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Health & Safety

A Secure Digital Life for Your College Student

Guest Contributor

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From social media to coding, college students today are more technologically savvy than ever before. Though they can navigate any device or application with their eyes closed, they don’t necessarily protect those devices as well as they should.

Constant proximity to others — in the residence hall, classroom buildings, the student center and the library — makes it essential that they take basic security measures to keep their digital lives secure across all devices. Share these six tips today!

1. Keep all devices on lockdown

Living in the residence hall presents security threats to your devices that weren’t a risk when living at home. While your roommate may be an old high school BFF, you cannot always trust the friends they bring back to the dorm around your computer, tablet and phone.

Be sure to implement a passcode on every device: cell phone, laptop, tablet, Xbox, etc. Any internet accessible or non-internet accessible device can offer personal information, like photos, appointments and even access to editing your class schedule, to strangers that shouldn’t have access. If possible, set a timer with the passcode so that you’re prompted to re-enter the password after a certain period of inactivity.

2. Use a password manager

It’s best to keep strong and random passwords, using a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Passwords should be as long as possible (aim for 15 characters) and avoid words found in a dictionary like “apple” or “dangerous.”

But who has time to remember multiple password and login combinations? The temptation is to use the same password and login combination for every site, which essentially makes a hacker’s life easier since the key to one account is the key to all of them.

This is where a password manager can help. There are many free, reputable password managers like LogMeOnce that make keeping your digital life secure a lot easier and hassle free. It’s important to look for a password manager that has a reliable reputation, encrypts your passwords and doesn’t store them, and offers a password generator to create strong, random passwords for you.

3. Don’t share passwords

It can be tempting to share passwords with new friends, or even old ones you’re trying to keep in contact with while away at college. One friend has an HBO Go account and you have Netflix, so why not swap account logins?

Because doing so puts you at risk. While you may have your devices secured, the friend you shared your information with may not, or they might be inclined to share your Netflix login with someone else. Before you know it, a friend of a friend of a friend’s cousin has your billing address, credit card number and more.

Only share passwords when absolutely necessary and only with trusted people. Once you know the person using your password no longer needs it, be sure to change the password immediately. Many password managers offer a secure password sharing option, similar to a secure bank courier that securely transfers value from one bank to another. Using this type of feature ensures that nobody else will know your password.

4. Be cautious on open network connections

One of the many perks of attending university is that there is open WiFi across campus. It’s important to remember that, while convenient, open Wi-Fi is also open to other users who might steal data from your device. Because of this, there are a few things to avoid doing while on these networks.

  • Don’t purchase anything with your credit card on open WiFi.
  • Don’t check your bank account or pay bills.
  • If you have to use your credit card or access sensitive documents while on open WiFi, it’s best to consistently change passwords and login information every 30 to 90 days, or look for a password manager that allows for the secure sharing of credentials and files while on open networks.

5. Add additional layers of security

Oftentimes, a password just isn’t enough because it’s only one layer of defense. With the amount of personal and sensitive data we leave on all of our computers and phones and the ease in hacking a single layer of defense, it’s important to add additional layers of security.

A great first start is with Two-Factor Authentication, or 2FA, which requires users to submit two pieces of identification, the first being a password and the second anything from a PIN or fingerprint to a security question. This second layer of protection makes it much more difficult for fellow students, frenemies or even experienced hackers to access personal data. Turn on the 2FA on your email, bank account and more for improved overall security. 

Though there are certain circumstances in which you will need to use a password while at school, there are alternative solutions that enable you to forego traditional passwords and lower your risk of being hacked.

6. Go password-less

Stronger and simpler than a password, your voice or a photo that’s taken in the moment are ways to replace the old-school method of passwords for user access. Consider new technologies like LogMeOnce’s PhotoLogin, which allows you to login with a photo or an image that you verify yourself, or Nuance’s VocalPassword, which provides identity verification capabilities through the use of voice biometrics.

Unlike traditional passwords, logging in with a photo or your voice prevents anyone from being able to steal your password and eliminates the need to remember or frequently change passwords.

Technology changes minute by minute. I hope these best security practices will help ensure your child’s digital life remains safe while away at college, back home, or even when traveling or studying abroad.

Kevin Shahbazi is the CEO of LogMeOnce, a cloud-based computer security solution. An industry executive with over 27 years of proven leadership in business management and technology, Kevin has co-founded multiple successful companies including Applied Technologies, Trust Digital, eView Technologies and Avocado Security.
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