While online learning provides many positive opportunities for learners and teachers alike, it is more important than ever to strengthen cybersecurity defenses to deal with new and emerging attacks. As school is back in session, now is a good time to double-check that you’re doing everything necessary to keep your data (and your homework) secure online.
Cybersecurity for Students as They Return to School
For months, students have been forced to turn to online instruction due to the global shutdown. In fact, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) recently issued a warning that attackers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 transition, and subsequent detransition, to online learning by increasing their targeting of virtual environments, including those used by schools.
Moreover, according to various surveys, students are among one of the most vulnerable groups to cybersecurity risks. Since they spend most of their time online, they must be made aware of potential cyber threats.
Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to defraud schools, steal critical data, or use ransomware scams to coerce money. Cyberattackers are aware that students frequently have limited understanding of how to adequately protect personal and financial data when entering it online for the first time.
Cybersecurity Tips for Students: How to Make Your School Year Cyber-Safe
How do we better protect our schools and students from cyberattacks?
Secure passwords and accounts
With the many different accounts used by students to store and share information, it is vital that they create unique and secure passwords known only to them.
Students should create passwords that are long, complex, and mixed. Do not use a simple password! In a brute-force attack, hackers try combinations of millions of dictionary words and numbers per second until one gets them in.
Here are some great tips for creating a secure password:
- A password should be at least 8 characters long.
- A password should contain letters, numbers, and special symbols.
- A password should never be shared with anyone.
- There should be no consecutive letters or numbers in a password.
- A password should not contain any personal information.
Avoid scams and phishing
Cyber awareness takes vigilance. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity and consider everything with cyber security in mind.
One of the most crucial aspects of remaining cyber-safe is recognizing and avoiding frauds such as phishing. If any links or emails you get appear questionable, take the time to double-check their legitimacy before clicking on them.
Phising occurs when an internet scammer impersonates a legitimate website in order to fool the victim into inputting sensitive information. Email spoofing is when a fraudulent email sender attempts to entice you to respond to an email that appears to be from a reputable source.
Some smart tips are:
- Keep your mobile devices and computers secure
- Update your software regularly
- Keep your financial and personal information safe
- Visit only secure sites (HTTPS), especially when shopping online
- Know who you're communicating with, and disregard any suspicious email
- Don't answer phone calls concerning your computer asking for remote access
- Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows, or email links or attachments (and delete them)
Consider personal safety, don't share too much!
Before uploading images to the internet, ensure they don't contain sensitive information.
It doesn't take much for a data breach to happen—using an email address with a weak password or your real name and address is all it takes for someone with a little logical reasoning and internet search abilities to create cyber threats to your identity, financial security, and more.
Don't share personal information! Or, at least, be cautious of who might find out about what.
Use secure storage to save and share files
It's essential that you protect your information stored on the net or shared with your classmates.
If you use the cloud to store files, it’s wise to understand how to properly secure them. Don't stress too much, the cloud of your choosing will give instructions on how to do so. Remember that the cloud is only as secure as the user makes it.
Encrypt and back up your data with a secure cloud service. It's crucial that you back up your files because mistakes do occur, and you sure don't want to lose all your notes and classwork. Cyber awareness is essential.
You should also secure the items you bring to school, such as your smartphone and laptop. And make sure you always follow safe online practices to prevent data breaches and identity theft.
Secure Online Tools and Web Services for Students
Here are some other security tools and services we recommend you add to your daily virtual life:
Get a reputable password manager
In addition to the password tips we have mentioned previously, you should know that a password should not be physically written down and stored in a location where it could be discovered. Use a password manager to generate and organize strong passwords and auto-fill them when needed.
Proof your password with a password checker
You can use a password security checker to test the strength of your password to be sure that it is as safe as possible and avoid cyber threats. This way, you can be sure that all the accounts you use are as secure as possible and that no one will crack open your information.
Activate a VPN when surfing the web
VPNs function by establishing an encrypted tunnel from your device to the VPN operator's server. The tunnel then encrypts and routes all of your traffic. Your IP address is hidden, making it impossible to monitor or find you while online. There are tons of secure VPN options on the market that you can easily make use of.
Do not connect to free or public wifi networks
Public wifi, while convenient and attractive for users, raises endless security and privacy problems. For example, free wifi hotspots do not require authentication to create a network connection, making it easier for hackers to access unprotected network equipment.
Potential attackers can steal data being transferred from insecure networks. While using a public network, instead of communicating with the connection hotspot directly, you submit your information to the hacker, who then relays it. Not using public wifi is the simplest way to avoid hacking and insecurity.
Enable multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra degree of security to your online activity by requiring several authenticators for your accounts such as a password and facial recognition. You should enable MFA for any accounts and devices that support it.
Use a virus scanner for your files
There are free virus scanners built to check any viruses that may have compromised your data. They help you in avoiding infection, remove malware from your documents and files, and they will help prevent a privacy nightmare.
Why Students Should Always Protect Their Data
According to recent data, the education sector ranks bottom in terms of cybersecurity performance compared to all other major industries.
Globally, cybercrime and cyber threats are on the rise, owing to the increased usage of social media, cloud storage, digital downloads, sensitive information as kid's debit card, and mobile and online payments. Consumers' personal and financial information is available, and hackers are becoming more adept at obtaining it.
The importance of college students taking responsibility for their own online safety cannot be understated. The same way you are excited when you receive an online invitation, you should be excited for cybersecurity after our guide! Using secure services on a daily basis and increasing cyber awareness will make life easier for you (minus all the homework) and will stop any cybersecurity problems long before you start.
Bonus! Are you a student ready to finally take control of your cybersecurity? Internxt wants to reward you for all your study sessions and all-nighters. All students are eligible for a 50% discount on the most secure cloud storage. Request the discount and verify your eligibility by emailing us at email@example.com from your university email address.