Schools are traditionally open and unprotected environments. Keeping your personal information secure is a critical responsibility. Losing that information can impact you the rest of your life.
Furthermore, statistics show close to a million – if not more – laptops are stolen each year. Once a malicious hacker has your laptop, they will siphon any personal data they find on it and can then sell your identity online. Identity thieves can now buy SSNs, bank account logins, passwords, and credit card numbers online by the thousands.
The makers of Identity Finder provide a dozen simple tips to help you protect your identity and your computer at school:
- Don’t let the school use your SSN as a Student ID. Social Security Numbers are personal and confidential; don’t let your registrar use it as an SID.
- Don’t share personal information. When using MySpace, Facebook, or other social networks, do not share your date of birth, social security number, or credit card numbers with anyone online.
- Don’t assume your school is protecting you. Most college networks are unprotected; their computer systems do not have strong security controls, thereby allowing a host of malicious programs to reach you through the Internet.
- Protect your password. Your password is now a form of your identity and can be used to access your computer, your online bank account, and any other password protected areas. Make sure it is at least seven characters, contains numbers, and upper and lowercase letters.
- Configure peer-to-peer file sharing programs. You might download music, movies, and other programs using file sharing programs, but these programs may also allow people to access your computer and steal private information. Configure sharing programs not to expose personal folders.
- Never enter private information on public computers such as in the library or classroom. These systems may be infected with a keylogger or spyware capturing everything you type. Use your personal computer to access sensitive websites.
- Install software updates and fixes. It might be an annoyance, but always update your OS, your web browsers, and multimedia applications such as Apple Quicktime and Adobe Flash, as soon as possible after companies release them. These fixes plug holes that hackers already know how to exploit to gain access to your files; some attacks work just by you visiting a web page.
- Don’t leave your laptop unattended. Even with security cables, the hard drive that stores all your data can be easily removed. You keep the computer but they keep all your data. Take your laptop with you.
- Don’t click on email messages that contain hyperlinks to websites Many new friends and students will be emailing you and you might be more trusting of unknown messages in the first few weeks of the semester. Phishing attacks are increasingly common and attempt to trick you into visiting false websites to steal your personal information. Close email messages with web links from unknown people and type the web address in manually.
- Never email or instant message personal information. These communications are usually insecure and can be listened in upon by other people. Call someone if you must be read them your personal information.
- Stay secure when wireless. Wireless networks could allow someone to easily attempt to attack your computer. If you set up a wireless network in your dorm, enable the security features to prevent people from joining your network.
- Do not store personal information on your computer unprotected. By securing your identity wherever it exists on your computer, you prevent your identity from being stolen even if your computer is.