BY LORRAINE McKINNEY
If you are a student, chances are that you have your laptop with you pretty much all of the time. After all, you need it for classes, taking notes, doing research, doing homework, etc. Unfortunately, when you are using laptops and other mobile devices on unsecured networks, it can leave you vulnerable to cyber attacks, and you could end up compromising your data.
Every time we take measures to protect our data, a hacker comes up with a new way to steal it. So, how can you protect your data, and still be able to use your laptop around campus? Here are seven things that you can do right now to stay safe.
1. Be Careful About Downloads
It is never a good idea to download any free software. While it may seem tempting, this software may be loaded with malicious code, and you could end up with malware, ransomware, or other cyber threats. If you are not sure whether or not a specific software is safe to download, it is best to err on the side of caution and leave it alone.
2. Use the Cloud
Look for various cloud backup solutions for your data storage. You still have to be prudent when using the cloud, but it is a great way to back up and protect your data. Since you will not be storing it on your own computer, your data cannot be accessed if your files were to be hacked. Your data will be kept safe by an offsite provider, so your files will not be compromised.
3. Don’t Send Sensitive Information
If you need to send any sensitive information via email or online messages, wait until you know for certain that you are using a secured network. Email and online messages are not overly secure at the best of times, and even worse when you are using a network that thousands of others are also using.
4. Don’t Use External Flash Drives
USB flash drives are convenient, but they are not secure. It is easy for these drives to be loaded with malware, or to have been reformatted with firmware that has been tampered with. Unless you are absolutely certain that the drive has not been tampered with in any way, it is best to avoid using it for sending any important or private data.
5. Install all Available Updates
Most operating systems send out regular updates and security patches. For instance, Microsoft sends updates on the second Tuesday of each month. Apple updates aren’t as frequent, but they are frequent enough to help keep your data secure. By installing the updates regularly, you are ensuring that your system has the latest security features.
6. Keep Your Laptop Locked
If you have to leave the area where you are working, even for a couple of minutes, make sure that your computer is locked. This isn’t going to protect your data from external hacker, but it will ensure that no one who is around can go and peek into your files. You don’t want anyone to end up stealing your work and taking credit for it.
7. Install Anti-Malware Protection
You never know where malware is going to pop up, so the best way to avoid it is by installing anti-malware protection on your computer. Malware, or malicious software, is created to damage a computer without your knowledge or consent, and includes viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware, and more. It can be just about anywhere, including emails, websites, etc. An anti-virus protection program will help to eliminate this threat.
Lorraine McKinney is an academic tutor and e learning specialist.