Being a student, you may not consider your personal information to be vulnerable. But identity theft is for real. After entering college, you become more exposed to those cyber attackers who are always on the lookout for one wrong click by their prey.
Whether you are in your classroom, in a lab, in your dorm, or with a friend, you must always be conscious about protecting your personal information and identity in college. Living on your own, in a new life, is already challenging.
To make it easier for you, here are a few tips to help you safeguard yourself from identity theft while you are living on campus.
Things You Should Do to Secure Your Identity
1. Be Wary of Connecting to Unknown Networks
Unknown and open wireless networks are not safe. If you stand by this mantra, you will help yourself a lot. Data transferred over an open Wi-Fi network can easily be watched, stolen, and used. This may contain the websites that you browse, shopping sites, emails, and even your credentials.
So, when you are in a cafe or public space, refrain from connecting your device with their local public network. Instead, you can use a VPN to access the network. A virtual private network creates encryption between your computer and the network server. This helps in keeping the hackers at bay and secure your data.
2. Keep Your Passwords Strong & Data Backed Up
Although keeping easy-to-remember passwords seems like a good idea, you are only making it easy for intruders to take away your identity. The importance of password protecting your devices is evident.
You should avoid negligence and protect your devices and apps with strong and unpredictable passwords. A mix of letters, special characters, and digits is one tried-and-tested pattern of passwords. The passwords for two different platforms should not be similar and never the same.
If your argument is based on the fact that you have a hard time remembering your password, you can use a password manager tool like LastPass. Never write your passwords and keep them at easily accessible locations. You should also back-up your data to another secure platform to stay clear of the risk of losing it all.
3. Keep Your Devices’ Security System Updated
We hear a lot about how updating software is only a waste of storage and data. But that’s not true. If your system’s security software is not up-to-date, your device becomes more susceptible to threats. There are so many programs such as McAfee Antivirus, Kaspersky, and Norton that would work.
Installing adequate multi-layer protection and all of its updates on a timely basis is critical for your security. Along with antivirus software, ensuring the firewall of your system also gets regular updates is equally essential.
4. Frequently Check Your Bank Statement
We all so easily slip into the habit of spending from our accounts without really checking the balance as often. This harmless-looking practice is, in fact, favorable for the predators. These thieves don’t always steal a large amount of money from your account. Such an act would prompt your bank to send a notification to you and may lead you to take some immediate action.
Someone who has illicitly accessed your personal account may gradually take out the money in small sums that aren’t noticeable. These kinds of transactions are less suspicious.
Hence, you should frequently check your bank statement. By any chance, if you come across a transaction that is unrecognized by you, you should verify it with the bank and take appropriate steps to prevent unauthorized access.
5. Do Not Click on Unknown/Suspicious Links
The easiest and the most common way for phishing and malicious software to enter your personal device is through links. These links are carefully placed on sites or emails that you unknowingly click on. If you see an email in your inbox that you can’t verify the resource of or that you were not expecting, refrain from clicking on any links or attachments in it.
Similarly, be careful while browsing websites. Don’t open unsecured websites in the first place. You can identify a secure website by the presence of “https://” at the beginning of its web address (URL). And even if you have to visit different websites, do not click on any of the unknown links that appear on such websites.
6. Protect Your Personal Information Offline Too
Sharing passwords for an email with your roommate may sound harmless. We understand that you can trust them, but still, you should never share your passwords or PINs with anyone at all.
Also, you should keep your personal documents and PINs in a protected space. It is unpredictable who can steal your personal information from your driving license or credit card while passing your desk. Such negligence not only can lead to financial loss but may also put you to harm.
7. Be Mindful of What You Share
Being on every social media platform is one of the cool ways of networking. But you should always think twice before posting on them. Oversharing on your Facebook or Instagram account can be risky.
The attackers have an eye for detail and can easily find out answers to your security questions by observing your social media pages if you are an extrovert social bird.
You should also take extra precautions and check whether somebody is glancing at your phone or laptop when you are in an open space.
Data and identity theft are mostly overlooked by students. Due to a lack of experience and knowledge about this dark side of the world, students often take it lightly and become easy targets for attackers. While you may think that you have nothing worth stealing, the truth is even your name, address, and your social security number are beneficial for the scammers. Keep yourself updated about the latest ways of malicious attacks and follow the steps mentioned above to save yourself from such thefts.