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identity theft

Other Safety

5 Super Easy Ways to Boost Your Online Security

November 22, 2017

It seems we hear a new “sorry, we’ve been hacked” story every day. Ranging from small companies to some of the biggest names known worldwide, everyone from Target to Uber to Chipotle has been hacked leaving your data compromised. And it doesn’t stop there.

“Last September, Yahoo announced that data associated with at least 500 million accounts had been stolen. Three months later, it disclosed a second breach affecting more than one billion accounts,” according to Seth Fiegerman with CNN Tech.
As a college student, it may feel almost impossible to protect yourself from being a hacking victim—you don’t have money to put special protection on your data or personal information—but the key word is “almost.”

There are a number of steps you can take to protect your data and personal information from being stolen or accessed, all of which are easy, and better yet, free.

  1. Use a Password Manager

You know the three basic rules of passwords: they should be:
• Unique to each account.
• Complex, using letters, numbers and symbols whenever possible.
• Unidentifiable to you, like the name of your pet or your birthday—all information a hacker can easily find online.

If you’re following all the rules, the first thought is: I’ll never remember all that; which is why most people don’t follow them. Instead of leaving yourself vulnerable to hacking, use a password manager.“Using a master password, these programs will catalog and secure the login info for every account you own, and most of them come with a browser plugin that allows you plug in any login on the fly while you browse,” according to How to Protect Your Digital Identity and Lock Your Sensitive Data. The same guide suggests checking out the following password managers, all of which are free to use:

Password Box


     2) Use the Latest Version of Your Browser
Keeping both your OS and your browser up to date is critical for online security: “In both scenarios, you’re putting your personal online security at risk anytime you browse the internet. Without current web browser support and critical security updates from Microsoft, your PC may become vulnerable to any number of harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software which can steal or damage your identity, personal finances, and information,” explain blog staff at WebRoot.

It sounds simple, but many people see the reminder or request to update and click on the “not now” button. Don’t put off these updates and instead schedule the update to happen later instead of just closing that pop-up—or better yet, do it right then and there and take a quick 15-minute study break.

You can schedule your updates to happen automatically as well. Use this as an easy way to plan ahead and schedule updates to happen at times that you wouldn’t be on your computer, like when you’re sleeping.

3) Install a VPN

VPN stands for virtual private network. The beauty of a VPN is that it completely hides the data connection to your ISP address from potential hackers: Lee Matthews, software and tech writer for Forbes, explains in easy-to-understand terms:
“When you connect to a VPN, all the data that gets sent from your device to the private network at the other end (and back) is ‘encapsulated. Think putting a letter into an envelope to keep its contents from being read during transport. The envelope could still be opened, though. That’s why organizations like the CIA put tamper-proof tape over the flap. With a VPN connection, encryption is the tamper-proof tape. The result is a sort of network-within-a-network, but because of encapsulation and encryption your connection to a VPN remains private even though the data you’re transmitting is moving over the very public Internet.”


You can get a VPN for any browser for free; all you have to do is make sure it’s connected. Some websites may recognize it and not serve you content (many T.V. networks do this when you’re trying to watch shows online), but you can simply disconnect for that one site and reconnect when you’re done.

4) Install An Ad Blocker
Pop-up ads are not only annoying, but they also pose a security threat. “Ads are known to spread malware. For that reason alone, you should block all of them. I say this as someone whose rent is, in part, paid by ad revenue,” says William Turton, staff writer with Gizmodo.

There are a wide variety of AdBlockers you can use, depending on your browser. Check out Tom’s Guide’s extensive round-up of option for Chrome, Firefox, Safari,  and IE.

5) Set Up Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is a security feature that requires you to take one extra step when logging into an account. In some cases, the extra step will be a preset security question while others use an additional PIN code or a verification code sent to you via text.

This extra step provides an extra layer of security so if someone guesses your password, they won’t be able to get through the second part of the login process. “For hackers, the coup de grace is setting up instant alerts when your account is accessed from an unfamiliar device or location. Usually, this is you because you’re logging into your email account from an internet café in London, or you’re checking your bank balance on a trusted friend’s phone,” says Kim Komando, tech expert for USA Today.
Get Secure Now

It can be a daunting task to consider setting up these different security measures, but it will be well worth it when your online privacy has been protected, especially in light of the many security breaches we now hear about on a daily basis. You can protect yourself easily, and for little to no money, so take an hour between classes to get secure and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with it.

BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time freelance writer and self-employed content marketing consultant. She’s been featured in Forbes and Business Insider and has written for Reader’s Digest, Lifehack and more.

Other Safety

How to Keep Your Laptop Safe When Using Campus WiFi

November 3, 2016

College can be the best time of your life; it can also be filled with tons of minor headaches. Between managing classes and keeping the budget intact, it’s important to save a little here and a little there.

As a result, we cling to our tools and protect them like parts of ourselves. The thought of losing them is akin to some kind of natural disaster. Laptops are among the devices we use that rank most highly on the list of things to protect because they accomplish and save our works. Plus, they’re a great source of endless entertainment.

To stay frugal, most college students use their laptops on campus WiFi of some sort. Purchasing a data plan for your laptop costs an inordinate amount of money, and there are so many public access points that it hardly seems worth the cost. What few realize is just how costly campus WiFi can become.

Surfing the Unsecured Net

Campus WiFi is free—not counting the huge tuition costs associated with just being present—and many colleges have made a point to ensure adequate speed is provided for all attending classes. What they haven’t provided is a secured connection. But what exactly is a secured connection?

When you access WiFi, you’re either connecting to a password-protected, encrypted network, or you’re connecting to an unsecure network. Without the use of basic security measures, everyone connected is vulnerable to outside attack. Hackers are especially fond of public WiFi systems because they can scan through multiple victims to find data worth stealing, such as names, addresses, credit card information, social security numbers, etc.

It isn’t even a big challenge either; an amateur hacker is able to hack an open WiFi network in just under 11 minutes. Knowing that, what can you really do?

All is not lost. There are several security measures you can take to make sure your use of campus WiFi is considerably safer.

Encrypting Your Own Internet

So the campus hasn’t done its job; now what? Your best bet is to take steps to encrypt your own internet connection. Doing so will keep hackers out of your laptop and let you focus on doing what you came to do at college.

The best way to do that is by subscribing to one of the many Virtual Private Network (VPN) services available. Once a tool used predominantly by businesses and major universities for faculty, a VPN allows you to connect to a remote server before the rest of the net. These remote servers then encrypt your connection and allow you to do whatever it is you need to get done safely.

You might be asking yourself, “What exactly is encryption?” Simply put, encryption scrambles data into an unreadable format that can only be read with the right code. Because the code is so complicated on industry-standard encryption (typically described as 256-bit AES), hackers and other criminals can make no use of stolen data that’s been encrypted.

With that kind of system in place, you have little to be concerned about in terms of being hacked on WiFi. That’s not to say there aren’t other risks though.

Protecting Against Theft

Utilizing campus WiFi has many perks, but it also means taking your precious laptop to a very busy location. Even small colleges will typically have hundreds of people buzzing around at any given time, and the incidence of theft is relatively high at these locations.

As a result, it’s very important you take measures to make sure your laptop isn’t just stolen outright. Keeping an eye on it is a good first step; if you don’t leave it unattended, you’re considerably less likely to experience theft.

But data on your laptop is valuable, so valuable that you can’t leave things to chance. Make sure your laptop is properly locked up tight with a login password of considerable difficulty. Any personal information should be avoided in terms of the actual password content, as should full dictionary words or themes related to the university.

Stick with passwords that contain a minimum of eight characters, have a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, contain numbers, and have symbols. Long passphrases are also a good alternative, as they’re easy for you to remember but not so easy for thieves to guess.

Another step to consider is installing an anti-theft app. Several services exist, including PreyProject and Norton Anti-Theft, that allow you to track your stolen laptop and shut down functions from afar to prevent anything from being taken off the device.

In the event your laptop winds up lost, it can also be worth leaving your contact information on a sticker affixed to the exterior so Good Samaritans can help you recover your goods.

Value in the Information Age

There’s no question that what your laptop has on it is valuable to someone else. We live in a world where information can sometimes be more valuable than natural resources, and hacking has practically become its own black industry.

That isn’t something we need to be afraid of; it’s just another consideration to make as we move forward in each day. By taking the right steps to protect your laptop, you save yourself time, money and much-needed focus. As the steps involved aren’t particularly complicated or expensive, do yourself a favor: secure that connection!



Keep your laptop safe on your campus wifi network to prevent hacking and identity theft.

About the Author: Cassie is a lifelong learner with a focus on internet securities and cybercrime. She spends her days blogging about online safety and what can be done to prevent data theft, identity theft and general sabotage.

Other Safety

Important College Safety Tips

August 6, 2014
Important Campus Safety Tips for College Students - must read!

Hopefully, your campus community feels safe and like home once you arrive on campus. However, sometimes that sense of community can be deceiving. Whether yours is in the midst of a big city or set back from a college town, there are steps you can take to enhance your personal security while on (and off) campus. Keep these tips in mind this semester to help keep yourself and your friends safe.

Know Who to Call

Your college likely has many, many resources available to keep you safe and healthy. Campus police, peer groups, staff counselors, staff nurses, deans, RA’s… those are just a few of the people on campus there to help you stay safe. Make sure you have all campus and local emergency numbers saved in your phone, as well as the number for any campus-offered rides if ever you need to be picked up.

Be Aware

It’s easy to let your guard down when you’re in your dorm or wandering through your familiar campus, but basic safety precautions should never be ignored. Lock the door to your room, walk with friends at night especially if you are heading through an unsafe area, and always make sure you have a safe, sober ride.

While your personal safety is of the utmost importance, don’t forget about other areas. Social media can leave you vulnerable if you’re oversharing and can lead to ID Theft.  Don’t leave your valuables exposed – whether it’s in your unlocked dorm room, at the library while you’re grabbing a coffee or in your car. Check with your parents to see if your stuff is covered by their homeowners insurance. If not, consider renters insurance just in case – a stolen laptop will cost you and renters insurance can help.

Know Yourself and Trust Your Gut

College may be the first time you’re tasting independence. It’s your job to take care of yourself. There’s a lot to keep track of in college life, but make sure you have the essentials in an accessible place. This health checklist from College Parents of America is super helpful.

In addition to having campus numbers and all your own important information, get to know your campus. Large or small, in your first few weeks acquaint or re-acquaint yourself with it’s layout and how to get to key points from most areas on campus. Get to know the safety features of your new dorm or apartment and be sure to always be cautious holding the door for others.

If you choose to party, know your limits and make sure you are with friends you trust. It is easy to meet new people and trust them like an old friend, but it is wise to be cautious, especially as a freshman. If you feel something is off, trust yourself, whether its upon meeting someone or traveling somewhere on campus.

Take Care of Yourself

Often overlooked when discussing safety, but an important step in making sure you are safe is striving to be healthy and happy. Carve out time this school year to devote to de-stressing and staying fit. Regular walks or gym sessions, eating your veggies and taking some time to yourself to relax will help you help you be more alert when you need to be as well as ensure you stay healthy throughout the semester. With illnesses like colds, the flu or mono that can pass quickly through the dorms, being prepared is your best defense. A clear mind will help you make good choices this semester.

We wish you a safe semester. Do you have any safety tips to add?

Other Safety

8 Tips to Protect College Students from ID Theft

July 31, 2014

With young adults making up the largest percentage of the population affected by Identity Theft, it’s safe to say this is an issue college students should be concerned about. Though spending time online is a large part of college life for both studying and socializing and may feel safe, some habits can leave you vulnerable to identity theft.

While you’re probably never going to give up your social accounts, do exercise caution when posting sensitive information, like your location or birthdate, and when joining the wi-fi networks at your school or the local coffee shop. This article by KGW offers several helpful tips for students that can help protect you from ID theft at school, at home and wherever else you may go:

Here’s a summary of the 8 tips offered by iovation:

  • The Internet is forever; think about future employers, including those coveted summer internships.
  • Don’t add your address to your Facebook profile.
  • Don’t broadcast your location; checking-in is fine, just do it sparingly.
  • Don’t “friend” people you don’t know.
  • Guard your Social Security number. Always. It’s like a winning lottery ticket for a scammer, fraudster or identity thief.
  • Don’t use the same password everywhere. Consider using an “all-in-one” password manager.
  • Beware of emails phishing for personal information. Never give credit card info, usernames, passwords or other personal info.
  • Be Wi-Fi savvy and safe. Free Wi-Fi comes at the cost of security. Unsecured networks are gold mines for identity thieves.

These tips can help you and your money stay secure, but even being diligent may not be able to help you avoid identity theft. If you are concerned, consider an Identity Theft Protection Plan. These types of plans can help you resolve instances of identity theft more quickly with enhanced monitoring and insurance for lost funds.

Other Safety

Tax Returns- Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

April 3, 2014

The IRS reports that identity theft is among the fastest growing crimes in the country. Between 2011 and 2012, they more than doubled their number of employees dedicated to identity theft cases. Considering how much is done online today—from registering for events to buying just about anything, it’s not too hard to believe. You’ve probably entered your bank account, social security, and credit card numbers online plenty of times and not thought much of it. However, given the serious threat of identity theft, it’s important to be very careful when and where you use your personal information online. Tax season, which runs from January 1st to April 15th, is a particularly risky time for identity theft. With everyone filing their tax returns, documents like W-2 forms and bank statements are being submitted online and mailed out like clockwork. That’s a lot of important financial information circulating at one time. Identity thieves know this, and want to work it to their advantage. So what can you do to keep your information safe as a college student?

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Other Student Life

How to Lock Down Your Social Profiles

January 6, 2014
How to Lock Down Your Social Profile for College Students

Over the past decade, online privacy, once an expected right, has been dwindling faster than you can shout out, “Tag me in that!” With friends posting less-than-professional photos on Instagram and Twitter updates sent when you’re not in the best mindset, the old adage of “what happens in college, stays in college” no longer applies. To keep your put your most polished foot forward, adhere to the following social media tips.


For the king of social media (and likely the first profile an employer will check), you’ll need to lock down a few settings to stay secure. First, head to the main Privacy Settings and Tools page to limit who can see your posts, contact you, or look you up.

1. Who can see my stuff?

The first setting concerns who can see your future posts. The options are Public, Friends, Only Me, or Custom, where you can specific friends or groups. If you want to stay private, limit this to Friends, but if you have a lot of Facebook “friends” you don’t even know, you may want to create a custom list of friends you trust and want to share with.

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Career Other

ID Theft and Social Media: Why using social media can make you vulnerable to ID theft…and what you can do about it.

November 25, 2013
ID Theft and Social Media

What is Identity Theft?

Back in the day, ID theft usually involved stealing someone’s wallet. From there, a thief could pretend to be you, racking up your credit cards, forging checks or committing other scams using your good name. Think of Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can.

While that can and does still happen these days, all of that is so 1990s compared to the high tech means identity thieves now use.

Enter the Internet and social media. With social media, today’s ID thieves are like hipsters in a thrift shop. Their excitement is palpable. The choices are endless. So much cool stuff all under one roof. Where does a thief begin? Perhaps on a social media behemoth such as Facebook. Why pick pockets on the street when you have a billion Facebook users to hack with just a few insidious clicks? It’s basic economies of scale.

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Other Safety

Back to College: What You Need to Know About ID Theft

August 22, 2013
Back to College: 10 Tips to Protect Yourself from ID Theft #college

Most colleges are back in session this week, so happy move-in to all our readers! There have been so many articles on back to school popping up around the Internet this past week (you can find some on our Pinterest page), and I keep seeing articles with tips to protect yourself from ID theft this semester, and for good reason. Those aged 16-24 experience attempted or successful identity theft at a rate higher than all other age groups (source). Don’t wait until it’s too late to avoid identity theft. Check out these tips from Erie Insurance on how you can take a few simple measures to better protect yourself this semester:

1. Pack a shredder and lock box – Nope, not overreacting. Your bank and credit card statements, as well as bills, can contain sensitive personal information that could help theives. As for the lock box, that’s a great place to store your laptop, tablets and identifying documents (like your Social Security card, passport, etc) in a safe place.

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4 Steps You Can Take to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft

May 28, 2013

The Federal Trade Commission states that those aged 20 to 29 are the most common target of identity theft. However, 18 to 24 year olds are the slowest to detect fraud, and thus are victims for longer periods of time. Identity theft is a real threat, and college students are more susceptible than ever before. Students therefore need to take precautions to protect themselves from identity theft.

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4 Types of Identity Theft College Students Should Know About

April 3, 2013

Identity theft is a quickly growing threat in the U.S., especially with the advancement in use of the Internet and social networking sites. Identity theft occurs when an impostor steals personal information from you and uses it for their benefit. It can take place in many different ways, and it’s important to know how to prevent identity theft from happening to you. Here are several of the most common ways that your identity can be stolen, provided by , and how to prevent them.

Financial ID Theft

This can occur when your credit cards, debit cards, or checks are stolen. If this happens, contact the bank immediately and close your account. When opening a new one, put passwords on the account. Passwords should be something only you can remember. They should be at least 8 characters long and contain both capital and lowercase letters and at least one non-alphabetical character.

In order to prevent financial ID theft, keep all cards and IDs together in a place where they are not easily visible. When at school, never leave a wallet unattended.

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