As a college student, you likely have a lot on your plate. In addition to working on passing your midterms, memorizing the new syllabus, and determining what you want to do after graduation, you also need to stay vigilant against the threats of cybercriminals. Yes, you may have a full life, but if you aren’t careful and you let a hacker steal your information, then you could face an all-new set of problems.
Since computers are used in just about every facet of student life, we want to set you up for success. So, we have compiled all of the information you need to know about potential scams, the methods that you can use to stay protected, and how to take some of the stress out of cybersecurity.
Dangers Of Cybercrime In Education
Many people believe that hackers spend all of their time focusing on mega-corporations that have millions of dollars and customers to steal from, but that could not be further from the truth. The fact is that cybercriminals are after any data that they can get because all of it can be used for malicious purposes. Social security numbers and banking information can be used to take out fraudulent student loans, while even seemingly innocent information like birth dates and email addresses can be sold on the black market.
Hackers are looking for easy targets and they know that students have too much on their minds to think about cybersecurity, so they often attack educational institutions. Many universities are home to hundreds if not thousands of students, so hackers can get a lot of information at once, and they can cause major havoc.
There is also a lot of cash moving about at universities as students need to pay for classes, books, and food. If a hacker is able to upload a virus to the system, then they could steal a lot of money. That is why students need to keep an eye on their finances. If they notice that their money is gone, then they can notify the administration, and they can try to stop the leakage.
All of these scenarios above explain why the whole education sector is at risk of cybercrime. As a student at a physical or online college, you are not responsible for saving your school, but you can protect your own computers and personal data, so your private information is not put in jeopardy.
Understand Common Scams
The first step to cybersecurity in college is to learn about common scams and how to avoid them. One of the tactics that hackers use the most is the phishing email, which appears to be a legitimate message, but really, it is sent by a criminal, and it includes a link or attachment that if clicked or opened, can unleash a virus onto your computer. The hacker will often pretend to be a person of authority, like a professor or a representative from the school, so you are intimidated to open it. You should be mindful of the possibility of phishing scams and watch for these warning signs:
- An email that claims to be from a college administrator but comes from a common email address like Yahoo or Gmail.
- The message is not directed at you but to “sir or madam” or “to whom it may concern.”
- The subject and body of the message have spelling errors.
- There is a link or attachment that you were not expecting.
Another major scam that could impact your entire campus is ransomware. That is when a hacker is able to breach the network and lock down the entire school so that administrators cannot access any data until they pay the criminals a fee. As a student, you must prepare for this potential scenario, if only because you may need that locked information for an upcoming class or assignment. To get ahead of the problem, back up your data on an extra device like a thumb drive so you can access it even if the main computers are inaccessible.
Be Smart About Security
It may seem daunting to take on cybersecurity scams, but with the right precautions, you can protect your data and your school work. For instance, you can enable a DDoS shield to help prevent the risk of Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, which is when a hacker floods your system with internet traffic and essentially prevents you from reaching your systems or completing any work online.
Even if you do not have access or the funds to bring on more complex security measures, you can follow some common sense security steps to protect your data, including using complex passwords and two-factor authentication, which is an additional form of protection like a code sent to your phone or the biometric scan of an eye or fingerprint. You can also buy and enable a virtual private network that will disguise your location and encrypt your data so it cannot be read even if it is stolen.
You might also consider moving your school assignments to the cloud, which is what you are doing when you use online programs like Google Docs and Microsoft Teams. Experts say that using these online platforms can help you to be more productive because they make it easier to collaborate with others, and you can access your data from anywhere, from your dorm to the computer lab. Best of all, many of these cloud companies have their own security teams that will keep an eye on the data you have on their servers, so you don’t have to. It is a nice way to have 24-hour protection.
In the end, the idea of cybersecurity may be daunting at first, but by understanding the risks and taking the proper precautions, you can keep your school data protected so you can focus on passing your classes.
If you are interested in the subject of cybersecurity, you may want to explore finding a role within the industry following your studies. The cybersecurity job market is projected to grow by 31% by 2029 and the average salary, is getting close to touching six figures so prospects are excellent. To find out more, check out Comparitech’s detailed guide on how to get an entry-level job in cybersecurity.
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