Private information should be protected online

Russian criminals stole 1.2 billion Internet user names and passwords last month as part of the largest digital credentials theft ever.

However, it was confirmed by Hold Security that discovered the heist, the group is using the stolen information for spam emails and not to acquire bank account information and the like.

Even so, protecting social media and bank account information as well as other sensitive information available online should be a top priority, especially amongst college students.

Director of Information Technology Services Stephen Putman said the best step for anyone to take is to educate oneself and use social media sites with care.

“If you post too much information about yourself, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer (security) questions on your accounts and get access to your personal information,” Putman said.

He said hackers are after whatever looks quick and easy.

Using one email account for business or school activities and other secure information, and using another email account for mailing lists, shopping sites and friends can help keep information safe, he said.

“Never open emails from strangers and definitely do not open email attachments from strangers,” he said. “Most viruses and malware need your help, so if you get an unexpected email wanting you to do something or click on something to get rich, delete it as quick as possible.”

Assistant Director of Information Technology Services Ethan Humphres and Network Services manger Randall Phifer said they advise students to make sure they are using and regularly updating an anti-virus program on their devices.

“It is important that you set your computers to automatically update,” Humphres said. “Computer and software companies offer security patches in their updates for a reason.”

Before sending personal information over a laptop or smartphone, or on a public wireless network in a coffee shop, school, airport, hotel or other public place, students should be sure their information will be protected, Putman said.

When giving any private information online, students should make sure the connection is secure, he said.

Editor’s note: To read the rest of this story, visit

“The URL should always begin with ‘https:’ because the ‘s’ stands for secure,” he said.

When leaving a site, it is best to make sure the logging off process is complete. Simply closing the browser is not enough and can be a high risk, he said.

“Your browser may ask you if you want it to remember your username and password,” Putman said.

“While this may seem convenient, it is also an easy way for thieves to obtain your login information.”

He said students should always reboot or shutdown a computer when they are finished with it.

Students should always be on their guard when using the Internet because “In the online world, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.