5 things every teenager should know about cybersecurity

Hackers and cybercriminals are constantly looking for vulnerable targets to attack and steal information from. Teenagers must keep their devices and information secure, behave appropriately on social media and shared devices, and respect others’ digital privacy on devices and online.

Password safety

Passwords are the keys to your digital life. Make sure they are at least 10 characters long – including letters, numbers and symbols to make them harder to crack.

Don’t write passwords down. Consider using a secure password manager. Also use two-factor authentication – either a physical security key or an app delivering time-based one-time passwords, like Authy or Google Authenticator.

Don’t share passwords with friends. It’s the same as giving them the keys to your house or your car – plus the power to see everything you’ve done and even impersonate you online. For the same reasons, don’t save usernames and passwords on shared computers, and always log out when you’re finished using someone else’s device.

Another key way to protect your data is to back it up regularly to an external hard drive or a cloud storage system.

Mobile safety

The best way to protect your smartphone is to know where it is at all times. Also, set a password on it and be sure it’s set up so you can remotely wipe it if you do lose it.

Be very careful when downloading apps. Often hackers will create apps that look a lot like a genuine popular app but are instead malware that will steal your personal information.

Disable Bluetooth on your devices unless you’re actively using a Bluetooth connection. Especially in public places, it opens your phone up to being hijacked and having your data stolen.

Avoid open public Wi-Fi networks. They can easily be penetrated by hackers – or even set up and operated by data thieves – who can watch the traffic and see what you do online. Consider using a virtual private network, which encrypts everything your device transmits.

Computer safety

Get a camera cover for the webcam on your computer; an attacker can break into your computer and remotely activate it, watching your every move.

Don’t open emails from people you don’t know – and check the sender’s email address by hovering the mouse over it, to make sure someone’s not trying to pretend to be someone you do know. Especially, don’t download email attachments you’re not expecting to receive.

Don’t click on any links you don’t recognize. If you must follow a link, copy and paste the link URL to make sure it’s going to a legitimate site.

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This article is published in collaboration withThe Conversation

Associate Professor, State University of New York

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