If you’re still at school, you’re probably getting ready for a new semester to start soon. Chances are, some or all of your courses will be online while we’re still battling the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a huge adjustment, and it also means we have to be extra careful about protecting our data and devices from hackers.
We called on the cybersecurity experts at ESET to explain the best internet safety tips for the students.
What's in this guide ?
- What are the main cyber threats?
- 5 ways to boost your cybersecurity
- 1. Don’t give away your personal details online
- 2. Secure your Wi-Fi connection
- 3. Check all of your privacy settings
- 4. Learn how to identify spam and phishing emails
- 5. Say yes to all software updates
- Protect your devices with antivirus software
What are the main cyber threats?
With so many of us studying online now, cybercriminals have more opportunity than ever to pull off attacks. Unfortunately, they’ve been busy thinking of new and creative ways to hack into our computers and networks.
Wondering how hackers get into your computer? These are some of the most common cyber threats we’re dealing with:
- Phishing emails. The pandemic has caused a lot of confusion and uncertainty, and cybercriminals are taking advantage of that by sending scam emails. There are a few types of emails doing the rounds, and the most common one asks you to download a “coronavirus tracker.” We’ve also seen emails from hackers pretending to be medical experts — and if you click on a link, it installs a virus on your computer.
- Identity theft. Since we’re all online now more than ever, there’s a chance we’re filling out more digital forms with our personal and contact information, as well as banking details. Hackers often steal that data so they can sell it, so it’s really important to be as private as possible. More on that in a minute!
- Webcam hacks. Hands up if you’ve lost count of how many Zoom calls you’ve had this year? Us, too. Can someone see you through your laptop camera? Usually not, but we’ve seen more cybercriminals trying to access webcams and hack into networks from there.
5 ways to boost your cybersecurity
Cybersecurity might be a pretty new concept to you, and that’s understandable. Schools have strict security measures in place, so you probably didn’t have to think about it too much before. Luckily, you can use “hacks” of your own to protect your data and devices at home.
To stay safe and secure while you’re remote learning, follow these internet safety tips for teens and students.
1. Don’t give away your personal details online
The less information you reveal, the better! One of the biggest computer safety rules for students is to only talk to people you know. If someone asks for personally identifiable information — like your address or where you go to school — double-check with your teacher or parents before responding.
Think of cybercriminals as detectives. Once they have a little bit of information about you, they can do some digging to find a lot more.
2. Secure your Wi-Fi connection
An open WiFi network is the equivalent of leaving your front door wide open. Plus, there’s no need to give other people free WiFi!
To lock down your WiFi connection and make sure no one can access it, here’s what to do:
- Choose a random name for the network. Instead of naming your network “John Smith’s computer,” challenge yourself to come up with a name that can’t be linked to you at all. The more obscure, the better. Think Lion’s Lair or Dragon’s Dungeon.
- Create a strong password. Your password should be hard to guess, and have a mix of capital and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols.
- Change your password regularly. Aim for every 60 to 90 days.
- Update the security settings. In your network settings, select WiFi-Protected Access 2 (also known as WPA2) and pick AES for your algorithm.
- Connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN). We’re always asked, do I need a VPN?It’s a good idea.These secure networks encrypt the data you send and receive and hide your IP address to increase your online privacy and anonymity. Your school should be able to help you set up a VPN while you’re remote learning — and you’ll earn brownie points for being on top of cybersecurity!
3. Check all of your privacy settings
This is an easy way to amp up your privacy and confidentiality. It’s especially important if you have younger siblings using your devices, too.
Go into every app, video-conferencing software, messaging platform (like Slack) and social media site you use for school and beyond. Then, turn on the most advanced privacy settings to make it harder for hackers to find a way in.
4. Learn how to identify spam and phishing emails
Your school is probably relying on email to send learning materials and announcements. With so many more emails flying back and forth, scam emails are on the rise during this pandemic.
You might be able to spot a suspicious email before it causes damage, like installing malware on your computer. So, to avoid falling victim to a scam, follow these golden rules:
- Never open emails from unknown senders. If you don’t recognise a sender, mark the email as spam and flag it with your school’s IT department. And if you’re not sure whether you know the sender, check the email address or subject line for spelling errors or weird symbols. That’s how to spot a phishing email.
- Avoid clicking on links in suspicious emails. If you do open a suspicious email, try not to click on any links or download attachments.
- Don’t send personal or financial details via email. Any legitimate person or business won’t ask for sensitive information through email. They’ll have encrypted platforms to store that kind of information, like online portals.
5. Say yes to all software updates
As tempting as it is to skip software updates, try not to ignore them. Software updates fix security issues and bugs so it’s harder for hackers to tap into your computer or webcam. They pop up all the time because manufacturers release patches as they find flaws to keep you — and your data — safe.
Now that you know that, it’s a good idea to install software updates right away. They usually take a few minutes and you might have to restart your computer, but it’s worth the extra effort.
You can also turn on automatic updates so you don’t have to worry about them anymore.
Protect your devices with antivirus software
For extra peace of mind, install a sophisticated anti-virus software on all your devices. by doing this, you’ll have a multi-layered defence against all those cyberthreats we talked about earlier.