Students warned over online security

With young people targeted for data theft 35 times more often than adults, students are being advised to ensure their mobile and desktop devices are secure both at school and at home as they enter a new academic year.

Lysa Myers of internet security firm ESET Ireland said young people were an easy target both for digital and physical theft. She said even if students were using school libraries or labs, they still needed to take steps to make their data safer.

“Younger people may feel that their information is of lesser value than more established adults, because they may have smaller bank accounts or less-juicy data, and may not take security as seriously,” said Ms Myers. “Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how young you are — your data and identity are valuable to cybercriminals, and correcting the problems caused by loss and theft is a pain, no matter your age. Protecting your data now will help you avoid those headaches.”

Ms Myers said if students were using their own desktop, laptop or smartphone, they needed to take a number of steps:

-Minimise the target — don’t leave the laptop or phone unlocked and unattended. These items are easily grabbed when you are not looking. When carrying a laptop in public, it is best to carry it in a bag that does not advertise what’s inside;

-Minimise the damage — installing a tracker app will help the person track down their device, should it be lost or stolen. “If the files on your device are encrypted, even if someone gets access to your computer, they won’t be able to profit from your information,” said Ms Myers.

-Beef up your security — physical loss and thefts are not the only ways to lose information on a phone. Malware and phishing are becoming increasingly common on mobile devices.

“To protect yourself from phishing, make sure you’re using different passwords for all your different accounts, and pick a strong password for each,” said Ms Myers.

“Using a password manager can help make this an easier task. Once you’ve got a good password, protect it: Don’t share it with others and don’t enter your password into sites you’ve visited via links in email or IM. To protect yourself from malware, install apps only from reputable apps stores, and scan those files with an anti-malware product before installing.”

-Be cautious on public wi-fi — a person can never be entirely sure who is sharing the network with them on public wi-fi.

“Use VPN software so that your web traffic will all be encrypted; it’ll help keep people from electronically eavesdropping on you,” said Ms Myers.

She also offered a number of tips for securing data when using communal machines.

“There may be times when you may need to use the computers that are provided by the school,” she said. “You really have no idea who was using that computer last, or what they were doing before you got there, so you should probably assume the worst. It’s best to act as if anything you type or see on the screen can be recorded and act accordingly.

“Do not use public machines to log into accounts, especially accounts that store financial information (eg, bank accounts or credit cards). Avoid online shopping, as someone could get not just your login credentials, but your credit card number.”

She said if a person has to log into an account on a public machine, it is essential to change any passwords used when back on their own machine.

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