Watching your child begin the first year of their college education is a proud parent moment. They made it to adulthood! You survived their teenage years! Now they're free to pursue their studies and claim their independence. But with adulthood comes a slew of new responsibilities and a long list of dangers and risks. One such risk in attending college these days is cyber crime.
The reach of cyber criminals is far and wide; they can hit nearly anyone at any time, but the inexperience and vulnerability of new college students makes young adults a prime target. Here are a few safety tips for keeping these budding academics safe, both off and online.
Always Log Out
Though it may seem like a no-brainer, this first tip is of special importance to college students, since all campus computers are shared. If you happen to be scrolling through Facebook during English class, and then forget to log out at the end of the period, the next student to sit down at your seat has full access to anything he or she may want to know about you. Not only can they peruse your interests and hobbies, they can check out your school records. Did you have your browser save your password? A few clicks and they are into your financial records.
Or, say you leave your phone behind in a classroom. Research shows that the majority of us leave our apps open on our phones. If the wrong person gets their hands on your phone, once again, your personal information is there for the taking. The few seconds that it takes to log out of a computer or phone app could save you years of dealing with the consequences of identity theft.
Wary of On-Campus Wi-Fi
One reason why college students are more susceptible to victimization online is because of the publicly accessible Wi-Fi on campuses. Cyber criminals are aware of the vulnerability of a public network and have been known to create rogue access points, which appear to be associated with the university, but in fact, are black holes designed to record passwords, credit card numbers and personal information as a user who has logged in through that access point types it in.
To avoid this, the student has a few options. Purchase a Virtual Private Network (VPN), a digital network inside an actual network, that allows the user to access private information without potentially sharing it with countless others. It's great for security, though VPNs require a monthly subscription. Another option would be to purchase your own modem and Internet service, which also entails monthly fees. The only way to safely use open WiFi without paying for additional protection is to stay off social media sites that might house your personal information, and avoid entering any personal or financial information on any site when you are connected to the open network.
How & Where You Use Your Phone
The ages 18-29 make up the highest percentage of cell phone users in the U.S. as 85 percent of individuals in that demographic own a cell phone, and it is this same demographic that is most likely to use cell phones to access the Internet. Considering that this age group is also the age of the traditional college student, just increased mobile usage is a risk factor in the likelihood of falling victim to cyber crimes.
Universities and colleges are also high on the hacker's assault list. In 2014, 30 U.S. colleges experienced data breaches, many of them on a massive scale, affecting thousands of students, faculty, staff, and even former associates of the colleges. Be aware of whether or not the college you or your child attends has been hit by a cyber attack in recent years, as well as what precautions the institution has in play to prevent such a catastrophe. LifeLock is an excellent source that provides the latest information on major data breaches and the most current cyber security news.
Sadly, cyber crime is a sign of the times, and college students are a potential goldmine for hackers digging for information. Employ a few safety tips to make sure that you or your child gets the education deserved instead of learning a hard lesson about life.