Back To School – Cyber Tips

back to school security tipsThe lazy days of summer are drawing to a close. And it’s time to start thinking about back to school stuff.
Back in the day, shopping for back to school supplies meant buying and wrapping mountains of text books and sharpening lots of shiny number 2 pencils. Nowadays, back to school buying almost always involves a new tech supplies, from iPads to smartphones and laptops.

Here is a handy back-to-school cyber security do’s and don’ts checklist.

Do use strong passwords – Now is the perfect time to ditch old and insecure passwords and opt for better, more secure ones. Passwords should be long – think 20 characters, including upper and lower case letters, numbers, special characters, and spaces. And importantly, every account needs to have its own password – repeating passwords can be disastrous because it gives hackers access to any account that was secured with the now-compromised password.

Do use a password manager – Realistically, people can’t remember all those hundreds of different complicated passwords and that’s the main reason why people use terrible ones, leaving their data completely vulnerable – this is where password managers come in. Essentially, password managers are vaults that create and lock away passwords behind one super-strong password that you create. Use a reputable one like KeePass, DashLane or LastPass as hackers often create their own fake ones to lure in unsuspecting victims.

Do watch out for phishing emails -that look legitimate to target people who don’t know any better. Sure, that email says it’s from your bank, Paypal or UPS – and is asking you to follow a link to reset your password, but you can be sure it’s a fake. Legitimate companies will never ask you to reset your password via email. To check if the request is real or not, call the number on your bank card or go to the website of the site that’s supposedly sending the email and call them on the number listed on the website to check if it’s for real or not. Never follow a link in the email itself, as you can rest assured, if it’s indeed bogus, it won’t direct you to the real website.

Do make sure you are using an Anti-Virus software – Getting set up with an Anti-Virus program is one step you should make. ZoneAlarm has an advanced two way firewall, scans all attachments and downloads, makes automatic backups of files, has parental controls and browser protection to protect your computer from web-based threats before they hit. Make sure you have a strong and all inclusive Anti-Virus installed on their smartphones too such as ZoneAlarm Mobile Security, which not only protects against viruses and malware but directs users to safe wifi networks and warns against potentially dangerous apps.

Don’t share too much on social media – Dangers associated with oversharing can range from things like sharing photos and information You might regret later on when applying to University or for your first real job, to letting crooks know that your house will be empty from Aug 22nd-August 30th for a last minute vacation.

Don’t download any ol’ app – Apps can come with a whole lot of dangerous features that seek to sap your privacy be aware of apps that request too many permission (why would your flashlight app need to access your contacts??). Look for options that are not looking to access contacts, accounts or locations.

Don’t connect to any ol’ wifi network – Creating bogus Public WiFi networks is a favored method used by hackers to intercept innocent users’ web traffic. They do this by setting up their own WiFi network and then they give it a name that suggests it’s owned by a legit entity, such as a nearby store or cafe. The safest way to use Public WiFi is to check the network name with the stores that provide it, and even then, don’t do anything all too private, like banking and shopping over Public WiFi.

Don’t jailbreak iPhones – Jailbreaking is the act of changing the Apple iOS to make it more customizable. Some people find iOS to be restrictive in terms of the apps it has available on the App Store. Jailbreaking, which essentially breaks the iOS, allows people to get lots of different apps from the third party app store Cydia. It might sound good in theory but this also takes users out of the “walled garden” that is iOS and makes room for lots of malware and plain old instability.

So now that you have the cyber thing down-pat, it’s time to get crackin’ on mountain-full of text books sitting on your kitchen table. Happy wrapping…!

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