Stay safe online! Cyber security tips from a Virtual Mentor

WSU Global Campus Virtual Mentor Terri Timpe

Hi there! My name is Terri Timpe and I have been one of your Virtual Mentor’s here at WSU since 2011.

Without the advent of online education, I would not have been able to attain my educational goals. Between owning my own business, managing a household of five, and working full time, attending face-to-face classes was an impossible task - so like a good many students nowadays, I did most of my studies online. I started out at Wenatchee Valley College in 2006, participating in what they called their “hybrid” program, where I received my AAS degree. I finished up at WSU, graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s in Social Sciences, and have been working as a Virtual Mentor in some of your course spaces ever since.

Like most of you, I am utilizing my computer for many hours per day. I bank online, I order goods and services online, I correspond online, and of course, I work as your Virtual Mentor online. With internet and online use come certain potential dangers, but you can do your part to mitigate those risks.

Sharing Your Student ID Number 
One very important way to help keep those risks at bay is to keep your student information secure! Sometimes you may be tempted to share your student ID number in emails, in assignment headers, and in discussion board posts. You should treat that number like any other sensitive personal information, and here’s why:
  • Your ID is connected to records that contain your date of birth, gender, address, phone number, parents’ names and addresses, Social Security number, and other private, sensitive information. Someone with your ID may be able to gain enough information about you to steal your identity and commit identity fraud (such as opening bank accounts or applying for credit cards in your name). 
  • Your ID is used to protect your information to comply with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA requires that faculty and staff keep your information private. This means your Virtual Mentor or your Professor wouldn’t ask you to post that information in a public space. Ever. 
  • Your ID would be used as a WSU Employee ID if you were to ever work for WSU. If you were to be hired by WSU then that number would be attached to even more personal information within HR records and payroll records (like direct deposit bank information and tax data). 
Typically, you will only be asked for your ID when contacting WSU to reach an instructor, advisor, financial aid assistance, or the registrar, for example. That employee may ask for your ID and other information to ensure your privacy. But BE CAREFUL about giving your information to anyone who contacts you unsolicited by phone or email, as they might not actually be from WSU. If you have any concerns or suspicions, don't provide your personal information. Instead, contact that WSU unit directly, using the contact information listed on one of WSU's official web pages.

Be Aware of Email Content 
Another little tip about keeping your information secure is to be aware of the content of emails you receive. With the recent rash of “phishing” emails, one has to consider that the point may be to gain access to WSU email accounts and therefore your student ID and all of the information tied to that identification number. My rule when dealing with any email – even those that I am positive came from a legitimate source – is to NEVER, EVER choose any link provided in the email. Phishers are getting sneakier and sneakier, and I have seen some very realistic emails come through that are very clever at copying proprietary logos and making their return email addresses look pretty legit.

To be on the safe side, I open my web browser and enter all sites through normal channels, entering my information in the appropriate login page instead. Because, really, you just never know – the few extra seconds that it takes to log in through a bona fide webpage may save much heartache and financial loss.

These and many such tips are some of the treasures you can find in your Virtual Mentor discussion board forums. As a student, one of the best ways you can connect with your fellow classmates is to post a tip or trick that has worked for you, and the VM discussion board within your course space is the ideal place to do this. We welcome and appreciate your input, so please do feel free to “post away”! See you in the classroom!

Terri Timpe, WSU Global Campus Virtual Mentor