Laptops are just about as ubiquitous on college campuses as flip-flops and kegs. Everyone has at least one. High school student lug along their Macs and PCs with the same social-media obsession as they have with their mobile devices. But… what about security? Do these ‘kids’ have a clue?

It’s rare to see students handwriting their notes in college and many high schools are making laptops as mandatory as textbooks. Despite students’ reliance upon and the common requirement to use internet connected devices, many do not receive proper cyber security training. Unless infosec is your field of study, you may never receive any training on how to adequately protect your information while working on your education!

If you or your child is about to start a new semester of school, we’ve created this list of some of our most helpful Back-to-School Cyber Security Tips.


1. Keep Yourself Informed and Educated

Congratulations, you’re already on the right track! If your school isn’t providing you and your classmates with proper cyber security training, especially for compulsory devices, it is up to you to keep yourself secure and maybe help your classmates along the way, too? Set news alerts for online scams related to education and students, find and follow blogs and social media accounts that frequently post about cyber security for those in school, and if a suspicious incident occurs in your physical or cyber domain, Google it! Even if the incident ends up to be a ‘non-incident’, you may end up learning something. And if it is a threat to your security, hopefully, you’ll have saved yourself some grief with your quick incident response!

We have many more resource articles for kids and students of all ages on our blog, and we just participated in a Twitter Chat put on by STOP.THINK.CONNECT last week. Finally, you can download, review, and share our Summer of Security Back-to-School Infographic here!


2. Use a VPN on Campus

Usually campuses have a private network for students and staff, and a public network for guests. First, avoid the public networks! Second, since you’re using the private network meant for you, don’t assume it’s safe. To keep yourself protected against any malicious players who can get access to the shared, private network, use a VPN. You may not know how they work or may think they cost money, but in fact they are not so difficult to understand and many have a free version available.


3. Be Wary of Buying Used Technology

Even though you’ve saved money by downloading a free VPN, you may still be looking to cut corners. Many students opt for used devices, especially when a school requires specific models of laptops. But even if it’s a hand-me-down from someone you trust, wipe the machine clean! If the previous owner hasn’t already reset your “new” device to original factory settings, you are responsible for doing so. A step-by-step guide on how to reset whatever model should result from a quick internet search.

This won’t only help the device run better and clean up the memory, but it will also ensure that any malware that might have been present is erased for good.


4. Back Up Your Work

Every student knows the feeling of when you’re working on an important paper and, for no reason at all, your computer just shuts off. But never worry again by always backing up your school work! There are many ways to duplicate your work, from using an external hard drive to using the auto-saving cloud, so that you can feel secure even if your laptop is broken or stolen.


5. Keep an Eye on Your Technology

It may seem convenient to ask a fellow student to keep an eye on your belongings while you run to the bathroom or to grab a bite to eat, but if this “fellow student” is a stranger, they may not be a student at all. While you are already concerned about your online security, be aware of your physical security as well. Don’t leave your computer alone with a stranger, don’t leave your account unlocked if you step away from the screen, and double check you have all your belongings when you leave a space. You may not notice how much you use technology in your daily life or how vulnerable it is to cyber criminals, but if you stop and think about it for a moment you may realize just how easy it can be to compromise your information!


6. Be Careful Using Public Devices

Even if you don’t bring your laptop to class, you may need to use the school’s computers, printers, scanners, or other public technologies. When doing so, practice smart cyber security! Anytime you are doing research on a public computer, use privacy mode or incognito mode. If you are creating documents then you should only use your own cloud applications, (never local applications) and make sure that your address window always has https: in it. A lot of students rush to print out papers and assignments right before class, but there’s no reason for you to jeopardize your security by not paying attention to your actions. Move carefully, check off a mental checklist: watch out for shoulder surfers when typing in passwords, be on the lookout for infected devices, double check whatever you print to be sure it’s all there and it’s all yours, and double check that you’ve logged off any accounts. Maybe most importantly, be respectful of any property that you’re using.

Meg Krafft

Digital Marketing Assistant at The Security Awareness Company
After starting out creating digital and print marketing for a real estate company, Meg now assists in keeping up the marketing needs for SAC. When not working she's probably watching a good movie or indulging in local art and music.

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