Back to school IT security tips

Back to school IT security tips

As the summer comes to an end and students prepare to head back to school, many parents are wondering what they can do to help keep their children safe. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent any danger, there are some simple steps that can be taken to help minimize the risks.

One of the most important things parents can do is talk to their children about security measures. Teach them not to give their laptop to anyone, no matter how well they think they know the person. Also, remind them to never leave their laptop unattended in a public place. If they must leave it somewhere, it should be in a locked car or in a secure location where it cannot be easily stolen.

Security tools are a must

Before connecting to a school’s public Wi-Fi network, make sure you have antivirus and malware protection running. Cyber assaults can be delivered in a variety of ways. Consider programs that include additional features such as anti-phishing, script blockers, firewalls, and ransomware security for the best protection.

There are many free and low-cost options available. Do some research to find the best one for your needs. You can also ask your school’s IT department or your local computer technician for recommendations.

Always keep the software updated

One of the most important things you can do to keep your laptop safe is to make sure your software is up to date. This includes your operating system, web browser, plugins, and any other programs you have installed. Cybercriminals are constantly finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in software. By keeping your software up to date, you can help protect yourself against these attacks.

You should also set your software to update automatically so you don’t have to remember to do it yourself. Many programs will prompt you to install updates when they’re available, but you can also set them to update automatically in the background.

Use a VPN

Another way to help keep your laptop safe is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN encrypts all the data that are sent between your device and the VPN server. This makes it much more difficult for hackers to intercept and read your data.

A VPN can also help protect your privacy by hiding your real IP address. This makes it harder for websites and advertisers to track your online activity.

There are many different VPN providers available, so be sure to do your research before choosing one. Some factors you may want to consider include price, speed, security features, and ease of use.

2-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an extra layer of security that can help protect your account if your password is ever stolen. With 2FA enabled, you’ll need to enter a code from your phone or another device in addition to your password when logging into your account.

This makes it much harder for hackers to access your account, even if they have your password. Many popular online services, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, offer 2FA options.

Strong Passwords

Using strong passwords is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your online security. A strong password should be at least 8 characters long and include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

It’s also important to never use the same password for multiple accounts. If one of your accounts is compromised, the attacker could gain access to all of your accounts if you’re using the same password.

Ask your kids to lock their screen

If you’re a habitue of leaving your computer unlocked and unattended, now is a good time to break it. When you’re not around, locking your screen will deter theft, vandalism, and peeping eyes.

Look out for strange applications

Keep an eye on potentially dangerous third-party applications, links to illicit sites, and email phishing scams. Always verify the provenance of anything suspicious before downloading, clicking on, or responding to anything dubious. If the site requests any sensitive personal information from you, be even more cautious.

Create different user accounts for each family member/child

If you have more than one person using your computer, it’s a good idea to create separate user accounts for each individual. That way, you can customize their settings, permissions, and access levels to match their needs. And if one account is compromised, the other accounts are still safe.

Parental Controls

If you aren’t sure whether your child can recognize a possible scam on their own, consider utilizing web filtering technologies. Popular internet browsers include some security and content filters to prevent violence, nudity, and profanity. Look into services that can filter and delete proxy servers and phishing sites for even more protection.

Other measures

In addition to talking to your children about security measures, there are some practical steps you can take as well. One is to purchase a laptop lock. This will physically secure the device to a desk or other object, making it much more difficult for someone to simply walk off with it. You can also invest in software that will allow you to remotely track and/or disable the device if it is ever lost or stolen.

Finally, make sure you have a good backup plan in place in case of theft or loss. This could mean having all of your child’s schoolwork backed up to a cloud-based service, or storing a copy of it on a USB drive that can be easily carried with them. If their laptop is lost or stolen, they will at least have access to the most important files and won’t have to start from scratch.

With a little bit of preparation, you can help ensure your child has a successful and safe back-to-school season. By following these tips, you can minimize the chances of their laptop being compromised and help them stay focused on their studies.

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...