The newest class of college students are digital natives—they've spent their entire lives with access to the internet. They may be tech savvy, but their ever-connectedness puts them at risk for cybercrime.
As college students head off to campus—or log on virtually—here are six tips to stay safe online.
1. If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of deals that advertise textbooks for cheap, apartments below the market rate or offers to help pay off student loans. "Scammers use emotional appeals," said Kris Jackson, enterprise cybersecurity architect at BOK Financial®. "If you are online and feel compelled to take action by fear or greed, there is a high probability that you are being scammed."
2. Protect yourself with technology. The good news is that college students are often more comfortable using tech tools and best practices. Jackson recommends taking advantage of device lock screens, two-factor authentication, "hide my email" tools and services like iCloud Private Relay to keep your data safe.
3. Change the default usernames and passwords on new products. Outfitting a dorm or apartment often means new tech. If hackers can figure out the default password on your device, they will gain access to the data across your network without your knowledge. Currently, cybercriminals launch about 5,200 attacks per month on networked devices. Jackson reminds students to be smart by keeping their data private by creating secure login credentials.
4. Manage your passwords. Create a unique and strong password for every new site. Are you struggling to keep track of all your passwords? Don't! Every Android and iPhone product has a built-in keychain—use them to create and store your secure passwords.
5. Beware of free software. As more young people dabble with content creation, they might be enticed to download off-license software or digital content, which could include malware.
"Hackers hide malware in legitimate software to conduct malicious activity," Jackson said. "You're basically giving them your computer when you download the software." Given the risks, purchasing software rather than downloading a free version is usually worth the higher price tag, he added.
6. Understand your TikTok risk. When you agree to the TikTok terms of service, you allow that company to take your network data, inspect other devices on the network, download personal data, and collect biometric information, including your voice and fingerprint.
"Make sure you understand the risk and reward trade-off for using TikTok," said Jackson. “They are exfiltrating data to create profiles on American citizens that include behavioral data. This information could be used later to blackmail, coerce or even create deep fakes."
What to do if you are a victim of cybercrime
In 2021, people lost more than $6.9 billion to internet crimes, according to the FBI's annual Internet Crime Report. So what if it happens to you?
"It's normal to feel some embarrassment if you get scammed," Jackson said. "Don't let emotional factors influence you from responding appropriately."
Jackson also recommends taking the following steps:
- Reach out to your bank or financial institution immediately. They can help you avert some or all of the losses.
- Close any credit cards that have been breached.
- Freeze your credit. A freeze will lock your sensitive credit files and prevent fraudulent lines of credit from being opened without your knowledge. This is a free service, but you will have to work individually with all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
- Consider talking to a therapist or friend to process your feelings. "Any manipulation, like cybercrime, can lead to feelings of guilt or shame—especially for young people who might not feel confident enough to talk about it," Jackson said.
Learn more about BOK Financial's online security or call 844-517-3308 to report suspicious activity on BOK Financial-related accounts. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency also keeps an up-to-date list of current threats.