It’s the start of a new college year, and more classes than ever are being conducted online. Security is a top concern and new college students may be under-prepared for the challenges they face online. Perhaps surprisingly, students are statistically more likely to fall victim to cyber attacks than older people.

There are plenty of voluminous guides to student cyber safety, so we have decided to go the short and sweet route. Follow our TLDR rules to staying safe online, and avoid cyber threats while you are studying.

Safe Surfing

As a student, you will spend more time online than most people. Safe surfing habits are essential, whether they are study-related or during downtime. Laptops are extremely convenient for study on the go, but you are likely to find yourself connected to unsecured networks. If you want to take a break and play a few hands of cards at European licensed casinos, better wait until you have a private connection, and of course only use sites from trusted sources like Laptops will provide a warning if your connection is not private, but mobiles don’t always do this.

As an extension of the previous point, it is not the best idea to store your financial information on your online accounts. Even if it means filling in your financial data anew every time you make a purchase, it is worth the small inconvenience. Same goes for passwords. Don’t store them on your device, and make sure you change them regularly. If you really can’t remember so many different ones, use a password manager software which will do it for you.

We love to share on social media, but this can also be a security risk. Geographical check-ins shared publicly can alert potential thieves to an empty home, or a stalker to your whereabouts. Limit who can see your posts to personal friends only, and don’t add anyone you don’t know in person. Fake accounts can be used for scams, or to harass users.

Finally, it is essential to avoid downloading free media from anywhere except official sites. Check whether a site is secure by observing the address bar. Secure sites that use HTTPS encryption will always display a padlock icon to the left of the address, even if the https:// is missing.

Software and Settings

There are a few computer settings and essential pieces of software that will make your internet use safer with minimal effort. For example, you can set your browser to delete all cookies each time you quit the program, which will avoid any websites tracking you after you have visited their pages.

Naturally, a decent anti-virus is a must. These days, there are plenty of free programs that will protect your device perfectly adequately. Mac users have built-in protection, but you must ensure that you keep the OS regularly updated for it to work. Ad blocking extensions are also available on most browsers, which will prevent you from accidentally clicking on a malicious pop-up.

Last but by no means least – account monitoring and data backups. Many students are not yet in the habit of keeping a regular eye on financial accounts, and so may fail to notice if there are fraudulent charges. Change your settings so that you get an SMS alert every time there is activity on your bank account. And make sure you have a backup of everything in case of loss or theft. A physical backup such as an external hard drive is the most secure.

So there you have it! Follow these basic rules and you should be relatively safe from cyber attacks, and prepared for most eventualities.