Keeping Your Identity Safe as an Online College Student

November 11th, 2016

By Robert Parmer

 

Students pursuing a degree in the 21st century are surrounded by technology and associated conveniences. We certainly have a plethora of tech gadgets to help us through difficult tasks and courses. Our digital toolkit for higher education continues to expand.

While the use of technology certainly makes our lives easier in numerous ways, it’s important to remain mindful of the potential hazards that technology may project as a side effect to our conveniences.

The most common threat, as technology progresses and new vulnerabilities present themselves, is identity theft. Last year alone, almost half a million identity theft cases were reported to the Federal Trade Commission.

Identity theft can present itself in numerous ways. This includes viruses and malware that infect our devices, as well as email scams, and other fraud committed when personal information is manipulated.

But have you ever stopped and wondered, “why are these attacks happening in the first place?”

An article by the Cyber Security Program at Maryville University Online explains how the education section is behind in terms of cyber safety, and what the motives of these cyber criminals look like:

“An area that consistently ranks among the most unprepared for cyber threats is the education sector. Due to the important and valuable intellectual property held by educational institutions, especially those in higher education, they are becoming prime targets for cyber attacks.

The technological and scientific research that happens in university settings can be used for monetary gain among those looking to infiltrate computer systems. For this reason and others, it is crucial for universities to be proactive with their cyber security.

For two straight years there has been a drop in the security score for educational institutions that coincide with the school year. This is likely due to the rise in the number of people connecting to networks in the university sector.”

So as a student what can you do to protect yourself and your belongings from cyber attacks?

Upgrade Your Laptop Security

Laptops are stolen all the time at college campuses and in public settings. On top of losing the device itself, laptops and tablets can contain very sensitive, personal materials and documents. You don’t want your personal information to fall the wrong hands!

Fortunately, there are several ways to improve the security measures of your property. This can be achieved by using both software and hardware that aims for added security measures.

There are several laptop tracking apps that exist. These can be installed ahead of time to ensure that stolen computers are recovered more easily. Also, be sure that your computer’s antivirus software is always up to date.

Consider using laptop fingerprint scanners as well as computer locks for your devices. That way if thieves will have a more difficult time accessing your personal documents and information if your property is stolen.

Use Safe Passwords

The passwords you choose should be as secure as possible. An informative article by Buy Surety presents some helpful guidelines for safe password usage:

 

  • Use a different password for every online account you have registered.
  • Make each password impossible to guess.
  • Only store your private passwords in a password protected area on your computer or away from your computer completely.
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi to login to secure areas such as email, banking accounts, etc.

Don’t save all of your passwords in your web browser, as this creates an avenue for intruders to easily access emails, shopping and credit card info, and other important documents they shouldn’t have their hands on.

Instead, consider keeping a physical password journal. This can just be a simple, organized notebook that you keep in your room in a safe-guarded place.

Live With Roommates You Trust

While it’s not always possible, being choosy about who you live with can be considered a preventative measure in terms of eliminating identity theft. These types of crime can occur in the most comfortable places at times–even your own home!

Some guidelines for finding a roommate you trust are as follows:

 

  • Avoid living with total strangers, even if they ‘seem nice’ and make a good first impression.
  • Live with family members or close friends when possible.
  • Use social media to find potential roommates with mutual friends.
  • Try to live with people who are involved in the same extra curricular communities as you.

Reduce Your Paper Trail

Not all forms of identity theft are digitally based. While not as common as it used to be, dumpster diving criminals still exists. They are searching for specific information about anyone they can get their hands on, including social security numbers, credit card information, and even sales receipts.

Be sure to shred these documents and mail that gets tossed out. Or consider doing what I do, using these pieces of paper to start fires in your home fireplace all winter. Whatever you do, keep this info out of the ‘public garbage space’.

Other Forms of Identity Theft To Look Out For

Cyber criminals spend their days searching for newly profound ways to steal your identity. The instances of identity theft mentioned so far are the most common. But it doesn’t stop there. Other less frequent types of identity crimes include driver’s license and car insurance fraud, child identity theft, healthcare identity theft, and tax fraud.

Not that you are armed with the knowledge to combat identity theft hazards, your chances of becoming a victim are significantly less. Just remain conscious, not paranoid, of the digital threats that are lurking–you can keep cyber crime out of your life if you remember these tips!

Robert Parmer is a freelance web writer and student of Boise State University. Outside of writing whenever he has spare time, Robert enjoys creating and recording music, caring for his pet cat, and commuting by bicycle whenever possible. Follow him on Twitter @robparmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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