As students get ready to start fall classes, many will be hitting the virtual books, leaving them vulnerable to cyberattacks and identity theft. AAA’s experts offer advice to protect virtual learners and families from these attacks and help them recover should one occur.
“Cyberattacks are more common than people may think,” said Rob Zahn, chief information officer for AAA Ohio Auto Club. “According to the University of Maryland, hackers attack every 39 seconds for an average of 2,244 times a day. It is important to protect your home network so that your own personal data is not hacked or exposed to criminals.”
Security Tips for Virtual Learners
AAA’s Information Technology experts recommend virtual learners consider these common security tips to when using their computer at home:
- Spot Phishing Attacks. Phishing is when an attacker attempts to fool you into clicking on a malicious link or opening an attachment in an email. Be suspicious of any email or online message that creates a sense of urgency, has bad spelling, or addresses you as “Dear Customer.” Beware of any email out of the blue on COVID-19 or any charities for the outbreak. Only go to official websites and never from a link unless from a trusted source.
- Avoid Being Tricked. Be suspicious of unexpected emails. If an email or website asks you to perform actions on your computer or asks for personal or sensitive information, that should be an immediate red flag that something may not be legitimate and needs to be confirmed.
- Protect Home Networks. To secure your wireless network at home, make sure that you are using a strong password. Your provider can also offer instructions to further secure your network based on your specific router.
- Accept Computer Updates. One of the most effective ways you can protect your computer at home is to make sure both the operating system and your applications are patched and updated. Enable automatic updating whenever possible.
- Use Strong, Unique Passwords. Create a strong password consisting of at least 10 characters that include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Make sure each of your accounts has a separate password.
- Enable Two-Step Verification. Two-step verification is when you require both a password and code sent to your email or generated by your mobile device – consider enabling this two-step verification on your home devices and any of your outside accounts (i.e. Facebook, etc.)
Protecting Virtual Learners from Identity Theft
“As more students take classes online this fall, families are feverishly opening every email, because they think it’s important for school, unaware that it could actually be a phishing email instead,” said Ed Conley, director, Insurance Sales and Financial Services for AAA Ohio Auto Club. “It’s important for families to remain vigilant and protect themselves from hackers and identity theft.”
If a cyberattack does occur, insurance may help cover the costs. Homeowner’s insurance sometimes has limited coverage for identity theft, but more often consumers need to add identity theft to their policies as an endorsement. This coverage will help reclaim your identity and recover money.
Some carriers take it a step further by offering protection of all network devices. Talk to your insurance agent about what your current plan covers and to determine if additional coverage is necessary.
Getting Identity Theft Protection
More than 15 million Americans have experienced identity fraud and theft, and that number continues to grow.1 While there’s no way to stop identity theft from happening entirely, identity theft monitoring services can help consumers detect and resolve identity threats.
AAA has partnered with Experian®, a global leader in identity security, to offer members the ProtectMyID® Essential plan at no cost, after enrollment. This includes free basic monitoring of the member’s Experian credit report, as well as lost wallet protection and U.S.-based fraud resolution support. Upgraded Deluxe and Platinum plans are also available. More information is available at AAA.com/IDTheft.
1 Javelin Strategy & Research. (2017) Identity Fraud Hits Record High with 15.4 Million U.S. Victims in 2016″. Javelin Strategy.