Back to School: Higher-Ed Tech Security Basics

Uncategorized Posted Sep 7, 2018 by Courtney Kruzement-Prykhodko

The CHEN team can’t believe it’s already September!

The start of fall means it’s back to school time for many (and that pumpkin spice lattes are back in season). Whether it’s a transition from high school to college or the start of a new semester, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and gloss over tech security basics. And for new incoming students, this might be the first time you have sole responsibility to keep your electronics safe without mom or dad’s watchful eye.

 

Here are our top three tips for staying safe this semester:

 

  • Use strong passwords and change them every semester.
    • Easy to say, annoying to do. I know. I used the same password for my student ID log in throughout my entire college career. But, you should really take a second to think about it. You’re probably logging into a central student account, one that has all your personal information, all your financial data, dining hall plans, gym memberships and coveted library room reservations. Now that I know better, (I do work in a tech PR agency after all). I always make sure to change passwords frequently and create challenging new ones. I was lucky enough to get by without any data leaks (that I’m aware of), but with the increased number of university hacks, be smart and don’t leave yourself vulnerable!

 

  • Physically secure your device. While you’re at it, make sure to lock your operating system, too.
    • At my university, if you were hanging out in a dining hall/student lounge/library for an extended period, chances are someone would ask you to watch their belongings while she ran to the bathroom or grabbed a coffee. At first, I was skeptical and would never ask for the favor in return, but I slowly started relying on my peers to help out every now and then. I’m not sure if this is still a student code of sorts (it wasn’t that long ago!). For added insurance, there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself. Buy a laptop cable lock (they’re about the price of two burritos) and use it. And, before you walk away, make sure you lock your operating system. This tip also applies to your dorm room especially if you have a roommate who, more often than not, forgets to close the door all the way. Keep your valuables locked up or out of sight.

 

  • Learn how to use your social media privacy settings.
    • Social media privacy is super important, especially if you like to post status updates often about your activities or whereabouts. Think about when celebrities post that they’re on vacation and then the bad guys break into their homes. While you might not be an A-lister (but hopefully your transcript is!) it’s still important to maintain some privacy over your comings and goings. This includes not happily accepting every follow or friend request you receive – just those from people you actually know. There are people out there who don’t have the best intentions and you have much more important things to focus on, like acing your next exam (and figuring out where the party is this week). Speaking of which, you may not want future internships or employers judging you based on the photos of what you did last weekend. Consider this: even if you aren’t posting party photos, chances are you have a friend who is. Beyond asking them not to post that photo of you doing a keg stand on Thursday, configure your settings to ensure that friends can’t tag you without your permission. And, no, changing your last name to your middle name on Facebook doesn’t grant you immunity.

 

 

Finally, while not a security tip per se, always back up your documents to a secure cloud or external drive and save frequently while working. No matter what kind of laptop you have or how reliable you think it may be, assume you will lose at least one important paper at some point and have to start from scratch on a tight deadline. It happens to everyone, so do yourself a favor and be proactive!