3 Strategies for Protecting Your Identity While Taking Online Classes

Earning an undergraduate or graduate degree online is becoming more popular than ever. According to the 2015 College Explorer study, over 80 percent percent of college students own a laptop and 90 percent own a cell phone, which might explain the jump in online and distance learning. However, signing up for classes online is not without its pitfalls, and gaps in cyber-security that may lead to identity theft is one of them. If you want to protect your identity yet take advantage of online education, there are several steps you can take to do so.

Strategies for Protecting Your Identity

1.     Limit Use of Unsecured Wi-Fi

While taking online classes can come with the convenience of studying anywhere via your mobile device, taking advantage of free Wi-Fi at restaurants, coffee shops, or other public locations may come with a price. Many times, a free connection is unsecured and can allow others around you to access your personal information when you sign in to your student portal. To protect yourself, try to limit the use of unsecured Wi-Fi and if you must connect in public places, try to sit where others cannot see your screen and increase your browser security settings.

2.     Verify Your Emails

Once you sign up for online classes, you are likely to receive a variety of emails from your institution about events, news, and other important information. However, assuming these emails are authentic may cause your personal and financial information to be stolen due to phishing. This practice, where individuals pose as legitimate companies or institutions, such as your school, and send emails in order to collect private information, is one of the most common ways people experience a privacy breach.

While phishing is rampant, there are ways you can combat it. First, read up on your school’s policies regarding how they will contact you and what kind of information they would ask for via email. Also, be sure to read the sender’s address carefully and whether the tone and language used is typical of what you receive from your school. If you do encounter a phishing email, be sure to report it to your university right away so they can be aware of such activity and take steps to prevent it.

3.     Be Cautious About Downloadable Resources

USC Online reports that cyber-attacks are more common than ever and that their geographic information science and technology degree is creating qualified individuals to help combat the issue, there are several actions to keep yourself safe in the meantime. For example, if you are downloading free software to help you with your classwork, you should verify that the source is a trusted one and that you are not leaving your computer open to malware. Not only can malware damage your computer, it also can collect private data, such as passwords. If you want to download software, check its source first.

Taking online class to earn your undergraduate or graduate degree can be a viable way to advance your career and improve your quality of life, but it can also come with challenges, such as keeping your personal information safe. Remaining vigilant and being cautious when connecting over mobile devices can help keep your online educational experience a positive one.