Tips for on-campus technology protection

August 11, 2010 2:26 PM EDT
Back-to-school means students returning to campus and bringing their technology with them.

Research firm Student Monitor, which tracks computer and Internet purchases and usage in higher education, reports that 95% of college students own a computer and 88% own a cell phone.

As the prevalence of technology on college campuses increases, so do the dangers.  But, most college students don't pay nearly as much attention to the significant number of on-campus risks as they should.

So, what are the most common threats to students and their technology, and how can they be avoided?

Power Surges and Blackouts:  Many college dorm rooms contain enough electronics and tech devices to rival a Best Buy showroom.  With so many devices in each room draining the electrical grid, power issues are bound to happen.  Power surges and blackouts are common threats, especially in warmer weather.  

  • Protect your technology against power problems by plugging everything into a UL approved power strip with surge suppression. This will safeguard against power surges. To prevent a blackout from costing you your data, invest in a Uninterruptible Power Supply to keep your computer running.

Data Loss:  It seems like every college student has at least one story of losing a paper at three in the morning due to a computer crash.  The aforementioned power issues, as well as network difficulties, make data loss a significant problem on college campuses.  Fortunately, it's also one of the easiest to avoid.

  • Beyond using a UPS, guard against data loss by frequently backing up. Always keep a second backup on an external device, such as a USB flash drive, which are sold in most college bookstores. Not only will it back up your data, but it provides easy portability for transfer to a campus computer lab or classroom.

Physical Damage:  College dorm rooms can be raucous places.  Most tech devices, such as laptops and cell phones, are sensitive and easily damaged.  A spilled drink can ruin a cell phone, or someone bumping into a desk can send a laptop crashing to the ground. 

  • Physical damage is often the result of an accident and hard to avoid. Preventative measures, such as always putting devices out of harm's way, or storing them in a protective case, can help. If your tech is damaged, be sure you know what computer repair or tech support services your campus offers, so you can get your gear fixed quickly.

File Sharing and Social Networking:  Facebook started in a college dorm.  File sharing services such as BitTorrent and RapidShare provide easy access to legal -- and illegal -- downloads.   

However, both file sharing sites and social networks are dangerous.  They provide little in the way of anonymity, opening student computers and smartphones to attack, and are prime targets for malware and computer viruses.

  • Viruses and malware can quickly spread throughout a college network, so always keep all Internet security and antivirus programs updated and running. Avoid clicking on links on social networks and be very circumspect about what you share. All it takes is one "friend" sharing your content and you become exposed, no matter how strong your privacy settings are.

Theft:  College can be a very comfortable place, so much so that many students forget the need to guard their possessions and their information.  According to Javelin Strategy and Research, young people ages 18-24 lost five times more money due to identity theft than any other age group last year.  Even leaving your computer unlocked in your dorm room leaves you open to theft of your data and personal information.

  • Always secure your technology as you would secure your home. Do not leave your devices unattended in public places, or even in your dorm room. Secure your easily stolen notebook with a laptop lock and a strong password. Keep your data - academic and personal - shielded from even a roommate's prying eyes.

College is an exciting and interesting time.  It's full of new challenges and experiences and many of your high tech devices can only enhance the experience.  But while technology can make things better, it's always important to remember the risks and ensure that you, and your devices, are as protected as possible. 

David A. Milman, Founder and CEO of Rescuecom