We are currently in the throes of graduation season when students transition away from academia and move towards building their lives and careers. For many, college graduation symbolizes the end of adolescence and the beginning of life as an independent, professional young adult. However, with this newfound freedom comes increasing levels of responsibility.
For many, this will be their first experience with managing important business matters such as banking and investment accounts, mortgages and rent, insurance, utilities and other types of monthly expenses such as car payments, credit cards and repaying student loans. So while graduation represents a finish line of sorts, the excitement can often be tempered by the stark reality that life is about to become a lot more serious and filled with many important decisions.
The good news is that technology has enabled us to create an efficient and safe online presence, making it easier and more convenient to handle personal finances and accounts. However, a word of caution, convenient does not always equal secure. While there may be an app for just about any possible service or transaction you can think of, they won’t cure user carelessness or recklessness. The following tips are offered to help guide you as you begin to establish your post-graduate online presence:
- Establish good habits from the beginning – Online habits are no different than any other behavior. Establish secure routines such as being mindful of how much personal information you share on social media from the outset and you are likely to carry those with you into the future. Start off with questionable standards and you’ll likely be dealing with issues for forever.
- Don’t over socialize – Access to your online accounts should be limited to essential personnel (you) at all times. Just as you wouldn’t share your ATM pin number or checkbook with friends, sharing your passwords to important accounts is a definitive no.
- Get creative when it comes to passwords – Weak and reused passwords continue to be the weak link in online security. Never use the same password twice and avoid using passwords that have a personal connection such as names and birthdays. Also, as the number of online accounts you maintain continues to grow, consider a password manager such as LastPass rather than trying to manage the process manually.
- Understand and appreciate the stakes – While most graduates likely have a number of online accounts, they are more likely to be for social media and other less significant sites where the likelihood of financial loss is minimal. As the importance and value of your accounts rise, so must your vigilance when it comes to online security.
- Don’t make it easy for criminals – Just as you wouldn’t leave your keys in the car and running when you go into the mall, don’t leave the door open to your accounts with things like weak security questions and obvious passwords. Wherever available, be sure to enable two-factor authentication (2FA). With 2FA activated on your accounts, it means that even if a hacker has your password, they will not be able to access the account without having a second piece of information such as a one-time code generated from an app on your phone. Cybercriminals tend not to be persistent and will move on at the first sign of resistance.
Graduates will face a lot of obstacles in their first years out of school, for most it’s the only environment they’ve ever known. By following the tips listed above online security won’t be one of them.
If you’re still using your college .edu email address, you can sign up for a free 6 months of LastPass Premium here: https://lastpass.com/edupromo.php . You can change the email associated with your account after you lose access to your school email.
Opportunity is everywhere, let’s make sure that cybercriminals don’t feel that way about your accounts.