Security awareness: Guard your privacy online

Educause has created an Annual Campus Security Awareness Campaign. Piggybacking on this program, OIT will present monthly security posts designed to help the Williams community work with technology in a safe and efficient manner. January’s edition (a few days late) is on online privacy.

There are many precautions end users can take to protect themselves and their privacy online. You and your information are everywhere. When you are online you leave a trail of “digital exhaust” in the form of cookies, GPS data, social network posts, and e-mail exchanges, among others. It is critical to learn how to protect yourself and guard your privacy. Your identity and even your bank account could be at risk!

  • Use long and complex passwords or passphrases.
    These are often the first line of defense in protecting an online account. The length and complexity of your passwords can provide an extra level of protection for your personal information.
  • Use different passwords for your online accounts.
    You can use a password manager program to keep track of the dozens you may accumulate. LastPass, Dashlane, KeePass and 1Password are all highly rated. Even saving passwords in a password-protected Excel or Word file can be secure.
  • Take care what you share.
    Periodically check the privacy settings for your social networking apps (like Facebook) to ensure that they are set to share only what you want, with whom you intend. Be very careful about putting personal information online. What goes on the Internet usually stays on the Internet.
  • Using Wi-Fi?
    If only public Wi-Fi is available, restrict your activity to simple searches, meaning avoid banking or sites which require a password. If you need to connect to Williams services use a VPN (virtual private network). Williams has VPN available for almost any device (laptop or mobile) which provides an encrypted tunnel between you and the college.
  • Should you trust that app?
    Only use apps from reputable sources. Check out reviews from users or other trusted sources before downloading anything that is unfamiliar. Normally this will not be a problem with iPhone and iPad apps since those are vetted by Apple before being made available. Google Play Apps have less oversight and can be malicious.
  • Consider disabling geolocation features on mobile devices.
    Sharing locations can threaten your privacy or personal safety.

A more in depth article covering these and other security topics is available on the Educause security site:

If you have questions about security or about any of the settings and programs mentioned here please contact the Faculty / Staff support desk at x4090 (413-597-4090) or [email protected]