It’s not unusual for college students to spend a large chunk of their time at a computer, online, or otherwise tapped into a greater electronic network. You likely already carry a card with personal identification and even bank information on your person at all times — it probably functions as the key to your building, your bedroom, and it’s the one swipe you need when you check out at the cafeteria or bookstore.
College students can be exceptionally vulnerable to cyberattacks. That’s never been more true than during the current Covid-19 pandemic. If you’re a current student navigating the new normal during your campus career, here’s what you need to know — and what you can do to help keep yourself safe.
Canada’s Recent Cyberattacks
It isn’t just college students in Canada who’ve been experiencing unprecedented cyberattacks. Over this past summer, the government was forced to shut down following the attempt of 300,000 separate cyberattacks through the use of 24 different government systems. Unfortunately, some of the accounts compromised during these attacks were those related to Covid-19 relief funds.
Stealing these much-needed relief funds is not the only way Covid-19 is playing into current cyberattack approaches. Some cyberattacks are targeting Canadians in the guise of coronavirus-tracing apps. This ransomware was designed to look like an official Canadian government website and presented a legitimate-looking app that promised to help you stay aware of any personal contacts that had tested positive for Covid-19. Rather than keeping you safe, though, the counterfeit apps quickly compromised files and information.
Of course, contact-tracing apps can be an incredible asset — as long as you’re dealing with the real thing. Unfortunately, even the real deal contact-tracing apps can be hacked and used against you. With an incredible network of potential victims, it’s no wonder that such an app would have great appeal to would-be hackers. Just like you, they’re always looking toward the next big piece of tech that can make the job of exploitation a little bit easier.
Keeping Yourself Safe from Cyberattacks During Covid-19
If you haven’t been protecting yourself, your information, and your identity from cyberattacks, there’s no better time to start. To be honest, even if you have, there’s usually room for improvement or new technological advancements you can put to work for you. A study from Ryerson University showed a dramatic increase in cybercrime victims in just a few years. Nearly 60 percent of Canadians have experienced cybercrime, so it’s worth taking a few extra precautions.
Follow best practices on cybersecurity hygiene
Hopefully, you already follow the basics when it comes to internet safety. That means, keeping your passwords to yourself and making sure they can’t be readily guessed by staying away from important names and dates. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters to amp up the difficulty and, whenever possible, use two-factor authentication. Remember, these days it’s usually a computer program that’s responsible for cracking your codes.
Only connect to secure networks
While it can be difficult when you’re working on campus, sitting in on zoom classes, and living a virtual academic life, stick to known networks whenever possible. Always use a password-protected network and only send important information over websites that have protection built into them. Yes, even when you’re sending a payment through to your favourite take out place for your next study session.
There’s no need to rely on others to keep you safe though. In addition to looking for protected networks and safe websites, you can help yourself by protecting your own devices with a Virtual Private Network.
Campus networks are often unprotected, meaning that hackers on the same network can easily spy on your activities or extract your personal information. A VPN gives you a secure and private connection, protecting you from cyber risks while also granting you anonymity.
Besides, on a campus that limits access to certain websites? A VPN can help you there, too. A high-quality VPN can keep you safe without compromising the high-tech needs of a university student, including streaming and downloading.
Think before you click
Malware is often disguised as authoritative apps or attached to emails. Always be vigilant by not clicking suspicious links or downloading attachments from a sender you do not recognize. Some cyber criminals pose as authoritative organizations to lure you into clicking the link that would infect your device. Check the sender email carefully. If you are not sure, you can always contact the organization in another means, such as by calling or texting, to confirm.
It’s a scary world out there when it comes to keeping your identity safe, your assets protected, and your daily life as normal as possible — despite the complications Covid-19 has brought with it. Step up your security protocols and worrying about cyberattacks can be one less thing on your daily to-do list.