Cyber attacks are no minor threat. One in three Americans will be victims of a cybercrime every year, with cyber attacks happening every 39 seconds. While businesses and corporations tend to be the biggest targets, your data is not any more secure.
As a college student, you can’t guarantee that your information will be any more secure at school than it would be at home. Hackers target colleges and universities frequently which means to protect yourself, you need to take a few extra steps to defend your accounts from hackers online.
Most websites and apps allow you to set up multi-factor authentication, also known as MFA. For many apps and businesses, this is becoming a requirement. With it, your accounts are better protected against threats as hackers will have to pass additional security steps before they can access your information.
MFA happens after you enter your username and password. Usually, you’ll be expected to connect a phone number or email address that you have regular access to. Other times, a website may direct you to their app where you must press a button or enter a code to allow access to the online site. For some schools and businesses, you may need to insert a key into your computer.
When equipped with MFA, your accounts are protected from 99% of automated attacks. Even if it takes a few extra seconds to log in, it’s worth it.
When you first create an account and you’re told to make a secure password, you likely have a go-to solution. Maybe it’s the name of your first pet, but the ‘e’ is replaced with a 3 and the ‘i’ is replaced with an exclamation mark. While you may think this is a sneaky trick to make a secure password, it makes your password much easier to guess.
There are a lot of password creation tips that will help you create a more secure, less predictable password, but that’s not all. One of the most important things to keep in mind is common substitutions, such as a 5 or a $ for an ‘s’. When bots and hackers try to get into your account, these are some of the first tricks they’ll try.
Everyone has heard of both fishing and phishing, but fewer people are aware of just what phishing with a ‘ph’ entails.
Phishing can occur in emails, notifications, or even comments under a social media post. They often look like links and come from people that you don’t know. In some cases, they may even come from people you do know.
When you get an email that looks strange or someone sends you a message with a link, think before you open it. The link may infect your computer with a virus or give hackers access to your private information. Instead of taking a peak to see who sent it or what the message is about, delete it immediately. Some malware is activated as soon as you open the email.
If you get a strange message from a friend or family member, be aware that they may have been hacked. Contact them using a different platform and ask if they sent you the message and if they did, what the link leads to. Some people may accidentally forward malicious links without intending to harm others. They may have received the link themselves, opened it to another website, and thought you would be interested as well.
Public WiFi networks aren’t all that secure and unfortunately, this can mean that your data is at risk simply by using a public network. If there’s no password to connect to it, then it’s even riskier.
When you use unsecured WiFi networks, hackers have an easier time accessing your information. They can use the connection to sneak their way onto their device and gain whatever information they want.
If you are out in public, make sure that the WiFi network you connect to is secure and password protected. Even then, be aware of what apps and websites you use. Don’t access bank accounts or other sensitive information such as medical accounts, credit card statements, or payment portals.
As a student, there are probably several cyber security courses available on campus that you can take. Whether you’re just interested in protecting your information or you’re seeking out a degree in cyber security, taking a course can help prepare you for attacks and hackers.
Cyber security is one of the fastest growing industries in the world as more and more businesses turn to cyber security specialists to help protect their data. The skills and expertise learned when completing a cyber security degree are unrivaled and in incredibly high demand, making this a very prosperous career field.
There’s no pressure to become a cyber security professional after taking just one course. However, the career field is very promising and has a lot to offer. Even if you end up deciding that cyber security is not for you, completing a short course on general cyber security practices will help you protect yourself better and prepare you for potential attacks in the future.
Cyber security isn’t just something to be concerned about when you’re on your laptop or using the university computer. It’s important to keep in mind when you’re on your phone or using a tablet. Hackers and bots can access your information on any device which means that if you want to protect yourself, you’ll have to do it from all angles.
You are never 100% safe from cyber threats, but by following some smart cyber security practices, your risk of being hacked is reduced and you’re less likely to be chosen as a target. As long as you’re aware of the risk and take a few extra steps to protect yourself, you’ll be much better off.
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