Summer is almost over. Students, parents and teachers are looking forward to new classes and instructors, football games and more. But during this busy time, they should set aside time to consider and address digital security.
Connected devices and the IoT are everywhere. That makes it easy to forget that all of those new dorm-room gadgets can be fundamentally vulnerable.
Whether you’re a student or parent, device security and digital trails are important concerns. The new school year is a great time for students to check their digital hygiene.
Look, listen and learn
Features like default passwords and one-click setup that enable easy connections to the internet create great potential for security holes that devices vulnerable to hacking. What’s more, devices like Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Siri are always listening for voice commands, creating cause for concern around eavesdropping and personal privacy.
Some 59% of Americans have privacy concerns regarding the use of digital assistants, nCipher research reveals. Just more than half (51%) fear their digital assistant is listening to them at all times. Almost half (45%) believe their information is being shared. Meanwhile, 40% worry that their personal bank or credit card information may be compromised.
Where you go, they will follow
Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” But in the digital world, students and others don’t have to try to leave a trail. Applications, devices, networks and websites track their every move.
Today’s young people often are blissfully unaware that they can be tracked whenever they and their devices touch the internet. That could be by IP or MAC address, through cookies, or via device beacons.
Students’ location and website or app data, as well as text and images from their social media accounts, continually expand their personal digital trails. But rather than leading students to a bright future, those trails could adversely impact their future employment prospects.
Get an A+ in cybersecurity
Against this backdrop, it’s important for all of us to be good cybersecurity students. That’s true regardless of your major, and whether your graduation lies ahead or happened decades ago.
A great place to start is by replacing default connected device passwords with robust new passwords. Good students also will remember to create new passwords regularly.
Other easy-to-implement security best practices include using personal firewalls, complex or computer-generated passwords, and encrypted communications. Make sure your connected devices are configured to accept authenticated firmware updates/patches to fix any vulnerabilities that get discovered. And be wary of public networks, including free Wi-Fi hotspots, particularly those that aren’t password protected. And understand – and educate others – that any photos and information they share on social media or allow apps to access can stick around longer than a tenured professor.