Summary: School is almost back in session — and for many people that means spending more time online. Now that the holiday shopping season is behind us, we can focus on the top ways to stay safer while browsing and completing projects. Let’s hit the books.
Whether you’re packing up your fresh laundry to head back to campus or getting your backpack ready for the bus, making sure your online safety practices are in check is essential.
So what are the five biggest tips for staying safe online when going back to school?
We’re glad you asked.
- Set up a strong passcode for all your devices. Whether it’s your phone, your tablet, or your laptop, you should always require a biometric check or a passcode (that’s not easy to guess) to unlock your device. If you happen to leave it behind at a coffee shop — or it gets stolen — it will keep your personal information safer.
- Use a webcam cover. Webcam covers keep you safe in a few ways. First, and most importantly, it stops any hackers from being able to access your camera in a useful way. Even when you’re not at your computer, chances are it’s facing your living room, kitchen, or office area — meaning it could expose your privacy or sensitive conversations. There’s even some indication that hackers could use it to unlock your devices with facial recognition. Second, it can also save you from accidentally enabling the webcam during an online class before you’re ready. Hit the wrong button? Not a problem, because your camera is covered. We recommend opting for a cover that sticks onto your device and slides rather than taping a piece of paper over your camera. That way, you can easily use your camera when needed without needing to find new tape every time.
- Back Up Your Documents. Nobody wants to start their semester off with a hard drive that crashes and projects that are gone forever. Avoid this fate by regularly backing up your devices. And sure, you could do it by hand (think plugging in an external hard drive and dragging all your files). Or you could do it the easy way and opt for automated, online data backup. Your files will always be more secure and up-to-date, no frantic late-night cram sessions required.
- Avoid public WiFi. If you prefer to work away from your apartment, dorm, or classroom — like at a coffee shop or park — you should avoid connecting to the public WiFi. Public networks aren’t secure and there tends to be a higher volume of people on them, making your information more likely to be compromised. But we get the allure of switching up your working views. Get out of the house but play it safe by downloading a VPN, or virtual private network. It makes any connection on any network secure, so you can work wherever you want to without worrying.
- Be smart about downloads. While what we’re downloading these days has changed (less LimeWire, more Spotify playlists), viruses still happen. When you’re doing online research for your papers, only download articles from a reputable site. And, as always, don’t click on suspicious links in emails (or any links in an email from someone you don’t know). Pro tip: have cyber safety software installed on your devices so that if you ever do accidentally click on spam, you’ll stay safer.
Follow these five tips and your devices will stay safer — and so will you. And who knows? This could be your best semester yet.
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