It's official, summer is almost over and we can't help but have a little bit of the holiday blues. In an attempt to lengthen those summer days, adopting a carefree approach to our lives for the first few weeks back in education is an attractive option. But can this lackadaisical approach impact our lives in a more sinister way?
Cyber security is often something we take for granted, in fact as consumers we rarely ever think about it until we fall victim. Yet, the majority of cyber security breaches are often due to human error and could be avoided. Being aware of our personal and digital security is something that we should all pay heed to.
In a world where everything is connected, 24/7 the key to keeping safe is constant vigilance and being aware of the places and circumstances where you could be most vulnerable. Here are a couple of examples of back to university scams.
Be smart - if it's too good to be true, it probably is...
More often than not, the expense of returning to education entails far more than the cost of tuition. Students and those who support them are on the lookout for the best deals possible to ease the financial burden. But beware, scammers, spammers and phishers are looking to outsmart you at every turn.
If it's too good to be true then it's probably a scam. For example, you've just received a text message saying that you've been awarded a free back-to-uni shopping spree. Or, an offer on the Facebook sidebar telling you that you can obtain a new device or store voucher for a fraction of the retail price - all you have to do is visit a website and provide your email address. A poor attempt at a malicious ad will feature spelling and grammatical errors and odd looking logos and/or wording. But phishing scams are becoming much more sophisticated, especially given they often use trusted-brand logos to enhance their legitimacy.
Don't be fooled, be cyber security savvy. Check online and search for the offer on a reputable search engine, if you don't see your offer listed, you've probably just been phished.
Here are 5 top tips to further protect yourself from becoming a victim of online criminality.
Thinking about your cyber security:
1) Protect your devices: It is important to have a piece of security code on your machine. In fact, securing your laptop, tablet or smartphone might just be your best back-to-study investment. You are likely to be on the move a lot whilst in education so anticipate your log in issues. It is a good idea to enable two-factor or (even) multifactor authentication for your key devices and applications. With so much personal data on our phones and mobile malware on the rise, our mobile devices now need the same attention.
2) Think about network access and beware of WiFi: There are two areas to consider here: network security and surroundings. In terms of the network, you should consider establishing programmes such as full-disk encryption for your hard drive, using some form of mobile device management (MDM) software and using a virtual private network (VPN). Be aware that public Wi-Fi is probably not as secure as you think. If possible, avoid using public networks, including those at local Internet cafes, and try - where possible - to limit your data connections to wired and trusted networks.
3) Don't trust USBs: Don't trust any USB drives! Blindly using these devices whilst on the move or at home, is an easy way to get a laptop infected with all sorts of nefarious viruses.
4) Use discretion when downloading: We often use mobile devices to download apps and it seems there's almost an app for everything these days. Unfortunately, even the most innocent-looking app can contain software designed to steal personal data, make fraudulent charges or even hijack your phone. Only download apps from sites you trust, check the app's rating and read reviews to make sure they're widely used and respected before you download.
5) Use complex passwords: And finally, it sounds simple but it's still one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Establishments still leave default administrator accounts on systems - where the user is "administrator" and the password "1234", making the hacker's job easier. An ideal password needs to be hard to guess. It should be long, have capitals, special characters and it should not be related to something someone might know about you. Perhaps even try using a short sentence as a password. It will be more memorable for you and far more difficult to hack.
There's no definitive way to avoid being scammed, but following the above advice and guidelines will help you to avoid common cyber security pitfalls and allow you to focus on your studies without any unwelcome interruptions.