How protected are you?

October marks the start of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

The information technology department will be sending out safety tips throughout the month to keep students informed and active about online security.

Tyler Johnston from IT said cybersecurity is a multifaceted idea. He said that while there are many potential dangers that online activity can bring, he believes identity theft is one of the most damaging.

“What should be of primary concern is defending against identity theft,” Johnston said. “Identity theft is expensive and time-consuming to recover from, so being aware and defending against it is very important.

“The number one most important thing you can do to be safe online is to protect your personal information and your computer.”

Sophomore Bridget Hays said identity theft crosses her mind when she is shopping online or giving out personal information, but for the most part she said her online activities are more related to social networking.

However, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance, online shopping is not the only situation where identity theft occurs.

Social networks also provide a great venue for identity theft because “the more information you post, the easier it may be for a hacker to use that information to steal your identity or access your data.”

While Hays said she is comfortable using social networks, she is aware of their flaws, and she pays close attention to who can view her profile and what information they can see.

“I usually feel pretty safe because I’ve made sure that my security settings are strict,” Hays said.

Johnston said he agrees that social networks are generally safe for students to use, as long as they follow the proper policies.

“Social networking sites are amazing resources that enable communication with people from all over the world,” Johnston said. “But you must use care when posting and communicating with others.”

Outside of social networking, common problems Johnston said he sees working in IT are issues concerning passwords and viruses.

Johnston said the Help Desk has helped over 180 students with password issues since Aug. 1. Students forgetting passwords or letting them expire is the number one call to Help Desk.

He said another frequent problem the Help Desk runs into are students contracting viruses, usually through a file-sharing software like Limewire. The Help Desk has already helped 90 students this year with virus problems.

While computer problems inevitably occur, by taking just a few simple steps, Johnston said students can greatly reduce their  online risks.

“Keep your computer and antivirus up-to-date, never give out your passwords, regularly back up your files, beware of e-mail phishing scams and think before you post, update your status or share your location,” Johnston said. “And always review your privacy settings on social networking sites.”

For more information, visit www.staysafeonline.org.

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