3 Simple Cyber Security Hacks

Cyber Security

Taking steps to stay secure in your online life. Boring? Sometimes... Important? Most definitely! Anyone can fall victim to breaches, cyber-attacks and scams in the Wild West that is the internet, and there’s no reason to feel bad if this has ever been you. Sixty percent of Americans say they or a close family member have been victims of a security scam or breach.

So, here are three easy, student-schedule-friendly things you can do right now—today—to help keep yourself protected.  

  • Be skeptical.

    • “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” is sage advice when it comes to evaluating job postings, listings for housing and other offers you come across online. That internship offering $50/h? Not a real thing. That one apartment with all the great photos, perfect location and much lower rent than anything else in the vicinity? Keep scrolling.

    • This extends to your email inbox, and even text messages. If there’s anything about an email or text message that makes you the slightest bit suspicious—you don’t recognize the sender, or the subject line looks a bit off or there’s an attachment you weren’t expecting—don’t click it, don’t click any links it contains and be 100 percent sure not to open the attachment. You can always call the sender to make sure it’s legitimate. Disseminating malicious software this way is called phishing, and it’s the leading cause of data breaches. Take this quiz to see if you can spot when you're being phished.

    • Basically, just be skeptical in your online life and never take anything in your inbox(es) at face value—especially if it seems too good to be true.

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  • Update your stuff

    • If you’re on the “just click ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ for the rest of my natural life” plan, you’re far from alone, but here’s a little secret—the “Install Now” crowd know something that you may not. Those updates (or patches) fix problems with your operating system (OS) and software programs. Some of those problems include flaws and holes in your security that have been discovered, and that update, intrusive as it may feel, helps “patch” those holes and reduce your exposure to having your data stolen or worse.

    • Plus, updates give you access to new features, upgrade existing ones and improve your user experience—for free. So, just for a change, just because you’ll try anything once: Get off the “remind me tomorrow” ladder to nowhere and hit “Install Now!"

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  • Make passwords work for you. 

    • Step 1: Use a different password or passphrase (passwords that allow the use of spaces) for each of your accounts. If you think about it, passwords are our primary means of protecting our accounts, from email to streaming service. To reduce the risk of a domino effect if one of your passwords is compromised, make them all different—truly different and not just variations of the same base password. If someone (a friend, a family member) knows your streaming account password, it better not be the same password you use for your bank!

    • Though the temptation is understandable, your Kerberos is sacred and should only be used for your UC Davis computing accounts.

    • Step 2: This can be a lot of passwords to remember, so consider outsourcing the job to a password manager.

    • What’s a password manager? It’s a plugin that acts as a sort of vault for all of your various passwords and can be used across devices. You input the credentials for the accounts you want protected—the password manager encrypts these and then, when you log in to the password manager, you’ll be logging in to all of those accounts at once. It’s a lot more secure than allowing your browser to remember passwords (which is never a good idea), and you’ll enjoy having the freedom to fill the space previously cluttered by passwords with memories that spark joy.

If you’ve found these tips useful, there is lots more cyber security advice for you to browse, courtesy of UC Davis Information and Educational Technology.

If you do run into computer trouble and don’t where to go to get your questions answered or problems resolved, your first stop should be IT Express. You can call them at 530-754-HELP (4357) Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.–6 p.m. or go ahead and start a Support Ticket.

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