A laptop is a college student’s best friend. It lets you stay in touch with friends and family, get your homework done on time, and enjoy an occasional funny cat video. But how can you keep your laptop and all the data on it safe?
Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) enables you to use a remote server when you connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks, such as those within the campus library or at your favorite coffee shop. That remote server will encrypt your data and make it next to impossible for hackers on your Wi-Fi network to get access to your data.
You can take advantage of several free and paid VPNs. Some of the best VPNs include:
- Hotspot Shield
- KeepSold VPN Unlimited
Beware of Shoulder Surfing
When you want to get away from your noisy roommate, you might head to the campus library, but it isn’t just the Wi-Fi network at the library that poses a risk. The person who casually walks behind you when you’re entering your password for your banking website could be trying to glean your info. This practice is known as shoulder surfing.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim of shoulder surfing is to be aware of your surroundings. If you notice anyone around you who is paying more attention than they should, move to another table or avoid using websites that require you to enter private information.
Use Strong Passwords
All of your passwords should be difficult to guess. A strong password:
- Uses both uppercase and lowercase letters
- Contains numbers and special characters
- Isn’t anything obvious like the name of your pet or your significant other
- Has at least 12 characters
Strong passwords are sometimes difficult to remember, but you should resist the temptation to use the same password for everything. You can keep a list of your passwords in a secure location; you might use a password app or create a hard copy and keep it in a safe place.
Frequently change your passwords for sites that contain sensitive information, like your banking and credit-card sites.
Guard Against Theft
According to one estimate, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds.
To keep your laptop safe, register it with campus security. Many colleges will give you a sticker to put on your computer that will act as a theft deterrent. It will also help bring your laptop home if an honest person comes across it.
Also be sure to lock up your laptop. You can buy a cable lock for your laptop that will enable you to attach it to your table in the coffee shop when you have to step away to use the bathroom. Also, don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s alright to leave your laptop unattended in your car. If a thief even suspects that your car has valuable electronics in it, you could find yourself short one computer.
Keeping your data (and property) safe will save you time, money, and a lot of frustration. Use the above tips to protect your information from thieves.