According to Check Point Research, students could be more exposed to cybercrime as they return to university, with many attending online lessons or spending a lot of time using public networks in libraries or social spots.
Increasingly, students are facing significant cybersecurity threats in their daily lives and are exposed to a number of risks, including bank fraud, credential theft, ID theft or social media account takeover.
The education sector has also become an attractive target for cybercriminals and hackers over the last 18-months. A recent study from Check Point highlighted a 93% increase in cyber-attacks during July alone.
Stuart Green, Cloud Security Architect at Check Point Software, said many students are unaware of the scale of threats they face.
“Unfortunately, many students are not aware that they could be targeted by cybercriminals, let alone how to protect themselves,” he said. “As is the case with the majority of cyberattacks, human error plays a significant role and students need to be on the lookout for emails and websites that appear strange.”
“It’s also important to make sure that wherever you are studying, you have a secure connection and appropriate security software not just on your laptop, but your phone and tablet too, and never ignore software updates,” Green added.
Researchers at Check Point have outlined several cybersecurity tips for students that will help them stay safe online during the coming semester and beyond.
Five cybersecurity tips for students
Think before you click on a link
Phishing attacks, where criminals impersonate well-known companies to try and steal your personal data, are very common – especially now that devices store a large amount of user information.
It is for this reason that special care must be taken with URLs sent via SMS, messaging apps such as WhatsApp, or email. To avoid falling prey to cybercriminals, researchers suggest users always go to the sender’s official website instead of clicking on the link in the message.
Use a different password for everything
Using multiple passwords for different accounts can be frustrating and difficult to remember.
However, according to Check Point researchers this is one of their top cybersecurity tips for students. Indeed, there is “no greater joy” for a cybercriminal than encountering users with lax password practices.
“Any student who relies on a “one password fits all” approach could see all their accounts hacked in record time,” according to Check Point.
Once an attacker manages to decrypt the combination of a victim’s platform, they will try to access all of their accounts with the same key. To avoid this risk, security experts say it is essential to create a unique password for each app or service.
Passwords should include at least eight characters and combine letters (both upper and lower case), numbers and symbols.
Secure password managers are recommended if users find it difficult to keep up with their multiple accounts.
Avoid downloading attachments from strangers
An email attachment from an unknown sender can be a gateway for all manner of cyberattacks, researchers say, such as malware or phishing attacks capable of infecting the entire device and stealing data stored on it.
If, in addition, the device is used for teleworking or is connected to a larger network, it could cause more serious and more extensive damage.
Users should always avoid downloading attachments from strangers.
- 6 Scottish inventions that changed the world
- Scotland economy boost with data lab digital project
- Glasgow University creates method to ‘touch’ haptic holograms
Never access unprotected public WiFi
It’s important to bear in mind that anyone can connect to unsecured public WiFi, and that includes cybercriminals.
According to Check Point, the main issue here is that by being on the same network, criminals can gain access to everything stored on your device.
There will always be a risk when connecting to a public WiFi network, so it is better to think twice before doing so and always remain vigilant while using such networks.
Surfing unencrypted websites
It is vital to make sure that the websites users’ access have an SSL certificate.
This technology ensures that the internet connection is encrypted and protects any sensitive information sent between two systems by preventing cybercriminals from viewing and modifying any data being transferred.
This includes data that could be considered personal. Often, this is easy to spot it by looking at the start of the address line or URL which should show an “s” after the letters http.
So, only click when you know the site is genuine and you see: https://