Ten ways to keep your data safe
No matter the Centennial College program, you’re definitely taking some of it on a computer, be it on your personal laptop, or the school’s computers. That’s also probably where you do your banking, and other essential services involving the school, government and other sensitive information. As we continue to become more and more technologized, cybersecurity will continue to be an issue. Just last month, a major American credit monitoring company, Equifax, admitted was hacked, potentially putting the credit information of millions of Americans at risk. That’s the big stuff.
On a smaller scale, making sure scammers don’t steal your information is your own priority. It’s even something you can make a career out of, with programs at the college like Computer Systems Technician and Computer Systems Technology giving you the skills to go on the frontlines of the fight for cyber security. Since it’s National Cyber Security month right now, Centennial’s IT Services are rolling out knowledge and advice on how to keep your data safe. For now, here’s some tips about what you can do to stay safe, and keep your banking and personal info to yourself.
1. If you don’t know who a message is from, block it.
They’re probably phishing, which means tricking you into giving up important passwords, or downloading malware to steal your information. These phishing messages can come from many different channels: Texting, email, Skype and social media, among others.
2. Look twice as hard when a bank or service provider emails you.
Another common phishing tactic is to pose as your bank, or the CRA, or PayPal, or a service provider like Netflix, and say your info is needed, or you need to take some action. If you’re being asked to “verify your login” or click on a link, it’s probably a scam. If there’s a problem, an organization won’t ask you to do these things. Your bank is not going to text you!
3. If immediate action is needed, it’s trying to make you panic and not think.
The biggest theme of phishing messages is panic. You need to fix this problem right now, or you’ll lose access to your money, your account (or something else), so you’d better act now, and not think about it. A real message wouldn’t try to panic you, and would be calm and rational.
4. If a friend sends you something strange, they may have gotten hacked.
If someone’s account is hacked, one of the most common things scammers will do is use it to hack other accounts. So, if your friends send you strange messages that don’t sound like them, and they come with links, don’t click those links, and if the platform lets you, report them.
5. Avoid the common passwords.
A 2016 report indicated that “123456” is the most commonly-used password. If that’s one you use, or if yours is something similar, change it right now.
6. Make your password really long.
When it comes to what you actually make your password into, while you can format them with numbers and punctuation, the best strategy is simply to make them really long, because that’ll harder to crack. A good strategy is to make your password a full sentence or phrase, without spaces, which will also make it easy for you to remember.
7. Don’t use the same passwords over and over again on different accounts.
The reason is simple: If one is hacked, they can all be hacked.
8. Don’t do anything important on unsecured public wifi.
If you’re out in public, and you want to use a laptop to do banking, or anything else important, make sure the wifi you’re using is protected with a passcode, otherwise, people can find ways to snoop on your computer and steel your info. While at Centennial College, if you need to do anything important, use our “CCWSecure” wifi, and use your student credentials as the password
9. Lock your computer when no one’s around.
Even if you’re gone for a moment, you don’t want to leave anything sensitive on your screen. On a PC, it’s Windows + L, and on a mac, it’s Control + Shift + Power.
10. Back your data up.
By backing data up, I mean purchasing a good portable hard drive, keeping your important schoolwork and documents on there, keeping it somewhere safe, and updating it regularly. That way, if the worst does happen and you lose your data, you’ll at least be able to pick up where you left off.
By Anthony Geremia