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A significant portion of your school work and study is going to be done online. Your social life is also likely to heavily utilize the internet. This means that it pays to keep yourself safe, especially among a young and potentially tech-savvy student population. Here’s some top tips on how to improve online security when you’re studying and researching online.

Devise a Powerful Password

You want your password to be impossible to guess, so make it something that does not relate to you in any way. Do not use your birthday, pet’s name, favorite teacher, or anything else with a connection to you. Your best bet is to come up with something completely random. It should be at least 8 digits long and a mixture of numbers, letters, and special characters. Consider devising a few different random passwords to use for your various accounts. This prevents access to all your online accounts if one of your passwords gets compromised.

Don’t Wander Off

If you are using your computer in the library or some other communal area, then take care not to leave it unattended if you are logged in to websites. Only a minute is needed for a shady character to sit down and access your private online data. It only takes a few seconds to lock your computer, but it can prevent a cyber disaster.

Take the same level of care with your tablet or phone. Set up a password protected screen to prevent unauthorized access. Better yet, never leave them unattended in a public location.

Use a VPN

Connecting to public wifi smart outlets and network  at school or any other location can put you at risk from attackers. The personal information you send or receive can also be intercepted by others. The solution is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) program.  This acts as a barrier between you and other users on the same connection. You may be wondering if your existing firewall is enough. However, this only protects the data stored on your computer. It does not protect the online data being transferred.

A VPN is easy to set up. Just download the program, set up a username and a secure password, and you are good to go. Most VPNs require a subscription, but you will typically get a free trial. Try a few, find one that runs well, and pay – or ask your parents – for peace of mind.

Be Wary of Phishing

Identity theft is becoming a rapidly expanding problem worldwide. Malicious individuals can use personal data such as your date of birth, full name, bank card numbers, and website logins to steal your identity.

One of the most common attempts used to gain this information is by sending phishing emails. These are emails that look like they are from a legitimate source like a bank or retailer. You may be asked for sensitive data or redirected to a fake site, where you are then requested to enter your account login details.

One of the most common companies that these emails pretend to represent is PayPal. They often say something about your account is limited, or a large sum of money has just been transferred to an unknown recipient. A link is then supplied to a dummy PayPal site set up to steal your login credentials.

A genuine company will never ask for personal information via email, nor will they link you to their website via email. Any emails of this nature should be deleted.

Use Quality Anti-Malware Software

The internet is the domain of a variety of viruses that can steal personal information, damage your computer, and even scam you out of your money. At the very least they can make your computer slow, redirect you to random sites, and plaque you with pop-ups. Considering the possible consequences, it is a no brainer to do everything possible to protect yourself.

A high-quality firewall combined with effective anti-malware software will secure your computer against these threats. Virus scans should be scheduled regularly, but not too often to cause disruptions and performance lag. About once a week is good.

Protect Yourself Today

Do not put it off any longer. With your online activities being so crucial to your student life, it makes sense to protect yourself straight away. So consider getting some new software, changing your password, and getting set in into the right habits to make your online information as safe as possible.

Joanna Sommer: Joanna is the Senior Editor for InformedMag and is passionate about security and tech. She has been working in the home safety and security field for 5 years. Joanna loves to travel and enjoys going to hot yoga and Barre classes. She is dedicated to creating articles that both educate and help people make an informed purchasing decision.