3 Ways Students Can Be Digitally Secure this Cybersecurity Awareness Month

There are two sides of the coin when it comes to mobile devices and safety. On the one hand, they provide a sense of safety through the ability to communicate and contact others in emergency situations. On the other hand, digital devices have the potential to pose significant risks when it comes to cybersecurity. This is very much true for students and young people growing up in the age of social media and mobile technology, in which our usage far exceeds general awareness of the risks. 

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This year’s campaign highlights three key steps all of us within the school community can take to be more digitally secure:

1. Own it. The culmination of small, personal details publicly shared can make you vulnerable to security risks. Posting about things such as where you go to school, where you live, who your friends are, and locations you frequent all add up to provide criminals with information that can unknowingly jeopardize your safety. Err on the side of caution when it comes to sharing your life with the world, considering how much access the public has to you through your digital profile. 

Mobile devices are with us practically everywhere we go, including places like school. As such, it is essential to have a deep understanding of the devices you are carrying with you, and the information they obtain from your usage, such as your location. Know what you are putting out there and think critically when it comes to considering what your device knows about you.  

Tech Tip #1: Own your technology usage, rather than letting it own you. Not only is a digital break a healthy thing to have every once in a while; leaving your phone at home could also limit the information that is being gathered about you through your usage. 

2. Secure it.  What does your digital device know about you?  Be aware of what information is being garnered through your digital presence even when you are not posting. Whether it be your Facebook sharing settings or location-tracking mechanisms embedded in sites such as Google, think critically and consciously about what is being shared automatically, and take steps to limit outside access to that information.  Oftentimes, we grant our devices permission to access our information without even realizing it. But we can take our power back, right here, right now! Turn off location tracking. Make sure your posts don’t get switched to a “public” setting inadvertently. Perhaps even flip your phone into airplane mode when you toss it in your bag so you can have a truly private outing, and still have communication when you need it. 

Do you know what security features are available on your device? If not, explore! Implementing these tools, such as the option for multi-factor authentication for logging into certain platforms, can be a great step towards protecting yourself from things like cybercrime.

Tech Tip #2:  Make sure your passwords are strong. Add a creative mix of letters, numbers and characters. Avoid using the same passwords on multiple sites, especially when it comes to accounts with high-stakes information such as banking and other secure records. 

Tech Tip #3: Use multi-factor authentication when possible. By adding another layer to the log-in process to confirm your identity, multi-factor authentication reduces the risk of being hacked and/or having private information stolen. 

3. Protect it. There are many factors that go into digital security — or digital insecurity. Implementing security measures is one thing, but staying on top of your safety, or keeping an eye on your “digital hygiene,” is another. Stay aware of what you are putting out there, and the “digital trail” you are leaving behind through every action you take online. 

Tech Tip #4: Reflect on your technology usage. What information do you give away by means of posting? What does your device know about you? What kind of digital trail are you leaving? Pretend for a minute that you are a stranger attempting to gain access to you. How easy would it be to access details into your personal life and/or private information? What step can you take today to increase your security? 

This National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, be proactive! By working on your “digital hygiene,” you not only have the opportunity to become more safe and secure, but to take the reigns of your digital life back, and empower yourself and your friends in the process.