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Editor's Note: October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. UMUC will be sharing tips, best practices and other information throughout the month to help people protect their data and personal information and become more aware of cybersecurity issues in our daily lives.


Tips for Middle and High School Students to Protect Their Identity and Information When Using Smart Phones, Computers and Social Media

In classrooms around the country, a smartphone is fast becoming standard equipment for more and more middle and high school students. According to a 2015 Pearson survey, smartphone ownership among students in grades four through 12 has risen since 2014 and increases with grade level. Further, eight in 10 high school students reported owning a smartphone, and the number of students using smartphones in class increased from 44 to 53 percent.

How can parents and students protect their identities and information when using smartphones and other devices, such as notebooks, laptops and shared computers at school?

Here’s a Top-8 list of security tips and best practices from University of Maryland University College (UMUC) cybersecurity faculty:

1. Be extra careful when computer sharing and never save usernames and passwords when using a web browser on a shared computer.

Why? Hackers can use software to retrieve usernames and passwords on a browser by the time a student leaves a computer and heads for the next class.

2. Set up a password for your smartphone so you can remotely wipe it in case you lose it.

Why? This extra measure of security prevents unauthorized users who may find your phone from retrieving your information.

3. Don’t respond to texts from people you don’t know, don’t “Friend” people you don’t know on Facebook, and don’t post information on Facebook when you’re getting ready to change your location―to attend an event, run an errand, or take a trip later that day or in the future. Make sure to check Facebook’s privacy settings to ensure posts are set to “Friends” and not “Public.”

Why? Concealing your location can help prevent cyber stalking and it keeps would-be robbers from knowing that you’re away from home.

4. Watch out for “Google Bombing” and avoid clicking on the links to unknown news sources when searching for a popular topic.

Why? Hackers and others take advantage of big news stories, such as the April 2016 death of the artist, Prince, to get their site high on the Google rankings and increase the chances that their link will be clicked on, allowing them to use malware to steal personal information.

5. Turn off the Bluetooth on any phones or devices.

Why? It prevents hackers' ability to steal contact lists and other information.

6. Disable the GPS function associated with the camera on your smartphone.

Why? Because photos contain metadata and give away your exact location.

7. Set a password to unlock your phone―and don't share it.

Why? This first line of defense makes it extremely difficult for anyone who doesn’t know the password to break into your phone and access your information.

8. Be aware of risks using open WiFi at school.

Why? Hackers can use “sniffing” software to steal usernames and passwords and hijack your computer.


Please contact Bob Ludwig (; 301-985-7253) if you are interested in interviewing a UMUC cybersecurity faculty member regarding this list.

UMUC was one of the first schools to develop fully online cybersecurity bachelor’s and master’s programs and now enrolls more than 12,000 students in these degree and certificate programs. UMUC’s cybersecurity-competitions team, known as the Cyber Padawans, has won international and national competitions, including the 2014 Global CyberLympics and the 2015 DiploHack competition sponsored by the prestigious Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.