Dorms, Degrees, and Data Security: Prepare Your Devices for Back to School Season

By on Aug 13, 2019

With summer coming to a close, it’s almost time for back to school! Back to school season is an exciting time for students, especially college students, as they take their first steps towards independence and embark on journeys that will shape the rest of their lives. As students across the country prepare to start or return to college, we here at McAfee have revealed new findings indicating that many are not proactively protecting their academic data. Here are the key takeaways from our survey of 1,000 Americans, ages 18-25, who attend or have attended college:

Education Needs to Go Beyond the Normal Curriculum

While many students are focused on classes like biology and business management, very few get the proper exposure to cybersecurity knowledge. 80% of students have been affected by a cyberattack or know a friend or family member who has been affected. However, 43% claim that they don’t think they will ever be a victim of a cybercrime in the future.

Educational institutions are very careful to promote physical safety, but what about cyber safety? It turns out only 36% of American students claim that they have learned how to keep personal information safe through school resources. According to 42% of our respondents, they learn the most about cybersecurity from the news. To help improve cybersecurity education in colleges and universities, these institutions should take a certain level of responsibility when it comes to training students on how they can help keep their precious academic data safe from cybercriminals.

Take Notes on Device Security

Believe it or not, many students fail to secure all of their devices, opening them up to even more vulnerabilities. While half of students have security software installed on their personal computers, this isn’t the case for their tablets or smartphones. Only 37% of students surveyed have smartphone protection, and only 13% have tablet protection. What’s more, about one in five (21%) students don’t use any cybersecurity products at all.

Class Dismissed: Cyberattacks Targeting Education Are on the Rise

According to data from McAfee Labs, cyberattacks targeting education in Q1 2019 have increased by 50% from Q4 2018. The combination of many students being uneducated in proper cybersecurity hygiene and the vast array of shared networks that these students are simultaneously logged onto gives cybercriminals plenty of opportunities to exploit when it comes to targeting universities. Some of the attacks utilized include account hijacking and malware, which made up more than 70% of attacks on these institutions from January to May of 2019. And even though these attacks are on the rise, 90% of American students still use public Wi-Fi and only 18% use a VPN to protect their devices.

Become a Cybersecurity Scholar

In order to go into this school year with confidence, students should remember these security tips:

  • Never reuse passwords. Use a unique password for each one of your accounts, even if it’s for an account that doesn’t hold a lot of personal information. You can also use a password manager so you don’t have to worry about remembering various logins.
  • Always set privacy and security settings. Anyone with access to the internet can view your social media if it’s public. Protect your identity by turning your profiles to private so you can control who can follow you. You should also take the time to understand the various security and privacy settings to see which work best for your lifestyle.
  • Use the cloud with caution. If you plan on storing your documents in the cloud, be sure to set up an additional layer of access security. One way of doing this is through two-factor authentication.
  • Always connect with caution. If you need to conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection, use a virtual private network (VPN) to keep your connection secure.
  • Discuss cyber safety often. It’s just as important for families to discuss cyber safety as it is for them to discuss privacy on social media. Talk to your family about ways to identify phishing scams, what to do if you may have been involved in a data breach, and invest in security software that scans for malware and untrusted sites.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

About the Author

Gary Davis

Gary Davis is Chief Consumer Security Evangelist. Through a consumer lens, he partners with internal teams to drive strategic alignment of products with the needs of the security space. Gary also provides security education to businesses and consumers by distilling complex security topics into actionable advice. He is a sought-after speaker on trends in digital ...

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