Post Menu and Details.
- Install Antivirus Software
- Avoid Connecting to Public(ish) Wi-Fi
- Use Strong Passwords
- Beware of Phishing & Scams
- Set Up Two-Factor Authentication
- Keep Your Devices Hard to Steal
- Back-Up Regularly
- In Conclusion
Reading time: ~5 minutes
It’s not only huge corporations and government websites that get targeted by hackers. Every year, thousands of ordinary people fall prey to viruses, phishing, and data theft.
Since you’re here and you’re reading this, you’re aware that this danger is real. You also know that living on campus entails even more risks for your privacy and data security.
Maybe, you don’t want anyone to know you’ve googled write my paper services. Or, you’re wary of hackers getting access to your personal data and stealing your identity. Or, you’re scared you’ll lose all of your files to the ransomware.
Whatever your fears are, they’re well-grounded. That said, though, you don’t have to be a computer science genius to protect your data while you’re on campus. Here are seven smart habits you can develop to do just that.
In case you still don’t have the antivirus software installed on your devices, this should be your number one priority. That’s because it’s your device’s first line of defense against malware.
Your laptop already comes with in-built antivirus software. Windows has Windows Security; macOS has XProtect. Both are doing a decent job at keeping your devices and your data safe. But they’re not all-mighty, either. So, if you want to play it safe, consider one of these antiviruses:
- ESET NOD32.
Your phone, on the other hand, definitely needs the antivirus. Luckily, there are plenty of offers on the market, both for Android and iOS operating systems:
- Bitdefender (Android);
- Norton (Android);
- McAfee (Android, iOS);
- F-Secure SAFE (Android, iOS);
- Avira (Android, iOS).
If you connect your device to free Wi-Fi, you’re practically begging hackers to steal your passwords, banking details, and any other data you transfer while you’re online.
But even if your campus has a password-protected WPA network, that doesn’t mean you’re completely safe. There are still dozens of other people connected to the same network as you. Even with WPA encryption, your data isn’t safe and sound: it’s fairly easy to decrypt the traffic.
On top of all of that, you have no control over the network’s settings. You have no way to check its settings and see how secure it truly is.
So, how can you make sure your data is safe when you need to go online? Here are a couple of options:
- Share your mobile internet connection via a hotspot. Remember to set a password for it!
- Use a VPN (virtual private network) app and connect to the public network. It’ll encrypt your traffic and make it untraceable.
According to Norton’s research in 2021, the most common passwords are also the lousiest ones. Here are the top five, for example:
If you use such passwords, your account can get hacked without a data breach or much effort on the hacker’s part. So, rethink your password game – make sure you use only strong passwords. Here’s what it means:
- Every password has to be 100% unique. Don’t recycle passwords. You can use a password manager if you’re afraid you won’t be able to remember all of your passwords.
- It has to contain uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. The more random the combination is, the better.
This is where you’ll have to rely on your common sense most of the time. Whenever you receive a message or an email that looks weird or suspicious or too good to be true, make sure you:
- Don’t click any links;
- Don’t open any attachments;
- And don’t respond to these messages or emails.
Here are several scenarios of what you should do if you suspect a phishing attack or a scam:
- If you receive a message or an email from someone you know, but it looks weird, verify it via other means of communication.
- If it comes from a company where you have an account, open a new tab, go to the company’s website (type it or google it), and log into your account.
- Also if you don’t have an account with the company, ignore that message or email.
Not sure what counts as suspicious? Here are some of the most widespread phishing attacks and scams:
- Claiming there’s suspicious activity on or a problem with your account;
- A reputable charity (e.g., WWF) asking for a donation;
- Telling you, you’re eligible for a government refund or study grant;
- Offering a free coupon.
Even if you do your due diligence to secure your account, data breaches still happen. The companies’ servers get hacked, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent that.
What you can do, however, is follow one simple – yet powerful – cybersecurity tip to mitigate the potential damage. That tip is, you guessed it, turn on the two-factor authentication. It could be:
- Single-use code sent to your email address or phone number;
- Single-use code generated in the app like Authy on your other device;
- Confirmation prompt showing on another device.
What if you lose access to your confirmation method? Don’t worry: every service provides one-time permanent “emergency” codes for your account. Just make sure to save them somewhere accessible even if you lose your phone or get your laptop stolen. It’s really easy to set up 2 factor authentication. It may seem like an unnecessary hassle to have to type in a code to confirm any login attempt, but it’s worth it if it means that your accounts are significantly more secure.
All those two-factor authentication efforts will be for nothing if your device gets stolen. Here’s how to avoid that scenario:
- Carry your phone in hard-to-reach places (not the back pocket of your pants!);
- Lock your laptop whenever you leave it alone (even in your dorm room!);
- Don’t leave your devices unattended in public places (the library, commons, etc.).
Let’s say the worst happens, and your phone or laptop is in someone else’s hands. Here’s what you should do beforehand to make it hard for them to get any data out of it:
- Password-protect them. Make sure your laptop requests a password whenever it’s turned on, even after sleep mode. Do the same for your phone. And, of course, never leave your laptop or phone unlocked.
- Encrypt your hard drive(s). This way, even if the thief removes the drive from your laptop, they’ll still need an access key to see what’s on it.
- Hide notifications’ contents on your phone. Thanks to this setting, if the person tries to get the single-use code to access an account of yours, they won’t see it on the locked screen.
Finally, there’s one more sure way to protect all of your files in the event of theft, loss, or ransomware attack: backing up your files.
There are two principal ways you can go about it:
- Back them up to an external hard drive or SSD (don’t forget to password-protect it!);
- Sync them with your cloud storage.
If you back up your files in the cloud, make sure your sensitive documents (like your passport scans or bank statements) have an extra layer of protection. This means password-protecting them:
- Either directly in Adobe Acrobat Reader, Microsoft Word, or another app,
- Or by compressing them in an archive and setting a password for opening it.
Living on campus comes with intrinsic risks to your data. You might have your devices stolen. You might get your internet traffic compromised if you use public Wi-Fi. Also, you might get targeted by scammers posing as your college or university.
Protecting yourself and your data from all those risks isn’t that complicated, though. You just need to develop the right habits and have common sense. Plus, it’s always a good idea to get yourself up to speed on the most common cybersecurity mistakes and pitfalls to be able to avoid them.
Thank you for reading!