Digital Citizenship 101: Cybersecurity for Students

Monica Webster
cybersecurity for students two students in white background

It's back-to-school season — the perfect time to brush up on internet safety. Whether it's for doing research, taking notes, making schedules, or simply surfing the net, your gadgets are an essential part of a university and school life. Here are the basics of internet safety for teens and students.

Always back up your files

A power outage the night before a deadline, a clumsy friend dropping coffee on your laptop, or merely a wrong turn when surfing the net — it takes only a second to lose a week's worth of work. Back up your data. Always. Whether it's a USB or cloud storage, having a backup of your files will save you a lot of stress.

Increase your password security

Criminals are getting good at guessing your passwords, so your best friend's name or mom's birthday won't cut it anymore. The only way to boost your online safety is to armor your accounts with unique, long, and complicated character combinations.

Remembering them all can get complicated, and this is where a password manager can help. With NordPass, you can manage your credentials for free. It also has an integrated password generator, so whenever you're signing up for a new account, you can create a bulletproof passphrase in seconds.

Don't forget to lock your device

This is one of the most critical cybersecurity tips for students, especially if you like to hang out in your campus library or a local cafe when working. Having strong passwords means nothing if you don't lock your devices. Don't leave your sensitive information for a prying roommate or a nosy coursemate to see. At best, you might end up with a funny desktop wallpaper; at worst, someone might copy your coursework or even steal your financial information.

Update your software regularly

We've all been tempted to click that 'Update later' button when a new software upgrade notification pops up. But software updates aren't just about incapacitating your laptop for 20 minutes. They have essential security improvements and bug fixes that could otherwise be exploited by cybercriminals looking to steal your data.

Be wary of scammers

Starting a new school year comes with a lot of new accounts, such as those for your campus library, university email, or a learning management system. With a flood of new information and registrations, a malicious email or an unsafe website might enter the mix and stir up trouble. So, when you get a seemingly innocuous email from a university asking to confirm your identity, ask yourself — is this link safe? Learn how to recognize phishing.

Protect yourself on public Wi-Fi

Using public Wi-Fi is very convenient, but not always safe. Hotspots commonly have pretty weak safeguards against criminals, so before going shopping while connected to your local cafe's Wi-Fi, ask yourself whether the website you are visiting is safe.

The first thing you do to confirm the safety of a website is look at the top left corner of your browser's search bar. If it has a little lock symbol, the website uses HTTPS protocol, which encrypts your communications — this is a good sign. Otherwise, you should consider using a VPN. VPNs encrypt your data traffic on any device, so hackers can't snoop on your sensitive data.

Don't overshare on social media

Be careful about what you reveal online. The city you're from or your pet's name may seem innocent enough, but they're also quite common answers to security questions when you're locked out of your account. No matter how happy you are to get your driver's license or go on vacation, don't post pictures of your license or boarding pass.

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