Cybersecurity for students

Cybersecurity: What college students don’t realize

As students head to college, cybersecurity may be the last thing on their minds. But according to CyberScout®, college students’ clean credit reports, constant internet connection, and multiple social media profiles make them prime targets for cyber criminals.

Here are some tips to help students concentrate on school, not dealing with hacks. And by the way, these steps can be helpful for anyone — not just students.

Secure it

Lock computers — or log out — when inactive (personal computer or school computers).

Even better, physically lock up any digital devices or documents that contain personal identifiable information (PII). This can include full name, Social Security number, birthdate, phone number, and/or address. Laptop locks and security boxes can help protect laptops, tablets, USBs, and external hard drives.

Keep it in sight

Make sure devices are always in your line of sight. Even a short trip to the restroom can be chancy. A lot can happen in those few moments and it’s not worth the risk.

Register and track devices

College students are constantly on the move between classes, study spots, and side jobs. Registering devices with campus police will make it easier and faster if you need to report a missing device.

Many devices today come with tracking features and there are physical hardware tools to attach to it like Tile or Apple‘s AirTag.

“Password” isn’t a good password

For hackers, an easy password can be a free pass to access your data.DataProt says that 12345 is still being used as a password more than 23 million times.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency recommends these best practices for password creation.

  • Use different passwords for each system or account you own.
  • Use the longest password or passphrase permissible by each system or account.
  • Do not use passwords that are based on personal information that can be easily accessed or guessed.
  • Do not use words that can be found in any dictionary of any language.
  • Use multi-factor authentication, which requires an extra piece of data to log in.

Check links

Want to check out a link before click on it? Free sources like Link Checker and CheckShortURL can help you decide what to click. Try Quad9 to see or block risky websites.

Always review suspicious links before you click on them. Red flags include links that have been shortened by a generator like, have strange characters, or came from an unsolicited sender.

Check emails for authenticity

One of the most common methods hackers use to get your information is through fake emails. Unfortunately, even the most careful person can be duped into clicking a bad email link.

Here are a couple of ways you can tell if an email is fake or malicious:

  • Don’t overreact. If an email is sent to you threatening to share your private information, don’t jump to conclusions immediately. More likely than not, a scammer is using a threat to manipulate you.
  • Check the domain name (what follows the @ symbol). If it’s spelled incorrectly (e.g. — there should be two ‘l’s) it’s probably a scam.
  • Look for misspellings and/or bad grammar.
  • Look closely at attachments. Do not open attachments without examining them first. Are you expecting the email and/or the attachment?

Be careful of public Wi-Fi

If you’re accessing free internet in a public space — a coffee shop or study area — know that your internet connection could possibly be vulnerable to hackers or snoopers.

To protect yourself, make sure the Wi-Fi you’re accessing is the real one provided by the business or building, and not a “spoofed” signal, a fraudulent account made to look real. Consider using your own personal hotspot to connect your devices to the internet. VPNs are also great when using public Wi-Fi because they’ll hide your traffic from anyone that may be watching the network traffic.

Learn more about cybersecurity

The Grinnell Mutual cybersecurity team has lots of tips to keep your data and PII safe and for online safety in general.

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