Parenting: College kids' computers

David Murphy says kids sent off to college with computers in hand need to be schooled in security.
November 21, 2011 5:51:29 AM PST
David Murphy, here, and we're again talking issues surrounding our college-aged students (although this time, the information applies to everyone, really). October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, a great time for parents to make sure their computer-using kids are up to date with the latest scams and computer protection directives. A lot of kids probably think computer security begins and ends with keeping their anti-virus software up-to-date (and I'm betting there plenty out there who don't always do that much). But there's a lot more to know.

Here at Action News, we live by Disney corporate directives and rules and in recent years, the company has gotten increasingly insistent on all of us becoming more vigilant against hackers and scam artists. The information the company gives to us is also useful for your son or daughter. According to the experts, the actions and habits of your kids provide the first line of defense when it comes to their computers.

Kid Tips

You and your students can begin by checking out the NCSAM website, which is loaded with security tips. The specific link I'm passing along includes a number of PDF files aimed specifically at your kids, covering topics ranging from Online Gaming to Safety and Security for College Students.

On the short list of tips: engaging the auto-lock feature on cell phones, designing strong passwords (using detailed combinations of numbers, letters and characters) and thinking about the source of incoming emails before opening any attachments or links. It's also a great idea to use security software to scan USBs and other external devices for problems before opening any files, as viruses can ride on these types of accessories easily.

Incoming! Incoming!

Another nice rule of thumb: when in doubt, throw it out! Cyber criminals use links in everything from email and tweets to web posts and online advertising these days to try to hack into a computer and steal information. Anything the least bit suspicious should not only be axed but marked as junk mail.

The NCSAM site also educates you and your student about being a good cyber citizen. You're encouraged to help authorities fight cyber crime by immediately reporting stolen finances or identity theft to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the Federal Trade Commission (if it's fraud case), and to your local law enforcement or state attorney general as appropriate.

Cyber security can be a life saver for your kids, especially as they rely more and more heavily on computer-based papers and projects in college. Aside from identity theft and viruses, there's nothing worse than having weeks or months of work obliterated by a saboteur. That's exactly the nasty risk kids take when they don't back up files and use their computer smartly.

---David Murphy

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