How to keep your information safe while learning online

Fayette County families work through internet issues as they try to navigate online learning.
Fayette County families work through internet issues as they try to navigate online learning.(WKYT)
Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 10:24 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM/WTVY) - As many schools in the Pine Belt and here in the Wiregrass, use virtual learning this year, it’s important to remind students of all ages to protect their information online.

Here are some of the most common online mistakes and how to avoid them.

The University of Southern Mississippi’s Internet Technology Chief Information Officer, David Sliman, says the most important thing you can do is have anti-virus software.

“First of all, make sure you have your anti-virus and malware software up to date,’ Sliman said. “Sometimes that will stop you from going to inappropriate websites. If you click on something, it’s going to assume you want to go there, but this software will test where you are going and show a banner when it is a dangerous website to go to.”

Sliman says to use the software recommended by your machine’s company. But other than that, students shouldn’t be downloading lots of different software to their devices for virtual learning.

“The schools would have particular programs and most of them should be web-based,” Sliman said. “They really shouldn’t have to download anything, it should all be in their browsers.”

On the internet, Sliman says one of the biggest threats to your information getting hacked is phishing. Sliman describes how to tell if an email is phishing.

“When students receive emails, they should look at the email address of where it’s coming from,” Sliman said. “It may say a person’s name that they’re familiar with, but if they look at it closely it could be from a different domain…or slightly different than what it’s supposed to be in an attempt to phish these students to get them to do something, click on a link that they shouldn’t be doing.”

Sliman says that uploading documents is a big part of online learning that is safe, but students should avoid uploading photos.

“A lot of photos have geographic information embedded in them like location information, and they really should be scrubbed before they are sent out and most people don’t do that,” he said.

Sliman suggests that students should always cover the camera on their computer between video calls just in case a hacker has gained access.

“Get something to put on them no matter what. Go ahead and get a cover, or a piece of tape, or a piece of paper, or a sticky note and stick it over the camera when you’re not using it,” Siman said.

While this won’t keep your microphone access private, it will make sure your video is only recording you when you have the cover off. If you are concerned about data breaches, you can turn your device completely off when you aren’t using it.

Sliman adds that a good rule for keeping your information safe online is if you have to think twice about why you’re sharing it, just don’t do it.

Copyright 2020 WDAM/WTVY. All rights reserved.

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