirus program is updated regularly. In addition, download apps only from trusted sources like Google Play or the Apple App Store.
Keep Your Computer Safe
Your computer contains all your personal information. To keep everything protected, you should install antivirus software and avoid downloading suspicious files. Furthermore, if you are ever hacked, delete the virus promptly.
If you use Windows 10, Microsoft has built-in antivirus technology into its operating system called Windows Defender. It scans incoming programs and blocks malware. In addition, Microsoft offers free anti-malware software for Windows 7 and 8 users. However, you may still experience false positives when running the program’s pre-emptive scan.
To prevent hackers from accessing your online identity, you should change your default browser settings. Changing this setting allows only those programs you trust to access your data. These trusted programs include Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
To enhance the safety and protection of your device, you should update your operating system regularly. Make sure you download updates as soon as they become available. According to experts, recent macOS and iOS contain robust security features that protect your devices.
Although all businesses are targets, colleges are particularly vulnerable. Most college networks are run by small IT departments, lacking adequate resources. That means the network is often exposed to potential attacks.
Two-factor authentication is also another way to keep your computer safe. It adds extra layers of protection by requiring two factors—something you know and something you have—to log into a service. A common form of 2FA is with text messages sent to your phone. Some services require you to link a specific app installed within the service. While this may seem inconvenient, it does reduce the risk of account compromise.
Keep Software Up-To-Date
Software manufacturers release patches and fixes for bugs frequently. These updates usually come via automatic downloads, allowing your software to update itself automatically. Updates can often include patches and bug fixes, which could prevent hackers from gaining access to your account.
Keep your antivirus program updated with the latest virus definitions. Also, make sure you keep your browser and operating system up-to-date with the latest patches and updates. When in doubt, download them from the manufacturer’s website.
With the right tools, knowledge, and practice, it’s possible to keep your online presence private and secure. Now that you’re a student, you need to ensure that your online footprint stays clean!
Use Strong Passwords
Using strong passwords will help protect your online identity. Using weak passwords would mean having easy-to-crack passwords such as “123456” or “password.” In addition to being very easy to crack, these passwords are easy to remember. Instead, use complex passwords to increase your password strength. A good option is to use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
Password managers simplify this process even further. Password managers generate random passwords for you, which you only need to memorize. If you forget your password, later on, you can always restore it with your manager.
Be Careful What Apps You Download
Apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter offer plenty of opportunities to expose your personal information. Hackers sometimes target popular apps because they think they won’t get caught. Therefore, downloading apps from untrusted sources increases your risk of exposure. Always download apps from reputable websites with high ratings.
Back up your data regularly.
You should back up your files regularly. Even if your device has built-in backup capabilities, it doesn’t mean you won’t lose data. Most people experience at least one major accident, such as losing their phones, breaking or spilling drinks on laptops or having a fire. Make sure that you save data before it becomes inaccessible. Backup options include creating an external USB drive, saving files to cloud storage services like Google Drive or OneDrive, or backing up to CDs or DVDs.
Understand how your school handles cybersecurity issues. Most schools have specific policies regarding the protection of confidential data. Review and follow any rules put forth by your institution about what types of data will not be shared, stored, or transmitted. Some universities require faculty members to sign non-disclosure agreements when working on specific research projects. Others may provide encryption keys for students and staff to protect against unauthorized disclosure of valuable data.