Fall is a magical time on a college campus. Classes are finally getting interesting, homecoming is over but there is the promise of Halloween right around the corner, and by October, even the freshman are into the swing of things. For most college students, properly protecting yourself from cyber criminals is the last thing on your mind. However, studies show that cyber security is precisely the thing you should be concerned with. According to the Federal Trade Commission, college-aged people are the group most at risk for identity theft and students are often targeted because of their frequent online presence and tendency to readily share personal information.
Heed IC3 Warnings
Over the last year, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a task force created by the National White Collar Crime Center and the Federal Bureau of Information, has issued warnings about a wide range of cyber crimes specifically targeting college students across the U.S. In January, 2015, the IC3 warned of a “work-from-home” scam aimed at university students. Students received emails recruiting them to payroll or human resources positions at fake companies and were asked to provide their bank account information to set up a direct deposit. Then, in April, the IC3 announced a tax return fraud where thieves used stolen information to file false tax returns in the name of the victim and redirected the funds to pre-paid cards or bank accounts.
Students Who Were Scammed
Although few students have taken steps to protect themselves, you likely know someone who is a victim of cyber crime (or have been a victim yourself). In fact, in 2014, 47 percent of adults in the U.S. had their personal information stolen by hacker. In 2014, Kinsey Simpson, a student at DePauw University in Indiana was a victim of a tax fraud scam. When she went to file her very first tax return, she discovered that someone had used her personal information to file tax returns in her name the past three years. One of the more publicized stories of cybercrime comes from 2013 Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf. She was extorted by a person who hacked into her webcam and took pictures of her in her bedroom. On a lager scale, millions of university students have had their information stolen by hackers over the last few years. Auburn University, the University of Maryland, North Dakota University, Butler University and Indiana University have each lost the personal information of over a hundred thousand students to hackers.
How to Protect Yourself
With all the threats to students’ cyber security, what steps can you take to protect yourself? In general, students should monitor your financial information regularly and stay aware of the latest cyber security news. Specifically, the National Cyber Security Alliance makes seven suggestions for students.
- Keep security software up to date to protect against malware infections.
- Create unique and difficult passwords and enable the passwords on tablets and smartphones.
- Do not click on pop-ups, particularly those that ask for personal information.
- Be careful about posting personal information online, including location, plans and habits.
- Ensure a website is secure before sharing any personal information.
- Avoid ransomware, which is malware that holds files hostage until a payment is made, by backing up files regularly.
- Use only secure computers to access online bank accounts and take advantage of bank security services.