Back to School Cyber Security Tips

While we may want to ignore it, Autumn is on its way. And that means back to school season is upon us. There are a lot of things to do to prepare yourself or your kids for the return to school. But when it comes to security, let’s make them as quick and easy as possible – so you can spend a few more weekends at the pool.  

Online and device security may not be the first thing that comes to mind with the new school year, but more and more middle school, high school and college students have mobile devices, laptops, and online educational requirements. It is more important than ever that students protect their digital lives as much as adults.  

Here are a few easy tips to protect yourself or your kids when starting school.  

Create a password for your laptop and phone 

Most devices come with a password option that requires you to enter or code or use your fingerprint (or your face for iPhone X). Ensure that you have this enabled for your phone and laptop. And remember to lock your computer every time you leave it alone.  

You can also physically lock down your computer by investing in a cable lock, which allows you to secure it to a desk. This is helpful for college students who are working in coffee shops and libraries that are open to the public.  

Use multi-factor to secure your email 

Our email accounts are the hub of our online lives. And this is no different for students. Think of all the sites you use your email address for, and the network you’ve built with it.  

Because of this, it’s essential to never share your email password. This is not like a Netflix password that many have decided is acceptable to share. Your email password is truly for your eyes only.  

For extra security, enable multi-factor authentication for your email account. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring you to enter your password and provide an additional form of authentication – usually a code or your fingerprint. Enabling MFA means that even if someone gets your email password they won’t be able to log in without that additional form of verification. 

Be careful of public Wi-Fi 

Students often use public Wi-Fi when working in libraries, cafes or other places on campus. It’s important to limit your access to sensitive accounts, like banking, when on public Wi-Fi. Consider using a VPN when using Wi-Fi as well, which allows you to browse anonymously.  

More tips on staying safe when using public Wi-Fi can be found here 

Update software 

It can be annoying when software update notifications continue to pop up on your screen. They always seem to come at the worst time, but they really shouldn’t be ignored. Shutting down browsers and your computer itself is often all you need to do to initiate updates for your computer.  

If you do see notifications, make sure you respond to them quickly. These updates include important fixes – sometimes addressing serious gaps in security or other issues.  

Backup your devices 

Loss and theft happen – no matter how careful you are. The best thing you can do is prepare by backing up your information. There are many cloud services that will back up your photos and documents automatically, so you don’t even need to think about it.  

Also, you can save sensitive information in LastPass – like copies of insurance cards, Passports etc. This information needs to be protected, so saving it in the LastPass encrypted vault is your safest option.  

To recap, here’s a checklist to double check your cybersecurity:  

  • Set your computer to auto-lock. 
  • Set your smartphone’s pin code or fingerprint ID. 
  • Invest in a cable lock. 
  • Err on the side of caution when sharing online. 
  • Use a strong password for your email account. 
  • Don’t share your email login with anyone. 
  • Enable multi-factor authentication for your email account. 
  • Use a password manager like LastPass to manage your accounts. 
  • Generate unique passwords to avoid password reuse. 
  • Respond to all prompts to update your software. 
  • Restart your computer occasionally to ensure updates are completed. 
  • Use a VPN if you need to access personal accounts on open WiFi. 
  • Be mindful of the connection you’re using and what you’re accessing on that connection. 
  • Back up everything to an external hard drive, regularly. 

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