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Resources > Cyberattacks > Cybersecurity for Students—A Comprehensive Guide

Cybersecurity for Students—A Comprehensive Guide

As a student in today’s largely digital world, chances are that a lot of your academic, social, and personal interactions occur online. From sharing photos to submitting assignments, being online has become integral to student life. And with the widespread use of public Wi-Fi, cloud storage, and smart devices, your data is more vulnerable than ever.

Cybercrime is on the rise, and students are prime targets—but although cyber threats are real and serious, there are various ways you can protect yourself. In this guide, we’ll walk you through some essential tips regarding cybersecurity for students and the tools you need to keep your digital life secure.

Cybersecurity Facts About College Students

College students are five times more likely to be victims of identity theft than the rest of the general public, making them more vulnerable to this vicious crime. They’re often prime targets for cyberattacks for various reasons:

  • They may not have developed strong cybersecurity habits yet and typically possess valuable information such as Social Security numbers (SSNs), bank account details, and academic records
  • The average college student uses multiple devices, including smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Each device represents a potential vulnerability if not properly secured
  • College students often use peer-to-peer (P2P) networks for file sharing. However, these platforms can be infected with malware or illegal content, posing security and legal risks
  • Campus environments with shared living and study spaces can be hotspots for physical device theft, which can result in data breaches
  • Young adults often have either a good or no credit history, both of which are advantageous for cybercriminals. If your credit profile is new or relatively clean, it has no red flags, which identity thieves can exploit to open accounts more easily using your information

Cybersecurity Threats Students Face

As a student, your sensitive data and accounts are prime targets for cybercriminals. In fact, research shows that data security is the second largest liability risk for educational institutions. To be able to protect yourself, it’s important to understand the risks. Here are the most common cybersecurity threats that students may face:

  1. Phishing attacks
  2. Data theft
  3. Scholarship scams
  4. Unsecured Wi-Fi networks
  5. Peer-to-peer file sharing
  6. Man-in-the-middle attacks
  7. Ransomware 

Phishing Attacks

Phishing emails are designed to trick you into clicking malicious links or downloading infected attachments, granting the sender access to your private information. They may appear to be from your school, a scholarship organization, or a familiar company. To steer clear of this threat, you should never click links or download attachments from unsolicited emails.

Data Theft

Personal information, such as your SSN, passwords, and bank account numbers, is valuable on the dark web—it can be used by criminals to conceal their crimes or carry out fraudulent activities like identity theft, tax fraud, and unauthorized access to financial accounts. To help prevent data theft, be cautious when sharing sensitive data on public Wi-Fi networks or with unknown devices and use strong passwords.

Scholarship Scams

Scammers often target students with promises of “free money” for college in exchange for a processing fee or personal information. Keep in mind that for legitimate scholarships, you are not required to provide sensitive data or fees upfront—never pay money or share personal details to claim a scholarship.

Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks

Public Wi-Fi hotspots like those in libraries, cafes, and dorms are risky to use since they’re unencrypted, allowing hackers to see all the data you’re transmitting. When browsing on unsecured networks, avoid the following:

  • Conducting financial transactions
  • Logging into accounts
  • Sharing sensitive information 

Peer-to-Peer File Sharing

While downloading files from peer-to-peer networks may seem harmless, it can pave the way for malware, ransomware, and identity theft. Many of these networks contain infected files, as unscrupulous users are looking to exploit careless downloaders. Avoid using peer-to-peer file-sharing software whenever possible to stay safe.

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

Hackers may try to position themselves between you and the network or networks you frequently access to steal your data. They can intercept communications and access account information, passwords, and more. Use a VPN when connecting to public networks, and be cautious of unsolicited messages asking for account access or verification.

Ransomware

Ransomware can lock you out of your files and data, holding them for ransom. Often spread through phishing emails, compromised websites, and infected downloads, ransomware will encrypt your files so you can’t access them—this results in the attackers demanding money to decrypt your data. To protect yourself, be wary of unsolicited messages and links, keep backups of your important files, and use reputable antivirus software.

Cybersecurity Tips for Students

Most students’ digital lives revolve around the internet. While connectivity provides many benefits, it also exposes you to various cyber threats like online scams, medical identity theft, and privacy invasion. Here are some tips for practicing good cyber hygiene and staying safe online:

  1. Create unique and strong passwords
  2. Enable two-factor authentication
  3. Use a VPN
  4. Keep software up to date
  5. Be cautious of what you share online
  6. Back up your data
  7. Sign up for identity protection services

Create Unique and Strong Passwords

Create complex passwords that include a minimum of 12 characters with a mix of symbols, numbers, and letters. Don’t reuse the same password across sites—if needed, use a password manager to keep track of all your passwords.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Whenever available, set up two-factor authentication (2FA) on your email, social media, and banking accounts. 2FA adds an extra layer of login security by requiring not just your password but also a code sent to your phone or an authentication app. Ensure you enable the two-factor authentication method to keep your digital accounts safe from potential intruders or data breaches.

Use a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your internet connection and hides your online activities. Use a VPN when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks to prevent snoopers from seeing what you’re doing. And if investing in a VPN isn’t a priority for you, there are decent free options available.

Keep Software Up to Date

Update the operating systems and applications on your devices as soon as updates become available. Software updates are responsible for introducing new changes and fixing any errors that may be present in the devices, and they often contain important security patches to protect you against vulnerabilities.

Be Cautious of What You Share Online

Think before posting personal information, location details, or photos on social media. What you share online can be seen by anyone, potentially enabling identity theft or privacy invasion. Only share posts you feel comfortable with anyone in the world accessing.

Back Up Your Data

It’s important to keep in mind that malicious threats and hackers aren’t always after stealing your data—sometimes, their goal is to encrypt or erase it. That’s why it’s crucial to back up your data and have a reliable recovery tool at your disposal. Nowadays, there are plenty of affordable storage devices available—use these to back up important files, photos, and documents to external storage, the cloud, or both.

Sign Up for an Identity Protection Service

Due to the prevalence of online risks, identity theft is a major concern. Signing up for a dedicated identity monitoring service like FreeKick is an effective way to safeguard your personal information from potential cyber threats and identity fraud. These services provide 24/7 monitoring of credit reports and other sensitive data, allowing any suspicious activity to be detected early to prevent further harm.

In addition to monitoring, FreeKick offers identity theft insurance of up to $1 million. If identity theft occurs, the insurance provides financial reimbursement for expenses like:

  • Legal fees
  • Lost wages
  • Stolen funds 

The insurance coverage offers peace of mind, knowing there’s a safety net in case identity theft does happen.

FreeKick—Robust Identity Protection and Credit Building (Coming Soon)

FreeKick combines an FDIC-insured deposit account with premium identity protection for your family and services for improving your children’s creditworthiness.

With the help of your parents, you can access a comprehensive set of services that monitor, protect, and restore the identities of your family members. The identity protection services cover up to two parents and six children aged 0 to 25, meaning your entire family is protected. Meanwhile, credit-building services are available for children aged 14 to 25.

Identity Protection Services

Alarming statistics show that every 30 seconds, a child’s identity gets stolen. FreeKick protects your identity from the alarming rise of cybercrime through its identity protection for both minors and adult children and parents. Features like Dark Web monitoring use the CyberAgent surveillance system to scan the dark web and make sure your personal information isn’t being traded. In the table below, you can see other services included:

Services for Adult Children and ParentsServices for Minor Children
Credit profile monitoring
SSN monitoring
Dark web monitoring for personal information
Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
Lost wallet protection
Court records monitoring
Change of address monitoring
Non-credit (Payday) loan monitoring
Free FICO® Score monthly
FICO® Score factors
Experian credit report monthly
Credit profile monitoring
SSN monitoring
Dark web monitoring for children’s personal information
Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
Sex offender monitoring—based on sponsor parent’s address

Parent-Sponsored Credit Building

Establishing a good credit history early in life can save children and young adults more than $200,000 over a lifetime. Besides protecting your identity, FreeKick builds your credit history through its reliable and safe credit-building plans, which allow you to save instead of spending and launch you into adulthood with established, good credit.

The credit building works in three simple steps:

  1. Create an Account—Visit FreeKick.bank to create an account by making a one-time FDIC-insured deposit with a 12-month commitment
  2. Set It and Forget It—Once you choose a plan, your parents can activate credit building in your account dashboard, and your credit will start automatically building over the next 12 months. If you’re 18 and over (19 in Alabama), all you need to do is activate credit reporting to get your credit history reported with the major credit bureaus
  3. Keep Growing—Renew the account for another 12 months and keep building your financial future, or close the account and get 100% of your deposit back

FreeKick Pricing

FreeKick has plans for every budget. With as low as a $10 deposit and a small annual fee, you can build your credit and protect your identity and that of your parents and five siblings aged 0 to 25. All plans are FDIC-insured up to $250,000:

FDIC Insured DepositAnnual Fee
$3,000$0 (Free)
$2,000$49
$1,000$99
$10$149

Establish a strong credit profile while protecting the identities of your family members—sign up for FreeKick today.