Whether you plan to throw away, resell, recycle, or trade in your old computer or phone, you must take steps to ensure your data is permanently erased, overwritten, and inaccessible.
Avoid taking or storing private photos on your devices. No matter how secure you think your files are, someone may still gain access to them.
Before ditching your old computer, consider downloading antitheft apps or software to help overwrite your data. On a Mac, the built-in Disk Utility app can wipe and overwrite a drive.
When you follow a false link or reply to a fake email: Phishing emails are a tried-and-true method for hackers to obtain personal, private information. In 2017, thousands of Dartmouth University students received a phishing email claiming to be from the university’s president. An embedded link asked recipients to enter their university NetID. This year, college students have been the target of similar COVID-19 phishing scams. These messages claim to be from university financial departments and link to portals requiring students to enter their login credentials. Phishing emails typically appear to come from trusted senders and request that you verify banking details, login credentials, or credit card information. These emails may feature the same layout, color scheme, and language of the real entity, and may link to a site specifically designed to spoof the real thing.
When you open an infected attachment: Common phishing scams seen on the Bowling Green State University campus include fake fraternity recruitment emails and senders posting as professors in search of student employees. Students may receive several such emails a week, often with suspicious attachments that they are careful not to open. According to one expert analysis, 85% of all malicious emails carry common attachment formats like .DOC, .XLS, .PDF, and .ZIP. In some cases, these attachments may be perfectly harmless, but many contain malware and other nasty features, activated with just a click. Using these tools, phishers can steal sensitive information, demand a ransom for the safe return of your data, or even remotely take over your device.
When you answer a suspicious phone call: College students love texting and social media, but sometimes we still need to pick up the phone for an old-fashioned call. Phone scams are a popular tactic of phishers looking for financial information, largely because they are proven to work. Nearly 1 in 6 Americans lost money to a phone scam in 2019. In the last few years, major mobile carriers including T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint introduced scam protection features to help fight phishing calls. You can see this in action when your caller ID labels an incoming number as “scam likely” or “potential fraud.” This screening feature works by checking callers against a database of reported scam numbers. Unfortunately, some phishing calls still slip through. The most common phone scams targeted at college students relate to financial aid, tuition, and taxes.
When you follow a malware link in a text: Many phishing attempts depend on tricking the recipient into providing sensitive information, but more malicious phishing texts can contain links to malware that spy on your activity, data, and files without your knowledge. In recent years, hackers have targeted both Apple and Android devices. Once discovered, manufacturers quickly develop software patches that address vulnerabilities and close security loopholes, but for infected users, these patches may be too little, too late.
· Limit sharing your social security number—whether in a doctor’s office, at school, or online.
· Use strong and unique passwords on each of your online accounts.
· Make sure you’re on a secure network or using a VPN, a virtual private network, when banking, shopping, or making other online transactions.
· Don’t share your login credentials with others.
· Shred documents containing personal information before discarding.
· Secure your home Wi-Fi network with a strong password.