Going away to university or college is a very exciting time. You’re independent and living away from the watchful eyes of your parents for the first time. But as well as looking forward to your new found freedom, aren’t you just a tad nervous?
You’ve thought about your courses, your tuition and your housing. What about your personal safety and security? It’s of prime importance that you take steps to safeguard that too. That being said, read on for a few security tips.
1. Safety-proof your new home
It might seem obvious, but a door left propped open or a window unlocked is an invitation for trouble. Leave lights on or music playing to make it appear someone is home. Consider using sensor and timing systems to control lighting. Make sure everyone has a key, and avoid hiding one outside to thwart intruders looking for one.
2. Have a plan and let a roommate know
If you’re going out, let friends know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Knowing your plans will help them identify any problem later.
3. Travel in numbers
Use the good old-fashioned buddy system — walk in pairs, especially at night. At night, stick to well-lit paths and don’t take short cuts. Another great security tip for college students is to always have an eye on their drinks. Whether at a party or hanging out in the dorm, a student should never leave any drink unattended. Even if left for a short time, a drink can be compromised. Students should get a new drink instead of going back to the old one.
4. Watch what you post online
Tough as it might be to resist Tweeting your every move, avoid posting daily activities that include details of your whereabouts and evening plans. It’s common for students to post status updates of vacations or weekends away, but that can leave you and your home vulnerable.
5. Report suspicious behaviour
Most campuses have a “panic phone” system. Know where these are. Don’t second-guess yourself. If you feel unsafe or see something suspicious, get away as quickly as possible and report it to campus police.
Online banking and shopping have certainly made life more convenient. However, it is very important to keep personal and financial information secure when you go online. Here are some suggestions to help you do just that:
Use your own computer whenever possible to access your financial records or to make financial transactions. Using public computers, such as ones found in airports and internet cafes, for anything other than casual browsing puts your personal information at risk. If you have to use a computer other than your own, never click the “remember me” box when logging in on any website, and be sure to log out of your bank or email account completely. You should never store passwords or account information on your computer. Remember to change your passwords regularly, and to choose a strong combination of numbers and letters. The same rule applies when protecting your answers to security questions. Select questions and provide answers that are easy for you to remember, but hard for anyone else to guess.
Avoid online behavior that may increase the risk of infecting your system with spyware, which is software that secretly gathers information about you and transmits that information through your internet connection without your knowledge, usually for advertising purposes. To limit these risks, do not run or install programs that are of unknown origin and be careful downloading any free software, wallpapers, games, music, movies etc.
Do not open emails and/or attachments from unknown senders-they could contain a virus or some sort of malicious software. Do not fill out forms in e-mail messages that ask for personal or financial information. Never click on pop up advertisements or respond to spam emails. Delete spam, do not even click “unsubscribe” or ask to “be taken off their mailing lists”. By responding in any way to spam, you confirm to them that is, in fact, a correct email address, making your account more vulnerable to attacks.
On trusted websites, the address bar will start with “https” and there will be a padlock in the lower right corner of your screen in the status bar. If you want to be safe while using a public wireless (Wi-Fi) network at coffee shops, bookstores, restaurants etc. avoid entering any sensitive information. Identity thieves implement tools that actually record every key stroke you make as you sip your coffee and buy something or check your email. Some quick, last minute tips to keep your personal/ financial information, as well as your computer more secure online, are to close your browser when you are finished using the internet. Always log off from any website after making a purchase with your credit or debit card. If for some reason you are unable to log off, completely shut down your browser and this will ultimately prevent any attempts to access to your account information by any unauthorized user. And finally, at night, or when you will be away from your computer for any extended amount of time, shut your computer down completely. Being mindful of your personal information will make your online experience enjoyable by knowing that you are not compromising your security.