Surviving college is all about developing the right habits. Good study habits help you get good grades. Good spending habits help you stretch your financial aid checks. Good hygiene habits help you get along with your roommate.
But what about your technology habits?
It’s hard to imagine getting through the day without your laptop or smartphone. Your devices store everything, from your class notes to your personal info. When you’re dashing around campus, however, it’s easy to neglect your tech—and that leaves you vulnerable to thieves, hackers and scammers out to steal sensitive data. Developing a few simple data safety habits can help you keep your technology and private info secure.
Habit No. 1: Update immediately
When you’re trying to churn out a research paper and you get the prompt to update your device, it’s tempting to skip it and get right to work. Instead, get in the habit of installing software updates as soon as they’re available. They contain the latest fixes for known security holes. Updating both your operating system and apps regularly—particularly those that contain sensitive info, like your mobile banking app—is the most important thing you can do to keep your data safe.
Habit No. 2: Back up your stuff
Losing a research paper minutes before it’s due is a college student’s worst nightmare. Sometimes tech fails, or gets lost or stolen, and regularly backing up your work can help you avoid the mother of all panic attacks. There are plenty of options for backing up your devices. Setting up automatic backups to the cloud, for example, makes it easy to keep up the routine even in the middle of finals.
Habit No. 3: Keep your eyes on your tech
You know how when you go to the airport, you’re not supposed to let your luggage out of sight? That’s how you should treat your tech on campus. A college campus is teeming with people, and some are opportunistic enough to pick up an unattended laptop or forgotten phone. Get in the habit of keeping it with you always, even if you’re just making a quick trip to the restroom.
Habit No. 4: Password-protect everything
If someone does get their hands on your device, using screen lock with password protection will deter most people from accessing your data. Your password is your first line of defense against data theft, so make it a good one—something easy to remember but hard to guess—and keep it to yourself. Use different passwords for everything, and change them every 90 days.
Habit No. 5: Beware public Wi-Fi
Free Wi-Fi is a college student’s bread and butter. You can find it all over the place, from the campus library to nearby coffee shops, and tapping into it can save you precious data. But public Wi-Fi networks often aren’t secure. Find out which networks around campus are, avoid those that aren’t if you can, and learn how to protect yourself with a VPN or firewall. If you do use free Wi-Fi, definitely don’t log into any apps or websites that store your sensitive data. That means you shouldn’t do any shopping, banking or anything else involving your money.
Habit No. 6: Protect your privacy on social media
When you take a trip or even just go out for the evening, chronicling every detail on social media is half the fun. But make sure you aren’t revealing too much information about yourself online. Avoid divulging your exact location, and never share your address, phone number or other personal information. Keep up with changes to your social media platform’s privacy settings, and tweak them as needed.
You depend on your tech to help manage your busy college life, so it’s important to keep it safe and secure. Developing these habits will help protect your devices (and the data they contain) from falling into the wrong hands.