Security Essentials for Back to School

Now that most schools and universities are back in session, it’s likely you’re seeing new and different communications coming through your email. If you’re a parent, you may be seeing emails from your child’s teachers. If you’re a student, you may be asked to sign up for class notifications or school emails. And if you’re a teacher, you’ll likely be getting emails from both parents and students. The beginning of a new school year means a review of more than just last year’s material – you’ll want to review your online security, too.

Back to school security tips

6 Security Tips for Back to School

The beginning of a new school year is a great time for your online security to be compromised. With new relationships forming and new routines to get used to, it’s easy to assume that the things that land in your inbox are all legitimate communications. Cybercrime never takes a holiday, and the beginning of a school year is prime time for security breaches. How do you protect yourself?

  1. Update your security program. Security programs are designed to keep malware and viruses off your computer, but if they’re not updated with the latest definitions, they can’t protect you. Take a moment to review your security settings and trigger any updates that may be waiting.
  2. Change your passwords. If you’re still using “password” as your password, then changing it needs to be Priority #1. The majority of people hacked via their passwords are using the same password for multiple accounts and/or are using an easily-guessed password. Strong passwords are an important component of online security, and if your password is weak, it’s like leaving your technological house unlocked.
  3. Use a password manager. We’ve sung the praises of password managers for quite some time now, and with good reason. Password managers can help you create strong passwords amongst all of your online accounts, and can store those passwords for you in an encrypted program so that you never have to memorize another string of unrelated characters again.
  4. Use two-factor authentication. If someone attempts to gain entrance into one of your accounts with your password, two-factor authentication can help thwart their plans. Yes, it’s an extra step you’ll have to take in order to access your information, but it is worth it. A passcode sent to your smartphone in order to complete the login means that only you can access your account.
  5. Sign up for login notifications. Related to two-factor authentication, login notifications are sent to you, the account holder, if someone tries to access your account from an unfamiliar location. These notifications can be sent via email, app, or text message, depending on the settings you select from the website that offers this option. Check your banking and social media accounts to see if login notifications are offered, and take advantage of them.
  6. Avoid clicking through on emails. Sometimes breaches happen because you aren’t as vigilant as you usually are with your email. Many phishing scams are designed to mirror real websites and will ask you to click on a link that looks like a legitimate link. If you get an email that looks authentic but asks you to login using your credentials, be wary. Instead of clicking the link provided in the email, go directly to the website to access your account. Most legitimate websites won’t send you an email asking for your login credentials, so be careful.

A new school year brings new challenges, not only academically and socially, but also technologically. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a parent, student, or educator, your online security can be compromised if you aren’t careful. While these suggestions are important any time of the year, the beginning of a new school year is a good time to review your tech habits and adjust the way you interact online. Don’t let the challenge you face this school year be the recovery of your online accounts.