6 Essential Cybersecurity Tips for Online Students
Cyber threats have increased in both numbers and complexity in recent years, with increasingly sophisticated tools and techniques used by criminals. With more and more research and studies drawing attention to the growing threats to online safety in work, at school, and even at home, organizations and governments are working tirelessly to strengthen their security infrastructure and build strong barriers to cyber threats.
For online students, the option of getting a degree qualification can be very appealing, but it’s also important to ensure that you are taking the necessary measures to protect your personal safety when studying online. We’ve put together some top cybersecurity tips to help you protect your online privacy and data by safeguarding yourself from cybercriminals.
Around 94% of malware attacks are carried out via emails, according to research. Over the years, email scams and phishing attacks have gotten more sophisticated and gained traction, meaning that it’s more critical than ever before to make sure that you are cautious when opening and replying to emails. This is especially essential when studying online programs such as these online BSN programs for non-nurses from Baylor University, where your primary form of communicating with your tutors may be via email. Before clicking on any links in an email, you should:
- Check the sender’s email address – has it come from the address you are used to receiving emails from?
- Hover over the link to see the URL that it points to; if you don’t recognize it or something doesn’t look right, don’t click the link.
- If the email is asking you to sign in to an account, you should go to the site via your web browser instead and login that way to verify what the email is asking.
- If in doubt, contact the alleged sender of the email by other means to verify that it is indeed from them.
Think Twice Before Clicking:
These days, a huge percentage of data breaches begin with a single click. And, there is increasing use of clickbait for cyberattacks on both individuals and organizations. Clicking on a link that seems innocent at the time could end up initiating the download of a malicious virus or even take you to websites impersonating trusted companies in order to trick you into passing on your personal information. It’s important to practice caution whenever you visit a link, especially if links are shared through emails and text messages.
Use Strong Passwords:
Whether you are signing up for an account with your online university’s study portal, social media, or even an online shopping site, strong and secure passwords are absolutely essential in order to protect your data, personal accounts, and your device from malicious attacks. You should have separate, unique, and strong passwords for each account that you have, and ensure that they are changed on a regular basis in order to add an extra layer of security. Passwords should be:
- A word that is not easy to guess
- A combination of lower- and upper-case letters, numbers and special characters
- At least 8-12 characters; many websites will have a minimum password length requirement when you sign up
- Different for each account that you use
Be Careful of What You Share:
Modern technology has brought about a huge amount of opportunity for social sharing and networking with millions of people across the globe, which is often an essential part of getting an online degree. When you study online, you don’t have the same in-person social opportunities as those studying on-campus, so it’s only natural that you should turn to social networks in order to connect with others and share things with them. However, mindless sharing has led to the lines between privacy and security being blurred, so it’s important to exercise caution on social media in regards to what you share and who you share it with. Be selective about who you add to your network of friends on social media sites and regularly examine your privacy settings to ensure that you are not unwittingly sharing private information with people who you don’t know.
Use Antivirus Software:
It goes without saying that you should use good antivirus software on all the devices that you use on a regular basis, particularly for school. A good antivirus software program will regularly conduct scans to find any potential vulnerabilities in your network and allow you to strengthen your security before it is too late. You should also make sure that any security programs that you use are kept up to date regularly; switch on automatic software updates to ensure that you are always running the latest version. This is very important since hackers and cybercriminals are always coming up with new techniques to bypass these systems, and updates are necessary to further strengthen them against hackers who may have found a way in.
Guard Against Physical Theft:
As an online student, one of the perks is being able to go and work from a local library, coffee shop, or another public place that you enjoy, but there can also be some risks to doing this. Along with using a VPN to ensure that your data is secure if you are connected to a public Wi-Fi network, it’s also important to think about guarding your devices against physical theft. Your laptop and cell phone in particular could seriously compromise your safety if they end up in the wrong hands. Make use of any built-in security features that your devices have such as password protection, fingerprint scans, facial recognition, or device tracking in order to protect your data if your devices are stolen. If you have an Apple device, set up Find My iPhone so that if it is stolen, you can log into your account from another device and clear any data along with tracking the device’s location if it is still switched
As studying online becomes a more popular option with students, it’s important to keep these cybersecurity best practices online in order to keep online data safe and ensure student privacy.