Security breaches, laptop theft, and identity theft happen all the time, and these crimes increase every year. The need for people to become more aware of their digital presence and the threats surrounding it is vital.
The pace at which these threats increase is much faster than our awareness grows, making a bad situation. One way to improve matters is to implement security-awareness programs in colleges and universities.
Why choose colleges? Higher education institutions are an ideal platform for spreading security awareness because they produce so much of our future workforce. With computers everywhere in businesses, it’s essential that these graduates learn about the invisible threats that face them and their employers’ information.
Another benefit of focusing on colleges and universities is that this environment provides both a very good learning atmosphere and people working in many fields. Thus a security-awareness program will benefit not only students in the computer or business fields, but also in medical, environmental, media, and many more disciplines.
Hot Topic: Identity Theft
College students are attractive targets for identity thieves because they generally have clean credit records, allowing thieves to easily take out loans in their names. Many students may also not realize the potential for fraud and do not guard their personal information as closely as they should. Student’s social security numbers, email IDs, and addresses may be listed on everything from identification cards to report cards, which this information readily available to enterprising thieves. Universities and colleges have also come under attack from hackers in recent years, due to the value of the information they store.
What are some aspects of identity theft? Here are some figures from a 2009 study by Javelin Strategy & Research Center:
- Identity theft is on the rise, affecting almost 10 million victims in 2008. That’s a 22 percent increase from 2007.
- Victims are spending less money to correct the damage from identity theft. The mean cost per victim is $500, and most victims pay nothing due to zero-liability fraud-protection programs offered by their financial institutions.
- 71 percent of fraud happens within one week of the theft of a victim’s personal data
- Low-tech methods for stealing personal information are still the most popular for identity thieves. Stolen wallets and physical documents accounted for 43 percent of all identity theft, while online methods accounted for only 11 percent.
Types of Identity Theft
Identity theft can happen to anyone, and it can come in all shapes and sizes. For example, your credit card number could be stolen and used to make online purchases, a thief could impersonate you to open up a loan in your name, a felon could commit a crime and pretend to be you when caught, or someone could use your personal information to apply for a job.
Here’s a chart describing kinds of identity theft, based on Federal Trade Commission complaint data:
Students should protect themselves by detecting and resolving identity thefts. Here are some general tips to minimize the risk of identity theft:
- Check credit card statements regularly. Students should examine their financial statements at least once per month for any unusual activity. A credit-monitoring service can be a valuable tool in fighting identity theft, as it would alert them if any new accounts are opened in their names.
- Use strong passwords. If remembering many passwords is too difficult, create a few strong ones that include numbers, capital letters, and special characters such as ^ or *. Most important, do not share your passwords, debit or credit card PINs, or leave lying about any papers or unlocked computers with personal information.
- Protect your computer. It a good practice to enable all security features and keep your anti-virus and spyware protection up to date. Use a password-enabled lock (such as a screen saver) on your computer in case you leave it running while you are not present.
- Don’t swallow the bait. College students, though technically savvy, can fall victim to scams. Beware of phishing attempts that ask you to update personal data such as social security numbers and bank account information. The senders are trying to steal your data to commit fraud. Students should also watch out for fake anti-virus tools that claim your computer is infected and insist you run a “scan” to find malware. Use McAfee SiteAdvisor to check if you are surfing safely.