Heading back to school may seem like a hectic transition, not only for kids, but for parents too. It’s no wonder that parents and kids are stressed out about the back to school season. During this stressful time, many parents may forget to share the importance of cyber-safety. To make the back-to school transition less stressful, here are a few tips from the National Life Information Security team on how to stay cyber-safe and prevent incidents like identity theft, breach of credit card information and breach of personal social media accounts.
- Make sure your computer Anti-Virus is up-to-date*—Anti-virus works based on signature detection. These signatures are updated daily by the makers of the software when they detect new threats. This in turn means that your anti-virus is only as effective as it is up-to-date. McAfee, Bitdefender, and Kaspersky are some of the top choices recommended by experts.
- Check for the “lock,” which means that HTTPS is being used!—If your browser ever asks if you want to proceed to an unsafe page, navigate back to safety. This is a sign that someone may be intercepting your data, and could steal or manipulate your information. Always look for the lock in the browser address bar to make sure the website you are visiting is secure and legitimate. However, do be aware of the site you are visiting as crafty hackers can have malicious sites that do use HTTPS.
- Use strong passwords for your devices and sites*—Use strong and complex passwords for web accounts such as email, bank or social media accounts, etc. It is a best practice to not use the same username and password for all your web accounts. Using the same username and password increases the chance of multiple account breach in the event if one of the account is breached. By using a password manager such as Dashlane or LastPass, you can greatly improve the strength and complexity of your passwords and securely manage them. The benefit of a password manager is that it can help you develop these complex passwords and remember them for future use.
- Be wary of emails that ask you to download software or input a password or personal information—Always be cautious of opening emails in which you do not know the sender, have not requested, or with a vague sensationalist subject line such as “Pleasant surprise” or “Get a free vacation,” etc. Banks will never ask you for your password, or alert you to suspicious activity via email. Always hover over a link in an email without clicking on it in order to see its true web address. Remember, even though a page may seem legitimate, there are phishing attempts that closely imitate bank and email provider web pages in order to convince you to fill in your personal information.
- Be cautious when tapping into unsecured or public Wi-Fi—Kids and parents alike may find it tempting to use free Wi-Fi to save cell phone data, however it is a best practice to be careful about what you do while connected to public or unsecured Wi-Fi. Anything being transmitted in cleartext over public or unsecured Wi-Fi is potentially vulnerable to anyone else on the network that has bad intentions. This is one of the most common ways data is stolen by hackers.
In order to prevent this, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). It creates a “tunnel” to transmit your data securely. Check out PIA, NordVPN, or ExpressVPN. There are also free solutions such as OperaVPN and Hotspot Shield.
- Setup secure Wi-Fi—Setting up secure Wi-Fi doesn’t have to be a hassle. Simply switch to the WPA2 box, when setting up your router and enter a complex password that meets the requirements. Securing your Wi-Fi is important, as it can be a buffer against direct attacks against you. It also safeguards you against unwanted guests using your internet access.
Once you take these steps, congratulate yourself and breathe easier as you send the kids back to school.
*National Life Group does not recommend or endorse any of the products listed above. They are only suggestions.