With the upcoming semester on the horizon, many students are preparing for their first year at university or college. This new chapter brings about some significant life changes – meeting new people, adapting to new learning environments and perhaps living somewhere independently for the first time. Whether you’re a returning student or a newcomer, it is vital to check that you have the right safeguards in place to protect yourself and your data online.

Learning as a student involves a lot of technology. From note-taking and essay writing to research and networking, devices and the internet have become indispensable tools. Although technology can bring many benefits, it can also expose us to potential threats that students must be aware of.

Therefore, we have compiled some valuable tips to protect yourself and your personal data online:

  • Strengthen Your Account’s Security with Robust Passwords

As a student, you’ll likely access multiple academic platforms, each requiring a password. It is essential to have a strong and unique password for each account; we recommend combining three random words and keeping the passwords confidential. It is important for each account to have a different password. There are password manager tools that can help you securely store and manage these credentials, enhancing your protection.

Also, remember never to leave your devices unattended and lock them when not in use. This will help keep your information secure.

  • Use 2-Step Verification (2SV) for Added Protection

2-Step Verification, also known as 2-Step Authentication, adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts. 2SV prompts you to verify your login through a passcode, typically sent via text to your phone or an authentication app.

  • Stay Wary of Online Scams

Beware of phishing scams, a common online scam where criminals use fake emails or websites to trick victims into revealing sensitive information. The emails and sites are designed to look genuine and from trustworthy sources.

The scam emails will contain links or attachments that install malware if clicked. This malware can give scammers access to your identity, bank accounts, and other private data. Fake websites are also used to steal login credentials and financial information entered by victims.

To avoid falling victim, exercise caution with unsolicited emails and texts. Never click links or attachments from unknown senders. Phishing sites can look nearly identical to legitimate ones, so manually type in web addresses you know to be real.

If you receive any suspicious messages, forward them to the National Cyber Security Centre’s Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) at [email protected]. They can analyse the scam attempt and work to shut it down.

Suspicious texts can be forwarded free of charge to 7726. This enables your provider to investigate the origin of the text and take action if found to be malicious.

Staying vigilant against phishing protects you from fraud and identity theft. Cyber criminals are constantly trying new tricks, so keep your guard up when online. If an offer seems too good to be true, it likely is.

If you have fallen victim to a phishing attack, you can report this to Police Scotland on 101.

  • Exercise Caution with Free or Public Wi-Fi

While public Wi-Fi is convenient, it’s not always secure. Cyber criminals might exploit these networks to breach your device and access stored data. Avoid using public Wi-Fi for confidential tasks like online banking. Opt for connecting to your mobile hotspot, which typically offers enhanced security resembling a virtual private network (VPN).

  • Staying Safe on Social Media as a Student

As a student, you often use social media to stay connected, especially when away from home. However, it’s crucial to remain vigilant about what you share online. Avoid oversharing personal details about yourself that criminals could exploit.

Be mindful of your digital footprint across platforms. Criminals can piece together information about your identity, location, hangouts, schedules, and more from social posts. Refrain from posting specifics on your activities and whereabouts. Never share confidential information publicly.

Regularly review your privacy settings to limit sharing beyond your contacts. Check your footprint to see what others have tagged you in that may be publicly visible.

  • Seek Assistance in Case of Fraud or Cyber Crime

If you think you have been a fraud or cyber crime victim, contact Police Scotland on 101. They have developed a comprehensive ‘Student Online Safety Guide‘ containing important safety advice to help you avoid becoming a victim of crime.

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