Life for any newly minted college student is pretty good right now—you put in a lot of hard work, you’ve received your acceptances, and you’re excited to begin a new journey this fall. Starting college is a big step! It means more knowledge, more freedom, and more responsibility. One responsibility that will definitely come up is protecting yourself and your privacy online. What do you need to take into account when it comes to digital privacy in particular? Here are six things to keep in mind.
1. Think before you post
One of the biggest issues in the modern era is making sure you show the best side of yourself online. Doing that can be extremely tough, as it’s not always easy to gauge the line of what’s appropriate. You might think that avoiding posting photos of yourself in risky situations might seem a bit excessive, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you want to get through the semester without any trouble, avoid posting images or messages that could come back to haunt you, especially if you’re breaking campus rules (which of course you wouldn’t do, right?) If you’re going to do anything that you think could pose a threat to your reputation, don’t put it out there in public.
Related: 10 Smart Social Media Tips for Students
2. Keep all your documentation secure
You’ll need copies of all your most important documents so you can properly enroll and start your life as a college student. You should also have a secure method of storage for all of these documents to be safe. Putting them in the same drawer as your takeout menus isn’t a good idea. Instead, use a secure, password-protected lockbox. It’s important to take every precaution you can so you aren’t putting your most important information and details at risk of being stolen. Not to mention that getting back essential documents like your birth certificate and passport can be a nightmare—so make sure you secure them properly.
3. Watch out for public Wi-Fi
You have to be careful when using the internet in public. Free Wi-Fi connections in restaurants and shops are usually “unsecured” networks, which are prone to hacking and password theft. While it might be expensive, we recommend investing in a virtual private network (VPN). This affords you a much more powerful and robust means of using the internet when you’re out and about, meaning you’ll never have to worry about your data being invaded on a public Wi-Fi network. If you can’t get a VPN, make sure you’re always secure when using public wireless internet. It’s easy for stuff to be accessed without you knowing, and it could compromise you when it comes to things like coursework or banking information. If someone can get access to your data and your details, they could use that in any number of ways. So don’t give them the chance or opportunity.
Related: The Importance of Cybersecurity for College Students
4. Invest in protection against theft and loss
Having digital security is one thing, but you also need to make sure you avoid leaving yourself at risk from physical loss. You should invest in physical protection such as security cables, which can tie down important equipment like a computer to the table. Also make sure to invest in some form of insurance for your property. It may seem like just another expense, but it will be cheaper than having to shell out for replacement hardware. Also try to add some form of unique identifier to all of your equipment so you can easily recognize it.
5. Never make digital identification easy
Instead of using the same passwords for everything, make sure you take time to protect your digital information by using unique passwords for everything. Also make sure your passwords are word and letter combinations. The worst thing you can do is have a password that revolves around your name, your location, your interests, or something similar. Your password should be a totally unique combination that is going to be nearly impossible to guess. If you want to keep track of your passwords safely, look into getting a password manager. Such tools are great modern solutions for helping you securely store unique passwords for everything, minimizing your risk and ensuring you’re not putting your data out there.
6. Pay attention in case of campus data breaches
Lastly, make sure you’re vigilant with the use of campus systems. Campus data breaches take place more often than you’d expect, and that’s a problem. As research from Clip On Veneers shows, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) means institutions within the European Union are responsible for reporting data breaches and have certain obligations when it comes to the collection of data. (Check out the infographic below for more details.) It’s worth knowing what your rights are when it comes to the protection of your data, plus the penalties that companies and institutions can face if they lose your data. If you’d like to avoid such an issue, we recommend paying attention to all campus social media and information platforms. If there has been a data breach, make sure you’re insulated from the potential damage. Pay attention to external breaches taking place too, as that will help you avoid falling into the same old traps that so many do.
Related: 5 Common Tricks Fraudsters Are Using to Target Students
Don’t just blindly trust that campus security is as strong as it should be. Always be sure to remain vigilant about potential problems and take your time to look into any data breach that has taken place. If you think you might be at risk or threat, contact the campus security team.