5 Super Easy Ways for Students on a Budget to Save Big on Online Security
Unfortunately, you can’t afford to ignore cybersecurity – even if you’re on a shoestring student budget. Hacking, tracking and data leaks are serious risks you need to factor into your everyday internet usage.
Luckily, there are a bunch of ways to improve your online security with little to no financial investment. If you know what to look for there are clever workarounds to make sure your devices, data, and accounts stay private.
If you’re low on money but smart enough to want to stay anonymous online, this article is for you.
Choose a strong password (Use a password manager)
The most important thing you can do to protect your accounts and devices is also the cheapest and easiest. You need to use a unique and complex password for each one of your accounts.
One of the most common reasons for an account breach is a simple password hack. This is usually done in one of two ways. A brute force attack uses an algorithm that cycles through every possible number and letter combination until the password is cracked. A dictionary attack cycles through every word in the dictionary. The less likely your number and letter combination, the less vulnerable you are to an attack. The longer and more complex your password, the less vulnerable you are to an attack.
There is no chance you will remember tens or even hundreds of complex and unlikely passwords. Luckily, there are apps for that.
Lastpass is one of the most popular password managers. It’s highly rated, cross-platform, and syncs your passwords across all your devices.There is a paid version but the free version offers enough features for personal use. Bitwarden is a little lesser known, but completely free, open-source, cross-platform, and high-performing.
2. Get a VPN (for free)
If you use public wi-fi, stream TV or movies, or want to anonymize your private messages, a VPN is your best friend. A VPN is a security application that changes your IP address and encrypts your traffic.
They are the gold standard in cybersecurity tech, but most people use them to unlock geo-restrictions on streaming sites (to watch Netflix from anywhere, for example).
Better VPNs use a subscription model and charge a monthly fee. The prices are normally pretty reasonable but if you want to skip the subscription fee altogether there are clever hacks to get premium VPNs for free. For example, a lot of services offer extended money-back guarantee periods or paired-back free versions that are a little lighter on features.
3. Keep your phone updated
If you are the type to click “remind me tomorrow” or “skip this update” you need to stop that now. Security flaws and vulnerabilities are fixed with every new update for your phone or computer. Not only is it free and simple, but keeping your devices updated is one of the most effective ways to improve your online security today.
4. Use additional encryption tools
If you use cloud storage, it’s wise to use a double encryption application (called client-side encryption tools). These tools will add a layer of encryption to your files in addition to the encryption used by Drive or Dropbox, which are often targeted by hackers. The access key will stay by you, and if your storage service does experience a data breach, your files will stay encrypted.
Best of all – they tend to be free and open-source. That means you can use them to bolster the security of free (and often insecure) storage services. It’s a win-win. We love Cryptomator, which is free for Windows, Linux, and Mac.
5. Educate yourself
If you don’t know how to spot a phishing email, or if you use the same password for many accounts, all the tools in the world won’t protect you. You need to educate yourself and change your behavior.
Basic cybersecurity is not – and should not – be the sole domain of tech experts. If you are really serious about upping your online security you need to learn the basics. You can do it online with just a few hours per week and zero financial investment.
Even better: you will have a new skill that you can use in your future and career.
Remember there is no such thing as 100% secure! But the tips above can help you mitigate risk.
Unless you are likely to be targeted because of your job or online profile, most hacking attacks simply target vulnerable people. There harder your accounts are to access your device to control, the less attractive you will be as a hacking target. By taking control of your own online security, you can sleep just a little easier knowing your data and devices are safe.