The experts at Uswitch have offered their top tips on how students can stay safe online:
1. Keep personal information offline - Personal details, such as your address, date of birth, telephone number and bank details should never be disclosed online unless using a trusted source. Trusted websites, where your personal details may be needed, include your online banking, your university portal or trusted retailers' websites. When you're shopping online, it's important to only purchase from web pages that show a padlock icon and have URLs starting with "HTTPS", which shows the site is secure. If your details get into the wrong hands, they can be used for identity theft or fraud.
2. Stay private on social media - As well as not sharing personal details on social media, it's also important to choose the highest privacy settings. Privacy settings control who sees what you share and how secure your information will be. Each social media platform has different privacy policies and settings, so it is important to tailor these for each of your accounts.
3. Browse safely - When browsing online, there is a risk of computer viruses and malware, if the right safety precautions aren't in place. These risks often arise when opening suspicious emails or accessing untrustworthy websites. To protect yourself when browsing online, consider investing in computer security measures, such as firewalls and antivirus software.
4. Choose secure passwords - To protect your online accounts from being hacked, create strong and unique passwords that include a random sequence of twelve upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. You should never write down or share your passwords with anyone. However, If you find it difficult to remember them, consider installing a secure password management system to do this for you.
5. Be aware of scam emails, texts and calls - A common way that you can be targeted online is through messages to your phone. Be aware of calls, texts, and emails from unknown contact details who ask for your personal information or access to your phone or computer. Scammers are also likely to offer you deals that seem too good to be true. Common examples that you might see include phishing scams, from people impersonating companies, e.g., The Student Loans Company.
6. Be mindful of using public Wi-Fi - Data shared across public Wi-Fi is often unsecured and poses a series of risks. If you use public Wi-Fi regularly, it would be sensible to invest in a virtual private network (VPN) that offers a secure and encrypted connection. Alternatively, you might want to limit your online activity when using public Wi-Fi. And don't forget to click "forget network" once you have finished using the Wi-Fi.
7. Take care when using shared computers - Utilising shared computers in the university library is commonplace. However, like using public Wi-Fi, they also pose a risk to your online safety if not used sensibly. When using shared computers, avoid saving passwords to the device, always clear your browsing history and make sure to log out of any accounts after you have finished using them.
Catherine Hiley, broadband expert at Uswitch, comments:
"Staying safe online is important for all internet users. However, particular caution should be taken by students, who are at a higher risk of online threats such as phishing, scams and fraud. Nevertheless, these risks are more prominent if appropriate safety measures are not put in place. By following our recommendations, you should be able to sufficiently protect yourself against online threats. If you do find yourself a victim of cybercrime, it's important to report it to Action Fraud. You can also speak to your university, which may be able to offer additional help and guidance."
A Durham University student, who would like to remain anonymous, experienced an online scam whilst at University. They comment:
"I was scammed by someone pretending to be from a reputable institution on LinkedIn. They pretended that I was being accepted for an internship at said institution and took money from me under the pretence that they were finding me an apartment in the country, and setting me up to move there. They took between £500 and £1,000, which was a lot for myself as a 19-year-old student at the time.
"My advice for other students who find themselves in a similar situation would be to deeply research any opportunity offered to them. In addition to this, I would recommend finding other students who have worked in this role previously to ensure the opportunity is legitimate."