Basic steps for your online safety and security

Everyday, as you use technology to surf the web, share and post on social media sites and conveniently shop or access online accounts, you share personal information, increasing your risk for cyber attacks, such as identity theft and social engineering.

To counteract such threats, follow these quick and easy steps to ensure basic online safety and security at home and here at NC State:

  • Clean and update your devices
    Make sure that all software on your PCs, laptops, smartphones, or other mobile devices are updated to the latest version available. Software and system updates fix security vulnerabilities and provide you with protection against viruses and malware infections. If you have apps you no longer use installed, delete them. This frees up space and reduces possible entry points for hackers.
  • Use strong passwords or passphrases
    One of the most important steps you can take to safeguard your data is to use strong and unique passwords or passphrases for every account you own. If a cyber criminal hacks one of your accounts, your other accounts may be vulnerable if you use the same password or passphrase.
  • Enable the strongest authentication tools available
    • Usernames and passwords alone are not enough to protect e-mail, banking and social media accounts. If a service offers two-factor authentication (2FA), you should always use it. This method adds another layer of security to any account you may be logging in to by requiring a second verification, such as entering a security code sent to your mobile device in order to access your account.
    • NC State encourages campus to use Google 2-Step and Duo to help prevent breaches of University and personal data. All University users who have an employee role will be required to enroll in 2FA by Oct. 31. You are encouraged to enroll now.
  • Recognize phishing in all its forms
    • Phishing attacks aren’t limited to just email. They may also come in the form of instant messages or text messages (aka smishing) or even phone calls (aka vishing). Follow the same precautions you would for email when receiving links, attachments or requests for personal information by any of these methods.
    • For more tips, see Spot the bait: Don’t get phished!
  • Report suspicious activity
    • In your Google email, select Report phishing from the drop-down menu in the upper right corner of your message.
    • You can also send new phishing emails to Make sure you include the full email headers.
    • As always, contact the NC State Help Desk at or 919.515.4357 (HELP) with any concerns or questions about suspicious emails, even before you click on any links.
  •  Protect your online presence and connect with care
    • Only interact with websites that you trust, such as online stores that use https security for transactions.
    • Perform web browser searches to locate and access sites rather than opening links from emails, which could be phishing scams.
    • Protect your mobile devices from cyber criminals when connecting to insecure public Wi-Fi by avoiding websites that require your login, such as bank accounts, e-mail or social media sites.
    • Post as little personal information as possible, and always consider who can view or collect the information you share. Set your privacy and security account settings to the highest level you feel comfortable with for information sharing.

For additional details on online safety and security at NC State, visit Safe Computing at NC State.