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If you’re a student juggling online coursework, all-day video calls, and a socially distanced social life, strengthening your cybersecurity posture probably isn’t on the top of your to-do list. After all, it’s easy to think, “Why would hackers care about my 2,000-word essay on Pride and Prejudice?”
Still, English 101 assignments aside, there’s more personal data in your online classroom ecosystem than you might think. From identifying information like your National Insurance Number to sensitive financial details, there’s likely plenty of juicy data that nefarious entities would be thrilled to access, given the right security gaps. What’s more, the evolving threat landscape these bad actors utilise today is a lot more sophisticated than that of even a few years ago.
Here are three simple tips for keeping yourself safe while learning online.
Your Dog’s Name Doesn’t Count As a Strong Password
We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but just as “my dog ate my homework” is a poor excuse for not turning in an assignment, your dog’s name is not an acceptable password for your school accounts. Ideally, you should have a unique password for every account – including your school email address, homework portal, videoconferencing account, and whatever else you need for learning from home. It’s also not a good idea to keep your passwords listed in a simple document or digital note.
You can use an online generator to come up with a strong password, or even better, rely upon a password manager to automatically assign and keep track of a litany of ironclad passwords. Multi-factor authentication may be another way to take your password security a step further.
Keep Your Guard Up for Scammy-Sounding Emails
Online learning represents another arena where cybercriminals may use phishing emails – messages that ask for personal information or encourage users to click links that install malicious software – to gain access to your sensitive data. According to the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN), more than 90 percent of cyberattacks on schools originate from phishing scams. And in the era of COVID-19, these types of attacks are trending up.
So if an email from a fellow student urgently asking you to check out their class notes seems a little off, consider it phishy. Unfortunately, some of these email scams are advanced enough that it can be challenging to detect them. Here’s where some reinforcement can be useful: Bitdefender’s Digital Identity Protection program can monitor ongoing activity for up to five email addresses, as well as notify you if your information has been revealed in recent data breaches. It will even detect “social media impersonators” and let you see if any of your personal data appears on the Dark Web.
Do Your Homework on VPNs
A virtual private network (VPN) is a secure way to browse and access your sensitive information with a little added peace of mind, particularly if you plan to log on to your school portal from coffee shops, public connections, or other environments that may not be secure. VPNs function by encrypting incoming and outgoing traffic on your devices to ensure anonymity. Bitdefender’s ultra-fast VPN, for instance, provides unlimited encrypted traffic for up to 10 devices and connects seamlessly to more than 1,300 servers around the globe.
It’s important to educate yourself on the latest threat landscape and take appropriate measures to ensure your data is secure. If you’re looking for a more robust solution to strengthen your home and school cybersecurity, visit Bitdefender to learn more about their suite of software options.
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