In a BYOD (bring your own device) world where entire lives are stored on hard drives and college degrees earned online, it is increasingly important to stay aware and on the offense for cyber threats. The use of mobile technology in the virtual classroom of online learning has completely changed the way students access resources and educational services and enhanced collaboration with instructors.
A recent survey conducted by Campus Computing and WCET found that almost 88% of the surveyed higher education institutions had begun offering online courses. Since internet-based learning, depends on the use of the internet for its execution, it unfortunately includes all of the internet’s inherent security risks as well.
That’s why it’s critical to remain vigilant. Protect personal information even when doing the most common web activities like online banking, shopping or updating social media accounts with the following tips:
1. Take Passwords Seriously
Take creating a password seriously and always use strong passwords. Hackers can do more damage if you use the same username and password everywhere. Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Combine numbers, letters and symbols, upper and lower case. If you are having a difficult time generating a good password, Microsoft offers excellent tools for generating codes that are easy to remember.
2. Keep Your School Email Account Secure
Though it may seem that linking all of your accounts to one email address is a way to make your life simpler, linking your Facebook, Twitter and business accounts to your school email opens the address to threats. Your social accounts draw attention from hackers, who can then follow them to your school account. Cyber criminals can then gain access to your transcripts, schedules, financial aid and your personal information.
3. Use Secure Networks
You should never use a public network, such as free Wi-Fi offered at a business or an insecure network labeled as “guest,” to perform any financial transactions. Hackers are aware that many often link to these networks and set up spyware to catch financial information. Avoid using public computers to log into secure accounts. Cybercriminals will sometimes set up free public Wi-Fi stations and use a popular scam known as phishing to collect your login information. Just use trusted Wi-Fi networks and avoid login screens that don’t look familiar.
4. Be Aware of Fraudulent Security Experts
Cyber criminals are constantly changing tactics. A recent cyber trap involved hackers fraudulently posing as security experts and tricking victims into giving out their password information. While surfing the web or researching topics, you may stumble upon a page that prompts you to download free or cheap security software. The prompt may even say the software has already found a virus on your computer. These are more than often scams created by cybercriminals looking to steal your information.
5. Avoid Downloading Illegal Content
Don’t download free media. Torrents, direct download websites, and streaming hosts open your computer up to a wide range of malware and viruses. Trojan viruses can install software-like keyloggers, which can record everything you type on a computer, such as usernames and passwords, and send this information to online criminals. You will be less likely to download malicious software if you avoid illegal content and piracy websites.
Using good antivirus software and site safety tools, such as Norton Antivirus or McAfee’s SiteAdviser can help keep your computer free of viruses and spyware. This software can quickly identify, contain, and remove security threats from your computer. Mac users will also want to run OS X updates periodically, since Apple computers rely on built-in protection. Look for the “lock” symbol in the address bar and/or “https” in the site’s address; these mean that the website is verified and secure. Remaining vigilant and using these tips will help insure that you have a safe, enjoyable online learning experience.