Sending your kids off to college is an exciting milestone; but along with that excitement comes a new set of worries. It's important to do whatever you can to help your college student stay safe, whether in her dorm room or while surfing online. Help your student keep his personal information and high-tech gadgets safe with these eight smart moves to help keep the bad guys at bay.
1. Use privacy settings
Students spend a lot of time on the Internet; and not all of it is for class. It's fun to document the college experience with photos and tweets, but it's important to not overshare. Be smart when using social networks. Encourage your student to set social media accounts to private so that only approved friends and family can see what he or she posts. They should never post information about their location or plans for the night, and should always scrutinize selfies to make sure there's no personal information lurking in the background.
2. Don't neglect physical protection
Cyberspace isn't the only place where it's smart to lock things down: Keeping smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other pricey gadgets from walking away is also important. Most laptops come with a security slot that can link to a cable lock to prevent theft. It's worth the hassle to cable that new laptop to something a thief can't carry away. When not in use, lock other mobile devices in a secure place like a locked drawer or file cabinet. There are also small lock boxes and safes that are the perfect size to tuck away in even the smallest dorm room.
3. Trust your gut
If an email or online offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don't let your student fall for scams that promise a big payout for little or no effort. Warn them never to click on links or open attachments from a sender they don't know. These can let malware and hackers into the computer, where they can destroy the machine and gain access to personal information. Make sure they show extra diligence with emails claiming to be from their bank. Always check with the bank over the phone and never enter banking credentials or passwords into an email request for verification.
4. Get protection
The best anti-theft software comes with a price tag, but it's one worth paying. Laptop-tracking software like LoJack by Absolute Software helps you recover a lost or stolen laptop. Because Absolute Software has a firmware deal with major vendors, the LoJack can reactivate even if the hard drive has been wiped or swapped out. There are also tracking apps and other software available for smartphones and tablets. And sometimes your service provider can also help track down a missing phone.
5. Lockdown on all devices
Passwords aren't just for bank accounts and social media. Laptops, phones and tablets all have passcode features to protect anyone who isn't you from getting into your device and gaining access to sensitive information. Every layer of protection your student can put between himself and a hacker is helpful. Always set the passcode, and use a different code for each device. Avoid easy-to-guess codes like birthdays, birth or graduation years, and house numbers.
6. Be cautious on public WiFi
Free WiFi may seem like a college student's best friend, but some cost-free options may not be worth giving up online info through an unencrypted network. This is why your student needs to understand the risks of using an open network and how they can be avoided.
A few quick pointers: Don't check out banking information, credit card bills, or insurance accounts while using a public network. It's easy for hackers to steal login credentials over an unsecured network. If your student uses a college computer, make sure he or she is careful to log out completely from every website, as well as the actual computer, before walking away.
7. Use the right passwords
Passwords are crucial for protecting devices and information. It may seem simpler to use the same password for multiple accounts and websites, but doing so makes you vulnerable to identity theft. Encourage your student to use different passwords for each account and to make them long and complicated. The most effective passwords include a variety of special characters, numbers, and upper- and lowercase letters. They should not be variations on a name or common phrase. To keep track of complicated passwords, your student can use a secure password manager.
8. Stay updated
All of those annoying reminders you get to update your software are actually pretty important. Outdated software is one of the biggest reasons computers and devices become vulnerable to attack. When updates and security patches are released for software and operating systems, update them as soon as possible. Keeping everything up-to-date is one of the easiest ways to protect devices and personal information.