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As colleges and universities prepare use fully online or blended virtual and in-person learning environments, it is important to understand some basic cybersecurity steps students, faculty and staff can take to make sure they move to the top of the class securely.
Protect your personal information
Personal information is any information that can be used to identify you or your accounts. Examples include your name, address, phone number, usernames and passwords, pictures, birthday and social security number. Don’t post or share this information with others.
Think before you click
Remember what you learned about not accepting candy from strangers? Apply that to the online world as well. Do not click links in emails, text messages, chat boxes, etc. from people you do not know–and be suspicious of links sent from those you know as well. If you encounter suspicious messages or attachments, please forward them to the security team at your institution for further investigation. There has been a surge in malicious online activity as cybercriminals and cyberattackers leverage the heightened fear of the public during the coronavirus pandemic.
Protect your computer
Be sure to keep your laptop or tablet close to you. When you’re done using it for the day, put it in a safe place at home. Don’t leave it by itself outside or in a public place.
Use a password manager
Because there are a lot more threats out there during the pandemic, there are plenty of bad actors looking to take over accounts. The easiest way to protect your accounts from being compromised is to use long, complex, and unique passwords and the easiest way to do that is to use a password manager.
Don’t hesitate to update
Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system on devices is one of the best defenses against online threats. When the computer or device says it’s time to update the software, don’t click postpone. Update.
Run antivirus software
Find out if your university provides antivirus software. Most universities equip employee computers with antivirus software and some also make antivirus software available online for download on your home computer. You can usually get this information from the IT help desk or the campus security team.
Double down on your account security with multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA adds a second check to verify your identity when logging in to one of your accounts. This helps to keep your account from being compromised even if your password falls into the wrong hands.
Maintain a clean workspace
If you’re using a shared workspace, be conscious of clearing it of sensitive, nonpublic information, especially if you have to step away. Also, avoid printing out sensitive information at home or in public spaces if it’s not necessary. In addition, if you are listening in on or participating in meetings that could be considered sensitive or in which you share nonpublic information, be sure to put on headphones.
Maintain a secure workstation
Use institution-issued devices for all your work so you can take advantage of security controls built in by your IT and security teams. If you would like to find out what settings to toggle on or off to secure your workflow and data on your college\university machine, please contact your respective IT and/or security department for advice.
APPly your research skills
Apps are a great way to learn and apply knowledge. Before downloading any new learning app on your device, make sure it’s a legitimate app. Who created the app? What do the user reviews say? Are there any articles published online about the app’s privacy & security features (or lack thereof)?
Configure your settings
Whether your are teaching or learning in a new platform, take a moment to explore the privacy and security settings to limit disruptions and improve the experience. For example, create passwords so only those invited to the session can attend. Another example would be to restrict who can share their screen or files with the rest of the group. If you need help, reach out to your school’s IT & security team or instructional design team for help.