Students underestimate their cybersecurity risks

Jack Schaeffer

As the information era continues, data is being stored through social media and economic transactions largely occurring on our mobile devices. Facebook alone processes over 500 terabytes of data daily, including a large amount of personal information. By using applications such as Facebook, Etsy and Amazon, you are releasing personal information such as your address, phone number and sometimes credit card info to their corporate databases, causing your security to be threatened when these databases are targeted by hackers.

While college students are definitely more inclined to share and store personal information on our phones, most of us continue to ignore common security warnings when browsing the web, exposing us to multiple risks on the internet. Unfortunately, as students, we aren’t as often worried about data breaches as we should.

With recent news of malware being able to access information stored on popular apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp and even iMessage, awareness of the issue seems to be growing. Within the past few months alone, there has even been controversy over Pokémon Go being able to track your exact location, providing a doorway for hackers and third-parties to access your location.

Not only that, but apps such as Whisper and YikYak, which claim to allow you to post anonymously, do in fact store your information with your linked accounts. Although these applications only share your information when prompted by police or court action, the information is less secure than many would think. However, most students do not feel threatened by security issues concerning their smartphones.

“I’m not exactly sure how safe or secure my personal information is on my phone, but I trust that it’s secure enough to be protected from basic cyber threats,” urban studies senior James Bauder admits. “I don’t feel like me as an individual is at risk from hackers. I believe it’s more the institutions or services that I utilize, such as banks and retail stores, that may expose me to cybernetic risks, because I feel those are the entities that mainstream hackers target.”

Bauder is not alone; many application users are worried about their information when using retailer apps. After horror stories of cyber attacks on Target’s database that potentially stole information from 70 million customers in 2013, and even more recently, news of security flaws on Amazon where both addresses and credit card information have been compromised, many users are unsure if corporations are able to secure their personal information.

However, while data breaches are becoming a more prominent phenomenon we should be worried about, cyber threats still aren’t much of a concerning issue at this time. Unless you’re high-profile or a corporate owner, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll become a target for data breaches.

Schaeffer is an international relations and global studies, European studies and French sophomore from Lufkin.