As students head off to college, Colonel Ann C. Assumpico, Superintendent of State Police and Director of the Department of Public Safety, stresses the importance of cyber safety on and off campus. She urges parents and students to protect computers, cell phones and other mobile devices, as well as protecting personal information from cyber criminals.
"Students must remember the importance of cyber security as they return to school," Colonel Assumpico said. "Digital media has become an integral part of the college experience and whether they are returning to a dorm or to off-campus living, they should take the time to protect themselves from cyber incidents via industry recognized and recommended security practices."
Captain John Alfred, head of the Rhode Island State Police Joint Cyber Task Force, which includes members of state and local police departments as well as representatives from local businesses, offers the following cyber security tips and recommendations:
• Protect your computer and mobile devices with security software. Many colleges offer free security software to students. If that's not an option, purchase reputable anti-virus software online or at a store that sells computer and office supplies. Updating security software, operating systems and apps is one of the best things you can do to protect your web devices against viruses, malware and other online threats.
• Scan USBs and other external devices that can become infected when used with other computers. When you plug them into your laptop or desktop, use your computer security software to scan for viruses and malware before using them.
• Back up your important documents, music, photos and other digital information regularly on media not connected to your personal network. (i.e. disks, thumb drives or reputable cloud storage sites). Create electronic copies that can be retrieved if your computer or mobile phone is hacked or attacked with ransomware.
• Protect your computer, personal information and online accounts with strong passwords. Have separate passwords for each account and change them at least every three months.
• Don't use debit cards for online shopping. If someone steals your debit card information, all purchases will be automatically deducted from your bank account and the hacker will have a direct link to your bank account. Use a credit card, where you can monitor purchases and report suspicious activity before paying the bill.
• Only open links from trusted sources and verify the link by hovering your cursor over it before clicking. Links in emails, tweets, social media posts and online advertising can infect your computer with viruses and malware, or give cyber criminals access to your personal information.
• Be suspicious of any networks billed as free public wi-fi or hotspots. Don't share personal information or conduct shopping or banking online from public networks where your personal information and financial accounts could be compromised.
• Never leave your laptop, cell phone or other mobile device unattended. They could be stolen, or cyber thieves could seize the opportunity to access your personal and financial information.
• If living off-campus, be sure to secure your router/network with WPA2/AES encryption and do not share your password for the network. Do not leave your network open for everyone.