Nowadays, there is a tremendous amount of information online. We can access general information – such as when a restaurant closes – that is available to the public, or information that is much more personal. Personal information can include something as sensitive as your bank accounts or location in real time or something that is laxer, such as your flight information. Someone looking to harm you could easily use this information to scam or hurt you. As a result, security and privacy, discussed on this page, are topics that are increasingly important when dealing with a society like ours that is online so often.
At UT, there are several free resources that can help you stay safe online. First is FERPA compliance and restricting information on the university directory. UT is not allowed to disclose any personally identifiable information to anyone other than the student themselves. A full explanation of your privacy rights are listed here (1). In addition, you may choose to restrict directory information, and even remove yourself from the online directory on UT’s website. This can be done here to prevent strangers from accessing information such as your name, address, UT EID, phone number, and declared major (2). The second resource is BevoWare, or free software for UT students and employees that protects your computer from viruses or other potentially harmful malware. Malware can sometimes target your personal information, so BevoWare is a free option for virus protection. It can be downloaded here (3).
If you use Google Chrome as your browser, there are several options for you to maintain your privacy by removing cookies. Cookies are small files that websites send to your computer when you visit them so they can tailor their content to your browsing interests. They can be useful, such as for remembering your passwords or giving your more relevant search results, but they can also gather in-depth information about you (4). Naturally, they have been involved in many privacy controversies. You can prevent cookies from being kept on your computer by using Incognito mode, especially if you are using a public computer or do not want your information to be continually monitored. You can access this by going to “File” and then “New Incognito Window” on Chrome, and cookies from the sites you visit will be deleted when you exit Incognito mode. There are equivalents in the Mozilla Firefox and Safari browsers. Another way to monitor your cookies is to install a Chrome extension, such as Click&Clean, that can show you existing cookies and help you delete ones you do not want to keep (5).
The best way to maintain privacy is to watch what you do online in the first place. For example, you should always log out of your email, Facebook, and all other accounts when you use a computer that is not yours. You can also use Incognito mode for such computers. Before entering any information online, you should also check to see the URL of the page. Make sure that you are inputting information into the right website rather than a phishing link, and try to send sensitive data (bank account logins, for example) over secured Wi-Fi networks only. Lastly, privacy will come naturally if you think about whether you should post information online before you actually post. Once information is online, it is extremely difficult to remove it.
- “Ferpa and Your Privacy.” Ferpa and Your Privacy. University of Texas at Austin. Web. 03 Mar. 2016.
- “Restricting My Information.” Restricting My Information. University of Texas at Austin. Web. 03 Mar. 2016.
- “Overview.” BevoWare. University of Texas at Austin. Web. 03 Mar. 2016.
- “What Are Cookies? Computer Cookies Explained.” What Are Cookies. SlightlyInteresting.com. Web. 03 Mar. 2016.
- “Click&Clean.” – Chrome Web Store. Www.hotcleaner.com. Web. 03 Mar. 2016.