While some might argue that studying from home is necessary in the current times, some view it as a convenience. You get to absorb the materials at your own pace, and you can even do it in your pajamas if you choose to. At the same time, however, online learning could expose you to certain cyber threats.
Today, we will look at what they are and what students can do to protect themselves against them.
1. Unsecured Wi-Fi
Schools typically have IT professionals on board who set up the network in line with the best security standards. At home, on the other hand, your Wi-Fi is as secure as you configure it to be. Without the proper knowledge, your very own Wi-Fi could be misconfigured, thus allowing malicious third-party actors to connect at will.
This is a long subject; it’s impossible to cover it all within a single article due to the exact steps being different for every device, manufacturer, etc. What you should do is open up a search engine of your choice and search for the exact model and the serial number of your router or networking device. Then, try to see if there are any guides that will show you what to do to better protect the device (like changing the default admin password).
Another way you can make your Wi-Fi even more secure is to install a VPN on your router. This way, all bits and pieces of data you exchange through your network will go through an encrypted tunnel, and no one will be able to snoop on your online activities without the proper key. It’s also possible to get a VPN for Firestick (https://nordvpn.com/download/firestick/) if that’s what you’re using to watch courses online. Not only will it make the experience more secure, but it will also smooth out any buffering issues you may encounter along the way.
Does the e-learning platform you’re using send out automated emails from time to time? Be sure to check their legitimacy. If they truly are coming from a legitimate source, they should be fine. It could be, however, that someone has learned of your presence on that platform and made you the target of a phishing attack by sending out a fraudulent email.
In a nutshell, the objective of a phishing attack is to trick you into revealing your login credentials by luring you onto a fraudulent login form designed for harvesting sensitive information. It is not uncommon for these fraudsters to misrepresent their identity and act as if they were one of your colleagues, superiors, or even administrators of the platform. Their requests are often accompanied by a sense of urgency, so if that’s what you’ve noticed, be on your guard.
A good solution to stay safe is to avoid clicking on any links that someone sends you through email or other messaging services unless you know exactly what is being sent and are expecting it (and even then be cautious about hackers trying to trick you). Instead, go to the e-learning platform directly and log in from there.
3. Dodgy websites
As part of their assignments, students are often asked to research various subjects online. In the process, they may encounter some websites that contain malware, intrusive ads, or even push spam onto their visitors. As it goes without saying, this could endanger the security of your device.
The good news is, there are plenty of things you can do in this regard. For starters, you can install an ad-block, the purpose of which is to filter out these annoying (and potentially dangerous) ads, all while leaving the rest of the content intact. Every browser should have a fair share of these plugins to choose from, but for security reasons, stick to those that got the best ratings in the marketplace.
You could also consider using a separate device for research. Each would have a different role; one you’d use strictly for sensitive online activities such as online banking, while the other would serve entertainment, research, and other purposes. You see, these days, the cost of hardware is much more affordable than it used to be, and many people fancy having more than one computer on their desk. Alternatively, you could also learn how to set up a virtual environment or use your browser’s sandbox mode.
4. Device theft, loss, or breakdown
The data you store on your device could be more valuable than the device itself. Imagine losing the report you’ve been working on for an eternity due to losing access to your device. Whether it be hard drive corruption, theft, loss, or a myriad of other reasons, this could happen to anyone. And, as life experience will probably tell you, this tends to happen at the most awkward possible moments.
To prevent this from happening, first of all, please get into the habit of making backups regularly. This will allow you to restore your files at any time. If you want to be extra careful, place one of them on a separate physical medium and one of them in the cloud. The idea is to cover all your bases – even if you lose the physical one due to a fire, theft, or another disaster, the other copy will still be there waiting for you.
You should also learn how to prevent your files from getting into the wrong hands by learning how to encrypt your hard drive. By knowing the right password, you’d still be able to access them as usual, while an unauthorized third party would have a hard time doing the same.
5. Less secure apps
Too many people install third-party apps without giving it a second thought. But you need to realize that not every app has your best interests at heart, and some of them could contain malware or spy on you without you knowing. And although most app marketplaces make a conscious effort to filter out the bad apples from their offerings, sometimes, some of them can slip through the cracks.
The solution is to ask yourself whether you need an app before installing it. If it’s a one-time thing, maybe you can get the job done another way or uninstall it after you’re done. Either way, don’t forget to verify what permissions the app in question is asking for. If the list is too extensive compared to what the app would need to stay functional, this is a red flag.
Last but not least, keep your device up to date and install an antivirus to be extra safe. It’s not bulletproof, though, so exercise some common sense before installing an app or opening up a file that doesn’t look trustworthy.
The online learning space has become the norm, and cybercriminals have taken notice. Put these tips into action, and your overall security will improve.